More trust, less bust for cryptocurrency

For those planning to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday – if only for the ads – don’t expect to see commercials for cryptocurrencies. During last year’s game, such ads were so common – featuring LeBron James, Tom Brady, and Larry David – it was dubbed “Crypto Bowl.” On Monday, Fox announced the show will not feature any crypto ads. Last November the cryptoverse nearly collapsed after the fall of FTX and similar companies. Their Ponzi-like demise left a dust cloud of distrust in digital assets.

The ad silence may be welcome. The industry is using 2023 as a time of reflection and rebuilding, learning what trust exactly entails for the moatlike, internet-only currencies. As Sandra Ro, CEO of the Global Blockchain Business Council, advised the remaining crypto chieftains in the news site CoinDesk: “Regroup with humility, rebuild with integrity, regain trust, rise again.”

The era of virtual, decentralized finance was built on a promise of transparency, or the idea that blockchain technology could replace trust in the integrity of humans. Yet it was the opaqueness and secret self-dealing of companies like FTX that led to their undoing.

The surviving crypto companies now promise more openness and honesty, such as showing proof of capital reserves. Traditional finance companies are also moving into the industry, while regulators hint at guardrails for crypto users and investors. “Preventing risk and discouraging harmful behaviors and bad actors requires communication, cooperation, accountability, transparency, and reliance on relationships,” said Rostin Behnam, chair of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, in a speech this week about the industry.

Worldwide, business is trusted more than other institutions. The latest index of trust, released last month by the communications giant Edelman, finds 62% of people in 28 countries see business as both competent and ethical. That compares with 51% for governments and 50% for the media.

Businesses may know better than most that trust is a valuable currency, difficult to earn and very easy to lose. When an industry like cryptocurrency falters, the search begins for qualities to rebuild trust. Actions speak louder than a Super Bowl ad.