Virtual Currencies – A Personal Experience
A few months ago, while preparing a webinar on Virtual Currencies together with a colleague, I decided to enter the fascinating world of Virtual Currencies. The decision was partly made due to my belief that “you cannot teach something you don’t understand”, as well as to pure curiosity. Until then, I had seen Virtual Currencies only from the other side – the AML side, the person watching the flow of money and asking about the source of funds and about the plausibility of transactions.
But how is it on the customer side?
Simple and easy! Too easy!
Step 1 – Opening the VC account
Opening an account on a Virtual Currency platform was very simple. A few personal information that is to be found on my ID, a picture with my ID and a biometrical real-time video of a few seconds. Although I received a statement that it may take up to 2 days to have my account active, in less than 15 minutes I was the proud owner of a VC account.
No information was requested regarding the source of funds I would be investing in VCs or about my occupation.
Step 2 – Acquiring Virtual Currencies
There were 2 possibilities to acquire VC:
- To fund my VC account through an EURO transfer from my bank account and afterwards acquire VCs from my credit;
- To use a debit card as if I purchased a pair of slippers online.
I chose the 2nd option and thus was able to test which of the 2 banks I work with would allow the transaction.
Only one debit card functioned and I would have assumed that Bank B had thorough internal controls in place to prevent VC-related transactions. However, my webinar colleague used her debit card from Bank B to purchase VCs from the same platform and the transaction was allowed. We repeated the acquiring process and we had the same different result every time. So, we still don’t have an answer for this crepuscular outcome.
Step 3 – Choosing the Virtual Currencies to acquire
Lesson 1: There are thousands of Virtual Currencies!
I had no idea until opening the VC account how many VCs actually exist. Like everybody else, I was aware of Bitcoin and a few other VCs, publicly mentioned and advertised. But when the time came to actually place my money, I felt like in a huge candy-shop with an immensity of candies whose flavors I knew nothing about.
But it is not actually a candy-shop, it is more of a gambling area with thousands of options which in many cases rely solely on luck.
Lesson 2: You do not invest in Virtual Currencies, you speculate!
Some VCs have different platforms, websites or developments behind them, while others are empty shells made-up in the hope of a rapid gain.
When you invest on the stock-exchange market, you acquire shares in a company that makes some sort of economic activity and its share price relies significantly on its activity and financials, as well as on other external factors.
The price of the Virtual Currencies relies significantly on how much other people believe in them. You actually acquire hope and optimism – as it sounds better than empty smoke.
In my personal case, as I knew practically nothing about Virtual Currencies, I decided to be “reasonable” and apply all my Economics and Financial Analysis knowledge learned in college. I started reading about some of them – when they were issued, by whom, what they were based upon, what technology, what was their evolution in the last month, quarter, semester, etc. After the first 20 VCs my head was spinning and I felt I knew even less than in the beginning.
So I started all over again and even made a sort of criteria for my final decision. Then I re-read about the VCs again, based on my set indicators that would lead me to fortune and decided on a short list of winners. And in the end I applied another Financial Analysis principle and decided to place my eggs in different baskets and thus acquired 5 different VCs.
Lesson 3: The volatility of Virtual Currency is Unbelievable!
After the 1st day of being a courageous investor in Virtual Currencies, my portfolio showed a massive increase of 20%. Some of my eggs had even a 40% increase, while others started their journey to dust. But I was happy, I had “flair”, I was on plus. I wanted to buy more and I felt that each minute in which I didn’t buy was a monetary loss as the VCs that I had targeted were growing and growing like Jack’s beanstalk.
Why didn’t I start earlier, why didn’t I discover this Moses’ land before! It was almost like a gambling addiction, when the person just needs one more game, just a little more money to play. It is a mirage.
Lesson 4: Speculate in VCs the amount of money you are willing to lose!
After a few days of winning and losing within acceptable parameters, my VCs started their own personal journey down and down. I could not believe it! I would know that something had happened internationally from the way my portfolio looked. A massive decrease showed that Musk said something negative about VCs or that China was thinking about prohibiting them.
At some point I even gave up monitoring my VC wallet as my eggs were 60% less than the initial investment. I considered the amount … not lost, but “the cost of research for my VC webinar”. My webinar colleague was even joking about it saying that she was curious if she could arrive to a “minus” balance.
Lesson 5: Complex VC financial environment – Stable coins, Deposits, Cards, ATMs
Stable coins are virtual coins that have a lower volatility than other VCs, relatively like traditional currency. When there is storm or hurricanes in the VC world, they can be used to protect your investment. You sell your VCs and hide within stable coins.
The VC world has a complex financial environment. Besides stable coins, participants can place their VCs in deposits (with a fixed interest rate that is above the interest offered for traditional currency) or ask for debit/credit cards in order to use their VC easier. Not to mention the already well-known ATMs.
Lesson 6: There is an entire “nexus” industry developed based on Virtual Currencies!
It is just like in the Gold Rush. Many people went to find gold and get rich but few managed.
However, more people got rich because they provided the connected services and products needed in order to dig and find gold – tools, clothes, equipment, food and housing for the gold diggers.
It is the same in the VC Rush. Besides the many, many people acquiring VCs, there are numerous companies and technologies that have developed and thrived in connection with VCs. And they are here to stay. Offline wallets, storage systems, anonymizers, testing platforms, blockchain related technology and software, VC platforms, digital marketing, new methods of payment, etc. Not to mention that the blockchain technology in itself is very useful and several industries now make efforts to integrate it in their operational activity.
Lesson 7: Virtual Currencies are here to stay!
I know that many well-documented public figures, maybe more entitled to express an opinion than myself, have bet that they will disappear.
Considering the amount of effort, skills and brilliant minds involved so far (genius IT people are many times recruited to develop and test a VC) and the additional industries they have created, my opinion is that Virtual Currencies are here to stay.
Maybe they will suffer changes, they will definitely be more regulated, they will probably be even more accessible (ATMs are already almost everywhere), but they will surely not disappear completely, nor the additional industries and technologies they have helped create.
The Gold Rush ended but the jeans remained. The VC Rush will somehow end or stabilize, but the underlying technology and idea will remain.
Step 4: Redeeming the Virtual Currencies – pay-back!
Well, I haven’t arrived to this step, yet, so I will cover the method to redeem the Virtual Currencies in another article.
Although I am a rational AML Officer, I am also very aware that I know so little about this unpredictable environment. So I am letting the eggs where they are (as it is an amount I am willing to lose – lesson 4) and patiently waiting to see what will happen. Who knows, maybe I will retire to Belize with the money speculated in VCs while I was researching for a professional webinar!
This article is not a recommendation to invest in Virtual Currencies. It is just a description of a personal experience and must be taken as such.
By Andreea Tampu, ACAMS
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