A tsunami of disruption – courtesy of Bitcoin – is headed directly for several sectors of the financial services industry.
Some of these companies may adapt to a world in which the digital currency plays a major role, but most are likely to become Bitcoin market victims – companies that will struggle and possibly disappear altogether.
In a research report released at the end of May, Wedbush Securities analyst Gil Luria said "Bitcoin-related technologies will disrupt payments markets and other trust-based markets within the next few years and for decades to follow."
This could have a tremendous impact on the U.S. economy, Luria said, as 20% of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP) "is generated by industries whose main function is as a trusted third party," such as banks, insurance carriers, and real estate-related companies.
In dollar terms, that's an eye-popping $3.4 trillion.
And while it won't happen overnight, the changes will be felt far and wide. Likening Bitcoin to other revolutionary technologies like the Mobile Wave of smartphones and tablets and social media, Luria predicts "the disruption from Bitcoin will take longer than expected but have an even more profound impact than anticipated."
As time goes on, the benefits of Bitcoin – negligible fees, no personal information associated with transactions, decentralization (no central bank can devalue the currency by printing more and more of it), and the potential of the technology to have uses beyond mere payments, such as verifying ownership – will speed adoption and threaten many existing players.
In its detailed "State of Bitcoin" report for the second quarter, Bitcoin news site CoinDesk names 34 companies with a combined market cap of $546 billion as susceptible to disruption by the growing adoption of Bitcoin.
Many of these companies are large and powerful, such as credit card giants Visa Inc. (NYSE: V) and Mastercard Inc. (NYSE: MA), money transfer company The Western Union Co. (NYSE: WU), payment hardware company NCR Corp. (NYSE: NCR), and securities exchange companies CME Group Inc. (Nasdaq: CME) and NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: NDAQ).
Other financial sector categories at risk include payment processors, bank software, and trust/escrow.
Unless these Bitcoin market victims climb aboard the digital currency bandwagon soon, they risk getting run over by it.
Here's why they can't afford to wait much longer…