Bitcoin has got people thinking about making money again, says AJ Bell founder

Bell’s concern is what inexperienced investors may be betting their money on, in particular cryptocurrencies which he fears novice savers could get dragged into. He says he has told his four children to stay well away from the market, although is not totally convinced they are listening.

“I’m pretty sure one of them has had a little play with it,” he admits, while acknowledging there is at least one positive from the crypto boom.

“I don’t want to sound like the old fella in the corner of the room – you can look at some positives: these people are engaging with an investment app, thinking about Bitcoin moves, the reasons that Bitcoin moves,” he says. “It creates a curious mind. If there’s one positive, and I really am scraping the barrel for positives on crypto, maybe that’s it.”

The surging interest in the likes of Bitcoin and the market volatility created by the pandemic has meant investing has become dinner party chat in a way it never would have been five years ago, he adds. The discussions are trickling down to ever younger savers.

“I’ve never been one to go to dinner parties, but if I did I assume it wouldn’t be on the agenda [five years ago]. I sense now that people have engaged with investing. Maybe the legacy of crypto is it’s got people thinking about making money, not just putting money in the bank,” he says.

“I think what you want people to do is think that actually, investing in cash over the long-term as a youngster is probably the worst thing you can do [financially]. Well, spending it and blowing it is the worst thing you can do, but protecting against inflation has got to be in people’s mind. You’re never going to do that by investing in cash.”

As investment chatter spreads to a new generation, AJ Bell’s rivals are also racing to tap into the younger market. Earlier this month one of Britain’s largest money managers Abrdn agreed to snap up investment platform Interactive Investor for £1.5bn.

Bell thinks it’s a “sensible strategy move” by the FTSE 100 asset manager, but says there could be challenges ahead around IT integration. He is not interested in M&A himself but wishes his rivals well. “I want Abrdn to do well, I want Hargreaves [Lansdown] to do well and I want us to do well – there’s no prizes for me in those guys failing,” he says. 

“We’re all competing for new business but we need the market to be well thought of, because platforms now are at the epicentre of financial services. We are where the excitement is.”  

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