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I was in Toronto yesterday for Fortune’s Most Powerful Women International Summit, where I had the opportunity to moderate a panel featuring the female C-Suite executives of major global companies including Barrick Gold, the Canada-based gold mining company.
Naturally I had to ask the gold mining exec about, well, what we at The Ledger often call digital gold. And Catherine Raw, the North America COO of Barrick Gold, was ready with an answer—but she warned me off the bat that her position is a bit contrarian even inside her company, as well as the rest of the world. First, though, she offered a defense of her asset class that is perhaps the best argument I’ve heard for gold over cryptocurrency (and that includes the epic Bitcoin vs. Gold debate I presided over in Vegas a few months ago).
“I do not think cryptocurrencies are a competitor to gold,” Raw said. “The very tangible nature of gold is what keeps a special place for it. So it will always have value, whatever the price is, I don’t know, but it will not be zero. Whereas cryptocurrency could be zero—that’s the difference.”
After all, as long as people wear jewelry, this metal will still be somewhat precious, as it has been for thousands of years. Digital currencies, though? Their inherent value is at the very least debatable.
But here’s where Raw’s point of view diverges from her industry’s. Referencing the lasting legacy of the Internet in the wake of the dot-com bubble, she said she feels the same way about crypto: “The phenomenon of cryptocurrency is here to stay.”
And she sees that as an opportunity. “What I would like is actually to see gold harness that,” she said. “I think the gold industry has got its head in the sand by not taking advantage of a changing demographic.”
In other words, she sees promise in trying to win back the millennial generation between the ages of 20 and 40 who these days are more attracted to cryptocurrency than they are to gold. Currently, the main contingents still actually buying gold include the Indian and Chinese markets, institutions and central banks, and “old fogies who are buying it because they’re scared of the world,” she said.
“My ambition over time is actually to see how as a gold industry we can harness that younger demographic,” she added.
As for the price of gold—which currently trades at about $1,500 an ounce, up more than 25% from a year ago— she’s bullish. Geopolitical events that the rest of the world interprets as negative for markets are often good for gold: Brexit, along with the wave of anti-EU sentiment sweeping through Europe, “means the euro is not an investable currency,” said Raw, a British native herself who left the country shortly before the U.K. referendum (and who says Brexit has made her less inclined to move back). “For us any currency that’s not investable is good for gold, because it’s one less thing that central banks buy.”
Taken together, “It really makes us a little more sure that the gold price is well supported, if not at $1,500, definitely at $1,300,” she said. “It means that you can see a runway of about five years at least where you can get your returns.”
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Jen Wieczner | @jenwieczner | email@example.com
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Brazilians Hate Their Banks. This $10 Billion Startup Wants to Change That – David Z. Morris
To the Moon…Wells Fargo will test a dollar-backed stablecoin – but only for internal settlement. Apple is adding more rewards to its credit card. Atlanta startup Greenlight raised $54 million to issue a debit card aimed at kids (it’s educational). Staked launched a robo-advisor to help cryptocurrency investors maximize returns on their holdings – or rather, hodlings – through so-called “distributed finance,” or DeFi. Binance’s U.S. operation opens today – but only in 37 states.
Rekt…The CFPB is investigating Bank of America for allegedly creating fake customer credit card accounts – much like Wells Fargo. France and Germany joined forces to reject Facebook’s proposed Libra cryptocurrency. VanEck and SolidX have withdrawn another bitcoin ETF proposal. Crypto news site CoinDesk will share offices with parent company Digital Currency Group – raising questions about editorial independence.
BALANCING THE LEDGER
Insurance startup Hippo is trying to streamline homeowner’s insurance with technology – but also with a human touch. CEO Assaf Wand talked with the Ledger team about how giving out his cell phone number to customers helps him not only serve them better, but gain vital insights into Hippo’s operation. View the interview here.
MEMES AND MUMBLES
Hey dumb dumb how about Gold? Been currency for the last 5,000 years. BTC is gold 2.0. Buy some, you’re welcome.
Big-time UFC fighter Ben Askren took time out from baiting rival Conor McGregor to educate a stranger about bitcoin with the genteel subtlety that is the mark of his trade. Catherine Raw, however, is not the only expert who will tell you bitcoin is a speculative asset, not ‘digital gold.’ (Ben Askren, please don’t hurt us).
FOMO NO MO’
“You had to have all these train crashes, to figure out how to not have train crashes.”
Balaji Srinivasan, cofounder of Earn.com and former CTO of Coinbase, appeared on the What Bitcoin Did podcast for an incredibly wide-ranging interview on the intersections of finance, technology, and society. The interview – so long it had to be split into two episodes – is a showcase of nimble and truly radical thinking, with Srinivasan and host Peter McCormack winding their way through nearly every major question you might have about cryptocurrency and blockchain, and many you’ve never even thought of.
Topics covered include how blockchains will become physical nations; why the ICO bubble wasn’t such a bad thing (see above quote); and how being able to raise $1 billion over the internet is a fundamental social revolution. Even if you disagree with everything Srinivasan says, it’s worth a listen (though he’s a bit glib when talk turns to Coinbase).
This edition of The Ledger was curated by David Z. Morris. Find past editions here, and sign up for other Fortune newsletters here. Question, suggestion, or feedback? Drop us a line.