Who’s the better bitcoin salesman: Larry Fink or Michael Saylor?

An unwavering bitcoin bull versus a TradFi CEO who has come around on the asset class — both have proven influential in quickening BTC adoption to different groups

share

Bitcoin is described in a number of ways, depending on who you ask. 

Many have heard it called a scam or something similar. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has labeled BTC “a pet rock,” while Warren Buffett got creativity points for reportedly saying in 2018 it is “probably rat poison squared.”

I’m not sure how square roots work on non-numbers, but there’s no doubt many rodents were killed in the making of that metaphor.  

What were we talking about again? Oh yeah. 

But then there’s another contingent entirely that believes wholeheartedly in bitcoin’s ethos — an asset with a finite supply that can be transacted peer to peer, without financial intermediaries.

Read more: The Bitcoin halving is just weeks away — here’s how miners have prepared

Perhaps the leader of that group is MicroStrategy founder Michael Saylor. After all, the company he founded has bought 205,000 BTC and counting.

Bitcoin represents capital preservation and “digital energy,” according to Saylor

He added in an interview with Yahoo Finance last month: “Bitcoin is the apex property of the human race.”

A graduate of MIT with degrees in aeronautics and astronautics, Saylor has even worked numbers into the equation in describing what bitcoin represents. 

“I want you to imagine bitcoin as a city in cyberspace that is 276 blocks wide, 276 blocks high [and] 276 blocks deep — about 21 million blocks,” he said in the same interview. “Now imagine all 8 billion people in the world want to live there one day; they want to put their capital there.

“There’s $900 trillion of wealth in the world,” Saylor added. “As people migrate from every other form of property…into cyberspace, you’re going to see the bitcoin network go from a $1 trillion network to 10x that to 100x that. And there really is nowhere else to go.”  

Enter BlackRock CEO Larry Fink

The leader of the world’s largest asset manager has not touted bitcoin for as long as Saylor. Also unlike the MicroStrategy founder, Fink’s conviction in the asset has not been constant — as he once in 2017 called bitcoin “an index of money laundering.”

That tune has changed, with the BlackRock CEO lumping crypto with Treasurys and gold, for example, as a “flight to quality” asset during an interview last October.

“If you’re in a country where you’re fearful of your future, fearful of your government or you’re frightened that your government is devaluing its currency [due to] too much deficits, you could say this is a great potential long-term store of value,” Fink more recently told Fox Business in January.

Read more: Stablecoins are ‘a better product’ than local currencies in emerging economies, Carrica says

In the same interview, the BlackRock leader called it what many have called it before him: a type of digital gold.

“It’s an international ledger,” Fink added. “It’s cross-border. It’s bigger than any government.” 

Influence from different angles

Fink and Saylor are both extremely influential in quickening bitcoin adoption, said CK Zheng, a former head of valuation risk at Credit Suisse who co-founded crypto hedge fund ZX Squared Capital.

But their impacts come from very different perspectives, he added — a bitcoin maximalist versus a fund manager executive looking to “democratize” the crypto space

“[Saylor’s] commitment to bitcoin is unquestionable,” Zheng told Blockworks. “His actions speak louder than his words…and his actions are pure and simple: buy and hold forever, through market peaks and troughs.”

Read more: MicroStrategy announces another senior notes offering to buy more bitcoin

Meanwhile, BTC has grown on Fink more recently, if for no other reason than to sell his firm’s nearly three-month-old spot bitcoin ETF. 

The asset management giant’s iShares Bitcoin Trust (IBIT) has seen net inflows on every trading day since launching on Jan. 11, according to BitMex Research data — totaling nearly $14 billion as of March 28.

BlackRock’s bitcoin ETF held more than 250,000 BTC at that time — a total that recently surpassed the total holdings of MicroStrategy.

Peter Najarian, a managing partner at RW3 Ventures, spoke at Blockworks’ Digital Asset Summit in London last week. He said that Fink’s support for the crypto industry might have had a bigger impact on the approval of the bitcoin ETF. This, he suggested, could be more significant than Grayscale Investments’ legal victory against the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Some would argue that Larry Fink’s more powerful than the head of the Federal Reserve in the US in the current environment,” Najarian said.

The better bitcoin salesman?

The rhetoric of Saylor and Fink will be interpreted, and strike a chord with various investors differently.

Saylor’s take on bitcoin resonates with the crypto community but can be somewhat polarizing for traditional investors, said Ryan Rusmussen, a senior crypto research analyst at Bitwise Investments. 

