AJ Bell’s Morrissey: crypto ‘just like a casino’

Helena Morrissey

Helena Morrissey, chair-elect of Salford investment giant AJ Bell, has said cryptocurrency investing is “just like a casino really at this point, or it might end up being like that if you don’t know what you’re doing.”

In an interview with London publication Financial News, Morrissey said that while cryptocurrencies have got more people talking about their finances, adopting an “American” culture towards investing runs the risk of driving UK consumers towards speculative assets.

Morrissey told the publication that the engagement with the personal investing sector in the US is something that could be applauded as more consumers take control of their financial lives.

The US experienced a retail investing boom during Covid-19 via controversial platforms like Robinhood.

UK platforms also reported record quarters during the coronavirus shutdowns.

AJ Bell’s asset and customer numbers both enjoyed strong growth in the year to July 2021, with Interactive Investor and Hargreaves Lansdown also adding tens of thousands of new clients.

The average age of users across the platforms has fallen as younger app users join the investment craze.

Morrissey cautioned however that this boom in “self-directed investing” could lead investors to take excessive risks in assets such as cryptocurrencies.

Morrissey said: “I think there is somewhere in between. I hope we don’t go down (the American route) because I do think it ends up being very speculative.

“My own son is always nagging me to open a cryptocurrency account .. .It’s just like a casino really at this point, or it might end up being like that if you don’t know what you’re doing …

“The good news about all of that is that it has got people talking about Bitcoin.

“There are WhatsApp groups between young people on this issue; you would not have got that before.

“Maybe then that extrapolates into IPOs, to ESG investing …

“We are a long way from the American situation, but I do think there’s a long way we go on that road to make money a thing to talk about as important to your wellbeing now and in later life.”