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BY LAWRENCE J. | Updated May 16, 2024

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Financial Analyst/Content Writer, RADEX MARKETS Lawrence J. came from a strong technical and engineering background before pivoting into a more financial role later on in his career. Always interested in international finance, Lawrence is experienced in both traditional markets as well as the emerging crypto markets. He now serves as the financial writer for RADEX MARKETS. read more
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We ended part I on a dour note. In contrast to the preceding decade, the 70s were generally characterised by poor financial performance. Markets were on hiatus, as were any real developments in the investment sphere. Then the 80s arrived, Patrick Bateman became vice president of Pierce and Pierce and the world of finance became cool again. The bull market had returned and suddenly every investor was a genius once more. The new wave of euphoria would continue up until the turn of the century. Impressive, very nice.

The 90s and early 2000s would see the introduction of many of the technological improvements we take for granted today. The Internet would conquer the financial industry much like it had taken over many others. Forex brokerages sprang up everywhere, offering people the ability to trade from the comfort of their homes. Vast server farms and lightning-fast engine matching software would draw in greater liquidity and hugely increase market efficiency. Spreads got thinner, fees plummeted, executions accelerated. The days of picking up the phone, dialling a bunch of numbers like a caveman and talking to a real-life human being were finally over.

The important process at play here is the gradual removal of barriers to entry thanks to technological progress - a paradigm shift still only in its infancy. It would not be long before people could trade stocks and crypto from the comfort of their phones. Apps like Robinhood and eToro dispensed with middlemen even more, further increasing the average investor’s exposure to financial markets. Forget trading from the comfort of one’s home, people could now trade from the comfort of the local bus stop.

For the average investor, access to financial markets changed dramatically for the better during the turn of the century. Another aspect of trading also improved during this time: transparency. With the advent of the Internet, financial information became infinitely more accessible. People on the street had access to the same information, at the same time, as multi-billion-dollar funds. Investment forums, chat rooms and online communities spread like wildfire. Information could no longer be gate kept the way it always had been. Fund manager clout was on the way out and social media was all too eager to fill the void. Instagram influencers with million follower counts could dish out stock tips to the entire world within seconds. Traders could even band together and move markets on their own. What role does the traditional financial advisor have to play in such a situation?

How could we talk about sticking it to the man without talking about the infamous GME short squeeze? For those who somehow missed it, GameStop (ticker: GME) is an American video game retailer. In early 2021, users on the subreddit /wallstreetbets discovered that Melvin Capital and a number of other investment funds were heavily short on the company. The online community smelled blood and orchestrated a short squeeze on the stock. Half the internet jumped on the bandwagon; the movement accrued religious fervour. GME shares went flying off the shelves; everyone wanted a piece of the action; even some funds joined the cause. It actually worked! The share price went from $17.25 to over $500 over the course of a month. Melvin Capital lost 53% of its investments and closed the position. The exact amount was never made public. The fund would shut down the following year. David had taken on Goliath and won.

If access to financial services increased dramatically thanks to the internet, then crypto dialled it up another notch. Crypto exchanges suffered a shaky start to say the least. Mt. Gox, the first online platform for buying and selling bitcoin was hacked in 2014 and resulted in the loss of nearly one million bitcoin. The crypto sphere is still dealing with the fallout from this event to this day. No matter, the seed had been planted. The 2010s saw an endless number of exchanges popping up. Most of them are gone now, along with their users’ deposits. Never mind, things evolve quickly in the crypto world. Fast forward a few years and we have Coinbase, an American exchange not only adhering to US financial regulations, but helping to write them. Such a scenario would have seemed impossible as little as 6-7 years ago.

This is to say nothing of the huge amount of wealth acquired by some rare crypto traders who couldn’t even tell you what a balance sheet is, let alone how to read one. A tweet from Elon Musk featuring a picture of a Japanese dog was enough to send the price of a certain cryptocurrency flying through the roof. One tiny hint of an announcement of a potential future development and green candles sprang up like daisies. The common man now had access to tremendous liquidity at the touch of a button, and the tools necessary to take advantage of it.

Self-custody, the entire point of crypto, turns out to be a much more appealing concept than first assumed. Following the trend of removing barriers to entry, it is the next logical step. Access to financial services and information is one thing, but most are still beholden to financial institutions when it comes to actually accessing their money. People want to be in charge of their own assets, without their bank impertinently asking them what they intend to do with their own cash.

The speed of financial developments in crypto has outpaced anything seen before by an order of magnitude. The shock has been such that entirely new ways of thinking about money have emerged. One may imagine waking up in the morning, generating a smart contract to compensate employees of a company on an hourly basis, or writing an insurance contract that pays out automatically based on predefined parameters, or collateralising a property to take out a loan, then spreading those funds among a selection of yield-generating pools that can be rebalanced at will depending on risk appetite. Infinite customisation, no permission necessary, no trust assumptions necessary, totally secure, at the touch of a button.

The playing field has changed. Knowledgeable crypto investors have a vast array of tools and options to manage their assets. The only real missing link lies in connecting these tools to traditional financial instruments and to real-world assets. Once that final piece of the puzzle is in place, the evolution of investor will be complete. Not long now.

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Risk Warning : Trading derivatives and leveraged products carries a high level of risk.

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