Mohamed El-Erian Is (Sort of) Buying the Dip

CoinDesk’s Consensus: Invest conference was off to an understandably subdued start this morning amid the continued slide in crypto prices; registration lines were short and many chairs were empty. But, in front of an audience of investment advisors, investment fund managers, and venture capitalists, Mohamed El-Erian, former CEO of the investment giant PIMCO, revealed that he’s cautiously testing the waters of the cratering market.

El-Erian nearly doubled assets managed by PIMCO in his seven-odd years at the helm, leaving him no more than one rung below the likes of Warren Buffet, George Soros, and Peter Lynch in the investment-guru pantheon. And he’s talking about the current crypto rout as a potential buying opportunity.

As bitcoin dipped below $5,000, “I opened an account, and . . . I put $400 just to test it,” El-Erian told the New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin. Of course, that doesn’t quite mean he’s pushing Allianz, the insurer where he’s currently chief economic advisor, to dive in. But he clearly thinks the space is in a healthy correction, and expects continued long-term growth.

“What I witnessed going on [in crypto markets] doesn’t come as any surprise,” said El-Erian. “If you look at the history of major innovations . . . they go through pretty well-defined cycles. The first cycle is overconsumption and overproduction. Overconsumption of the innovation [of crypto] took us to $20,000; the overproduction took us back down. Then there’s a washout, that’s what we’re going through right now. Then you get to a more rational market.”

El-Erian didn’t go as far as predicting a bottom, but he did provide some insight into why he was initially skeptical of crypto.

“The way this was presented to me [first] was, it’s going to be the global currency. My reaction was…it’s not going to happen. So I didn’t initially distinguish between cryptocurrencies and the underlying technology. As I evolved, I realized it’s part of the ecosystem. The early adopters make the mistake of over positioning what this is. I think it’s important to present this whole thing realistically and not over promise.”

Now that the market is on its way to firmer, more rational ground, El-Erian believes that one of the most important questions of the next 10 years will be how legacy players adapt. “We’re going to [be talking] about how quickly established companies are able to adopt the technology. And those who can’t do it fast are going to have some problems.”