April 21, 2013

Discussion of Bitcoin -- the anonymous peer-to-peer open source virtual currency -- has been everywhere the past couple of weeks, as the electronic currency’s price jumped to nearly $250, plummeted to $50, and then regained “value” of about $120. To some extent it’s another case of the mainstream media jumping on the bandwagon of a hot topic. It also reflects the dynamic payments landscape being reshaped by mobile and non-bank competitors. Whether you think bitcoins are just another bubble-driven commodity, no more than a means for buying illegal drugs online, or the wave of the payments future, many bankers no doubt are trying to determine if they represent the proverbial opportunity or risk to their own franchises.

Leave it to Stephen Colbert to cut through the chatter about bitcoins with his own brand of high-octane, self-interested analysis. In a segment about bitcoin trading that aired last week on The Colbert Report, Colbert posed: “If you don’t know what Bitcoin is -- want to buy some bitcoins?” In explanation of how bitcoins work, he noted, “Bitcoin has worth just because a bunch of people on the Internet agree it is worth something … Imagine if the Federal Reserve was taken over by Gamestop.”

For more hard-hitting analysis, view the video here:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & ...