A new report suggests a third of Australians have some stake in crypto. But some experts say the barrier to entry is still too high for widespread adoption.

A new report suggests a third of Australians have some stake in crypto. But some experts say the barrier to entry is still too high for widespread adoption.
A new report suggests Australian crypto adoption has risen to 28.8%. But some experts say the barrier to entry is still too high for mainstream success. Photo: iStock / Grandbrothers
  • Australian crypto has adoption has surged to 28.8%, a new report claims.
  • Women were accounted for a large part of the drive, as their market presence more than doubled through the year.
  • Even still, real mainstream success could still be a way off thanks to a clunky user experience, experts say.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

One crypto exchange says close to a third of all Australians now have some sort of stake in crypto, adding to a wave of ceaseless optimism for its mainstream potential. But others say the barrier to entry may still be too high.

According to the results of its annual index, Independent Reserve suggests that 28.8% of Australians now have direct exposure to crypto, up from the 18.4% who did in 2020. 

It’s a much more bullish picture than drawn by others in the space. In October, comparison site Finder said the rate was more like 17.8% — still the third-highest in the world — while others have put it closer to 20%

Adrian Przelozny, CEO at Independent Reserve, told Business Insider Australia that the findings show how crypto adoption in Australia is on track to match consumer appetite for share trading, which in March this year was recorded among close to half of the population.

“When people look at mainstream investments in Australia, I guess property and shares are the two that come to the front of mind for most people,” Przelozny said. 

“But I think crypto is now a very close third, and I think we’re only maybe one or two years away from when crypto is really thought of in the same breath as investing in a house. It’s really beginning to pick up in the mainstream, which is amazing to see,” he said. 

Of those surveyed, 89% told the exchange that they’d either made money on crypto, or at least broken even, up from the 78% who said the same in 2020. 

Bitcoin, to no surprise, remains the most popular among them, with 21.1% of Australians invested in crypto said to hold the coin. Half as many said they owned Ethereum, which was held by 11% of investors up from the 5% who did last year. 

Ripple’s popularity, meanwhile, has stayed the same, with holdings in the coin rising to just 5.7% from 5.1% the year before. Cardano and Dogecoin came in at fourth and fifth place respectively, rounding out the remaining slots in Australia’s top five investments.  

Among the investor groups driving Australia’s adoption are women, whose presence in the market doubled from 10.3% to 20%, according to the index. Przelozny said he thinks women are starting to warm to the market, as they see the asset class as less of a risk. 

“I think now that it’s beginning to the hit the mainstream or it’s becoming to be seen as a little bit less risky, I think you’re going to see more women entering this market,” Przelozny said. 

“And that’s really great to see. They account for half of the population, so it’s really good to see that they are beginning to get interested in this asset class as well.”

Karen Cohen, deputy chair on the board of Blockchain Australia, said the results were encouraging, but that there’s still a long way to go — particularly in making crypto more accessible to a broader cross-section of demographics. 

“I just think that we need to continue to make crypto more user friendly for women, but also for the older generation. You know, that whole process of ‘KYC’, getting a wallet, signing up and maybe being afraid to transfer crypto — really looking at the user experience,” Cohen said.

“I’d like to see more women invest in groups to feel safe about learning how to be financially independent using crypto; seeing more women in blockchain groups on Facebook. There’s definitely that interest, but people are still nervous,” she said.

“We just need to continue on [with improving] that user experience.”

The same could be said for groups looking to launch Web3 projects, Cohen said, who at this stage look likely to sit in a vacuum with their colleagues and a small pool of enthusiasts until product designers are able to demystify what can, at times, be an incredibly clunky exercise.

“Whether it’s Web2 or Web3, your apps should be simple and easy to use,” Cohen said. 

“Your sign-in process, your ‘KYC’ process needs to be simple and easy, and users need to be able to have confidence with your apps, that they can buy and store safely.”

There’s no doubt 2021 has been a bumper year for crypto in Australia. The market has seen regulators, senators, and even one member of federal Treasury acknowledge the industry’s prevailing potential. 

But regulation, while not as distant a prospect as it might once have been, continues to cause headaches for the space. 

There are large parts of the market that remain hesitant in its absence. As many as 36.5% of Australians told Independent Reserve they thought the asset class was still too risky. Another 28.6% said they’d hold off until there were “greater consumer protections”.

Przelozny said the introduction of material consumer protections, and the industry regulation that executives have tipped to arrive in the next 18 months, could lower a drawbridge to true mainstream adoption in Australia. 

Until then, the exchange admitted that the findings emerge as a “clear signal” to the industry on education, where it needs to do better on using “plain English” to describe crypto and how it is used.