FCA research reveals increase in cryptoasset ownership

Research published by the FCA estimates that 2.3 million adults now hold cryptoassets (up from 1.9 million last year). 78% of adults have now heard of cryptoassets, up from 73% in a year.

The consumer research shows that as holding cryptoassets has become more common attitudes to them have changed. 38% of crypto users regard them as a gamble (down from 47% last year), while increasing numbers see them as either a complement or alternative to mainstream investments.  

By contrast, the level of overall understanding of cryptocurrencies is declining, suggesting that some people who have heard of crypto may not fully understand, with only 71% correctly identified the definition of cryptocurrency from a list of statements.

Enthusiasm for cryptoassets is growing with over half of crypto users saying they have had a positive experience so far and are likely to buy more (rising from 41% to 53%). Fewer people also regret having bought cryptocurrencies, down from 15% to 11%.

1 in 10 who had heard of cryptocurrency said they are aware of consumer warnings on the FCA website. Of these, 43% said they were discouraged from buying crypto. Most consumers recognise that crypto investments are not protected, although 12% of crypto users believe otherwise.  

Sheldon Mills, FCA’s Executive Director, Consumers and Competition said: 'The research highlights increased interest in cryptoassets among UK customers. The market has continued to grow, and some investors have benefitted as prices have risen. However it is important for customers to understand that because these products are largely unregulated that if something goes wrong they are unlikely to have access to the FSCS or the Financial Ombudsman Service. If consumers invest in these types of products, they should be prepared to lose all their money.'

The research is the FCA’s fourth consumer research publication on cryptoassets ownership. It is part of the FCA’s strategy to develop its thinking on the potential harms and benefits to consumers from cryptoassets and help better understand consumers’ attitudes and patterns of use. 

During that period the FCA issued further consumer warnings, stating that investing in cryptoassets is high risk and that investors should be prepared to lose all their money. 

The FCA will continue working closely with HM Treasury and other regulators, including through the UK Cryptoasset Taskforce.  

Notes to editors

  1. The term 'cryptocurrency' was used for the survey as the term is more widely recognised. Otherwise, we generally use the term 'cryptoasset'. 
  2. Research Note: Cryptoasset consumer research 2021
  3. The 2021 research was conducted in January 2021. 
  4. As cryptoassets are largely unregulated, the FCA does not hold significant relevant data about them. A series of regulatory developments has taken place, including: the Treasury consulted in 2020 on extending the perimeter of the financial promotions order to include unregulated cryptoassets, from 2020, the FCA became the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing supervisor of UK cryptoasset businesses, the Treasury consulted in January 2021 on a UK regulatory approach to cryptoassets, proposing to bring within the regulatory framework a subset of cryptoassets when used as a means of payment. 
  5. See further information on the FCA’s approach to cryptoassets
  6. We have published guidance on the cryptoassets that currently fall within our regulatory perimeter. 
  7. The FCA has an overarching strategic objective of ensuring the relevant markets function well. To support this it has 3 operational objectives: to secure an appropriate degree of protection for consumers; to protect and enhance the integrity of the UK financial system; and to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers. 
  8. Find out more information about the FCA.