Cryptocurrency traders — according to the findings of a new study commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority — are a young and diverse bunch who are not always level-headed in their investment choices.

The study, conducted by the international strategy consultancy BritainThinks between mid-August 2020 and late January 2021, was based on a sample of 517 “self-directed investors” i.e. those who make investment decisions on their own behalf and don’t seek professional financial advice.

The findings indicate that 38% of those surveyed don’t have a functional reason for their investment choices, giving priority instead to emotional factors such as the thrill of trading and enjoying a sense of ownership towards the companies they invest in, which sustains a perceived social status. 

Challenge, competition and novelty, for these investors, eclipse more sober, long-term motivations, such as putting their cash holdings to more efficient and gainful ends. While most respondents claimed they had high confidence and sufficient knowledge about their field of investment, many reportedly lacked awareness or belief in the risks they are courting. 

Over 40% didn’t view “losing some money” as a potential risk of investing, and a vast majority of 78% agreed with the statement “I trust my instincts to tell me when it’s time to buy and to sell.” 78% also agreed that “there are certain investment types, sectors or companies I consider a ‘safe bet.’”

Moreover, this investor cohort was found to be more ethnically diverse and younger, as well as more likely to be female, than conventional investors. The study attributes this to the greater accessibility offered by new investment apps, as well as ads on social media and YouTube, which many respondents rely upon for tips and investment news.

Coupled with this thirst for novelty and investment challenges, however, is these investors’ relative inability to financially weather potential investment losses. 59% of respondents with less than three years of investment experience would find their lifestyles fundamentally impacted by a significant loss. Commenting on the study’s findings, the FCA Executive Director of Consumer and Competition Sheldon Mills said:

“We are worried that some investors are being tempted — often through online adverts or high-pressure sales tactics — into buying higher-risk products that are very unlikely to be suitable for them.“

“Investors need to be mindful of their overall risk appetite, diversifying their investments and only investing money they can afford to lose in high risk products,” he added.

Parallel to the study’s publication, the FCA is today launching a digital campaign to discourage investment harm, with a series of pointed questions intended to prompt traders to pause to reflect before taking the plunge.