Like many in the financial services and fintech industry, I can see why NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, sound like a bizarre and potentially illegitimate investment proposition, says Nigel Green (pictured), deVere Group CEO and founder.
Despite - or perhaps because of - the massive hype generated by the likes of Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, Paris Hilton, plus a growing number of major household name investors, artists and musicians, global sports franchises and fashion brands, I understand many advisers are reluctant to even think about this hot new investing trend. And some haven't even heard of it.
However, although some within the industry might have reservations, I believe that as advisers we have a duty to learn more about this emerging digital asset class for clients.
Although some within the industry might have reservations, I believe that as advisers we have a duty to learn more about this emerging digital asset class for clients."
NFTs are digital-only (non-physical) collectibles that are encoded onto a blockchain - the same technology on which cryptocurrencies run - creating a unique digital watermark showing ownership and the digital rights to that collectible.
In April, auction house Christie's sold "Everydays" the First 5000 Days," a digital artwork in JPEG form by an artist known as Beeple, for US$69.3 million - making it the third-most-expensive work ever sold by a living artist.
Last month, the original source code for the world wide web was sold as a non-fungible token, making $5.4m. The inventor of the world wide web Sir Tim Berners-Lee sold the NFT to an unidentified buyer, through Sotheby's. The auction house described the lot as "the only signed copy of the code for the first web browser in existence," comparing its sale to that of a handwritten document of a well-known historic leader.
The sale exceeded the $2.9m spent on Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey's very first tweet.
I don't think NFTs are a passing fad or a flash in the pan bubble. In fact, in my opinion, they are going to become a serious growth trend over the next couple of years and beyond.
Our daily lives are becoming ever more tech-driven - and this is picking up momentum all the time. Those who have digital lives - a growing and increasingly wealthy cohort - will naturally want to take digital representations of luxury brands, music and art into these worlds - and now they can
Demographics are also on the side of NFTs. With the younger demographic - who are "digital natives," having grown up under the ubiquitous influence of the internet and other technologies - who have increasing spending power, there will be increasing demand for tech-orientated products such as digital investments.
Also, another reason why there will be increasing demand is that there's growing interest and investment in cryptocurrencies, which is how these digital assets are purchased.
Plus, NFTs are positively changing business models, especially in the creative industries. Artists and musicians for example can provide enhanced virtual experiences for collectors and buyers, they can prove their works are not counterfeited, and they can include criteria to get royalties every time their works are resold in the future.
It is clearly a very young market, and a degree of scepticism and careful analysis must be exercised.
But against this backdrop of expected growing demand, advisers who refuse to acknowledge, learn more and watch with interest this asset class could be putting themselves on the wrong side of history.
And, crucially, they could be denying their clients access to the potentially significant opportunities of key digital assets that could define the future.
By Nigel Green, deVere Group CEO and founder