The MicroStrategy founder essentially criticized asset diversification during an interview posted on X by Swan Bitcoin, for example.

“This type of take from Saylor, for example, flies in the face of what traditional investors believe in, and so they have a hard time aligning with it,” Rasmussen said.

Saylor also noted in his recent interview with Yahoo Finance: “People that use fiat currency as a store of value — there’s a name for them; we call them poor.” 

Such remarks, again, play well to Saylor’s crypto base, but likely don’t sit well with investors outside that realm, the Bitwise research analyst told Blockworks.

Fink meanwhile touches on similar advantages, but in investor speak. The BlackRock CEO has called bitcoin “an asset class that protects you” from economic uncertainty and geopolitical risk.

So younger retail investors still forming their opinion on global markets and investing are more likely to be influenced by Saylor, and might not even know what BlackRock is, Rasmussen argued. Fink’s opinions, contrarily, hold particular weight with older, professional investors.

It’s rare and difficult for an established traditional finance executive to adopt such a view on bitcoin at this early adoption stage, Zheng said. Many Wall Street CEOs still have not fully warmed up to crypto, he added.

Read more: The institutions are paying attention. Now comes the hard part.

“BlackRock has fundamentally accelerated the bitcoin adoption in the [traditional finance] world overnight by establishing themselves as an undisputed leader in the bitcoin ETF world,” Zheng noted. “As the [traditional finance] universe is currently 100 times larger than the crypto world, BlackRock’s impacts are unlimited and growing stronger everyday in this new asset class.”

Following demand

While Saylor’s belief in bitcoin has appeared firm and constant in all market environments, Fink’s conviction in bitcoin appears more based on where he sees client demand. 

“He masterfully engineered a successful path through the familiar form of an ETF for institutional investors and individual investors alike,” Zheng said of Fink.

The BlackRock CEO said shortly after FTX’s collapse in late 2022 that tokenizing assets on the blockchain is “the next generation for markets.”

BlackRock launched its first tokenized fund on the Ethereum Network on March 20. Robert Mitchnick, the firm’s head of digital assets, called the offerings “the latest progression of our digital assets strategy.”

RW3 Ventures’ Najarian said during the DAS panel that there comes a time when the big players within an industry understand some innovations become too big to ignore.

Read more: Bitcoin ETF catalyzing broader merge of TradFi, crypto: BlackRock exec

 “At some point the smartest of the incumbents…take the view of…‘The technology’s too good and too innovative,’” Najarian said. “‘The rails are such that they really are disruptive, I’m not going to be able to fight it forever, so now I will lead.’ From our seat that’s what happened with BlackRock, Fidelity and others.” 

Asset managers are in the business of gathering assets to manage, and BlackRock’s IBIT is the fastest-growing new ETF of all time. 

Seeking out those assets will impact how an executive like Fink speaks about bitcoin.  

But the reason Larry Fink can confidently label bitcoin as a “flight to quality” asset alongside US Treasurys and gold is because he can see that many — including BlackRock customers — are already using it that way, Rasmussen said.

He added: “Fink’s change in the way he views bitcoin is both a result of the business opportunity it presents for BlackRock, and a reflection of how investors around the world are starting to view the asset.”


Don’t miss the next big story – join our free daily newsletter.

Tags

Upcoming Events

Salt Lake City, UT

WED - FRI, OCTOBER 9 - 11, 2024

Pack your bags, anon — we’re heading west! Join us in the beautiful Salt Lake City for the third installment of Permissionless. Come for the alpha, stay for the fresh air. Permissionless III promises unforgettable panels, killer networking opportunities, and mountains […]

recent research

ao cover.jpg

Research

Arweave recently launched the testnet for AO computer, a new messaging protocol that will sit atop a PoS network and aims to become a scalable global compute platform through parallel processing and modularity.

article-image

The US spot bitcoin fund category has notched negative net flows over the course of a week just three times since coming to market in January

article-image

Elsewhere, rank-and-file employees move around and Binance’s head of legal in Europe departs

article-image

Plus, a Dragonfly partner shares his view on the crypto VC market, and a mining hardware firm raises $80 million

article-image

Plus, a Bored Ape burger restaurant closes, and Crypto: The Game presses on

article-image

Bitcoin scarcity is a meme, with or without the halvings

article-image

The current state of blockchain interoperability poses an existential threat to the mainstream adoption of blockchain technology as a whole