In recent years, there has been a major debate about the respective merits of gold versus Bitcoin, even though many, not all, gold bulls are also supporters of the latter. Gold advocates generally view favourably Bitcoin’s inherent characteristics of decentralisation, finite supply and ability to operate (so far) outside of the usual interference by western central banks. Having said that, the launch of Bitcoin futures on the CME in the coming weeks could lead to naked shorting of “paper Bitcoin” by any parties, including central banks and large commercial banks, who deem capping of the Bitcoin price necessary. As we discussed last week in "Financial Times: Sell Bitcoin Because The Market Is About To Become "Civilized", this could align Bitcoin with one of the major issues which has held the gold market hostage for years, time will tell.
While many gold investors remain entrenched in the view that gold will (eventually) prove to be the better store of value, one thing many would acknowledge is that Bitcoin is likely to evolve into a superior means of payment. However, that could be in the process of changing.
A fintech start up is partnering with some financial heavyweights to create a payments system backed by physical – not paper – gold. According to the Financial Times.
The world’s oldest currency is being brought into the digital age with the launch of a debit card and app that will allow people to pay for goods in gold.
Fintech group Glint has teamed up with Lloyds Banking Group in the UK and MasterCard to create an app that enables people to load credit in various currencies, which can then be used to buy a portion of a physical gold bar. Customers use the app at the checkout to select whether to pay in a currency or gold, before transacting with their MasterCard.
The development marks the first time people in the UK and overseas can own just a portion of a gold bar through an app, which can then be used in mobile and debit card-based payments. The app also allows people to send gold to peers in the form of a digital payment. Jason Cozens, Glint’s chief executive and co-founder, said: “Everyone is familiar with gold as one of society’s oldest means of exchange, its universal acceptance, its reliability, its history as a store of wealth and as a means of underpinning the value of ‘paper’ currencies. “Unlike paper currencies, gold can’t be wiped out, devalued or corrupted.”
If you’ve been watching carefully Glint (website is glintpay.com) has been working towards this moment for some time. The Crunch reported a capital raising in August this year, noting the impressive list of backers.
Glint, a stealthy London fintech startup that promises a new “global currency,” has raised £3.1 million from a plethora of individual backers in the financial services and asset management space, alongside early-stage investor Bray Capital.
They comprise Haruko Fukuda, former CEO of the World Gold Council and NED of Investec Bank; Oliver Bolitho, formerly Chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management Asia; Hugh Sloane, co-founder of asset manager Sloane Robinson; and Lord Flight Of Worcester, formerly of Guinness Flight Global Asset Management.
Other supporters of the new app include the Tokyo Commodity Exchange, and NEC Capital Solutions, a technology integration company. The co-founder and COO of Glint, Ben Davies (right in the photo below), is well known to us for his media appearances - often lambasting manipulation of the gold price – and for running the precious metals investment fund, Hinde Capital. The CEO and co-founder, Jason Cozens, also has gold market experience, having set up “GoldMadeSimple.com, a website that allows investors to buy and store physical gold. Additionally, he set up two ecommerce and online marketing businesses.
Glint is working with Lloyds in the UK as the deposit holder for customers storing money on their app. When a customer decides to buy gold through the app, this is used to purchase part of a gold bar that is physically allocated in vaults in Switzerland. The app will initially be available in the UK and Europe from Monday before being rolled out in Asia and the US next year.
Mr Davies said the app helps to “democratise” gold by opening access to people who might not be able to afford to buy a whole bar, rather than the commodity being the “preserve of the wealthy”. He added: “The advent of electronic wallets and faster payments through technology means we’re able to use gold in the electronic payment system.
“We believe over next few decades people will need the ability to protect their money by owning gold and have the ability to spend it.
We doubt that we’ll have to wait two decades before the vast majority of people will need to protect the value of their money. It could be a matter of months, so Glint’s new service might prove timely. Here are some further thoughts from Davies in the FT article.
Glint’s new service is riding the wave of alternative payments, such as bitcoin, as more people seek payment methods that can store value in a way that differs from traditional currencies. Ben Davies, a co-founder of Glint, said: “We want to create a fairer form of money whereby we give you choice and control over how you protect your money in an era where central banks issue more currency, and so the value of your currency is falling.”
So, is the question gold, Bitcoin or both?