Who’s buying crypto in Canada, and why?

The survey by the Ontario Securities Commission found that 13% of Canadians currently hold digital assets such as cryptocurrency (think bitcoin or ethereum) or non-fungible tokens (NFTs). While that might seem like a small minority, more than double that amount intend to buy the assets this year, as mentioned above. Younger Canadians (aged 18 to 34), men, people with a household income of $100,000 or more, and those who had seen crypto ads were more likely to say they intended to buy.

Among survey respondents, many of those who hold crypto assets learned about them from friends, family or colleagues, followed by social media influencers and/or experts in blockchain technology (the decentralized digital ledgers that record crypto transactions).

Traditional institutional investors and financial services firms have started to adopt crypto assets, mostly indirectly, such as through ETFs. Some examples are Fidelity’s Advantage Bitcoin ETF and the bitcoin and cryptocurrency ETFs available from Horizons ETFs. The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan recently revealed that it had invested $95 million—0.05% of the plan’s assets—into the now-struggling cryptocurrency exchange FTX.

The survey was conducted online from April 26 to May 10, 2022. It included 2,185 respondents from the general population plus 175 additional crypto owners, in order to have at least 500 crypto owners participating.

What are Canadian crypto investors buying?

Of the 13% of Canadians who already own crypto assets, 6% hold crypto assets, 6% own both crypto assets and crypto funds, and 2% own crypto funds only. Crypto funds are securities like exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that either invest only in cryptocurrencies or blockchain technology, or invest in crypto along with traditional stocks and bonds. Crypto assets include bitcoin, ethereum, stablecoins and other altcoins, and NFTs.

Do Canadians know enough about crypto?

In their report, the survey authors noted that “the fast-paced rate of innovation has underlined the need to better understand Canadians’ experiences with crypto trading platforms, advertising, and decentralized finance.”

So, is our level of knowledge keeping up with the rapid changes in the industry? Overall, “Canadians’ working knowledge of crypto assets was low,” the survey authors noted. Respondents completed a six-question knowledge test about crypto’s practical, legal and regulatory aspects, and the average score was just 37%. Only 1% of those surveyed answered all six questions correctly; less than 25% got four or more right. 

Current crypto owners had a higher average score than the general-population group (61%) on the crypto knowledge questions, as well as on four general financial literacy questions.

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