In ten years, cryptocurrency has gone from a white paper on a mailing list to a sprawling infrastructure of traders, apps and ATMs in a multi-billion dollar market. The 2017 boom rapidly spread knowledge of cryptocurrency but its actual consumer base remains somewhat misunderstood. 

In an attempt to translate cryptocurrency investors in Europe more accurately, we paired up with Bitpanda to explore these consumers across a wide range of data points. Here’s what our report reveals.

1. London has the most cryptocurrency investors.

Across the 17 European markets we track in our quarterly survey, 4% of internet users have cryptocurrency. 

As a wealthy country with a large, well-developed financial services sector, it should come as no surprise that Switzerland has the highest rate of ownership in Europe, and among the highest in the world. Across Europe’s cities, London has the highest concentration of crypto holders – it even exceeds Zurich’s share. 

Generally, we see that the level of cryptocurrency ownership in a market is related to.

  • The youth of that market. 
  • The share who work in engineering, financial services or banking. 
  • The proportion of people who fall into the highest income group. 

2. They’re not all wealthy. 

Unsurprisingly, as wealth grows, we see much greater diversification of portfolios. While the bottom 25% wealth group holds an average of 1.3 different types of investment, the highest 25% have 2.4 different investments. 

But it’s interesting that this ‘wealth-effect’ seems to have less of an impact on cryptocurrency than it does for other assets like art, real estate or bonds. The wealthiest consumers are almost 6 times as likely as the bottom to have stocks and shares and mutual/managed investment funds, but are only 2.5x as likely to have cryptocurrency. 

This means crypto investment isn’t necessarily just the preserve of the wealthiest. 

Cryptocurrency is something people diversify into as and when they have the means to do so. 

3. They like to be anonymous.

From its original publication on a cryptography mailing list in 2008, privacy has always been an important part of the design ethos of cryptocurrency. 

While Bitcoin itself was never designed as fully anonymous, its founder – himself anonymous – clearly intended it to enable fully private transactions. 

Cryptocurrency holders are no more concerned about their privacy than average, but they’re more likely to be taking action to safeguard it. 

Around 6 in 10 are deleting cookies or using a private browsing window. 

They’re also over twice as likely as average to be using VPNs each month. 

The most common reason for using a VPN is to protect anonymity, but 1 in 2 are doing so to hide their web browsing from government surveillance – which is about 3 times higher than among the general online population.  

Chart showing demographic of crypto currency investors.

4. The gender imbalance is less than you might think.

Cryptocurrency investors aren’t dominated by any single demographic. What we see instead is a mix of traits that our other research often associates with higher rates of tech adoption. 

Compared to the average internet user in Europe, cryptocurrency holders are more likely to be: 

  • Male 
  • Under 35
  • A full-time worker or a freelancer 
  • Educated to a postgraduate level
  • In the top income decile 
  • In the top wealth decile, but outside the top 1%

The highest percentage of cryptocurrency ownership (21%) is found among men aged 25-34 who are in the top 10% income group. 

They’re 5 times as likely as the average internet user in our European markets to own cryptocurrency and match the general opinion of what a cryptocurrency holder looks like. 

But it’s crucial not to stereotype: prominent as they might be, these men only account for 4% – 1 in 25 – of cryptocurrency investors in Europe. 

The crypto community is undeniably male-dominated – but it’s probably less than many would assume. 

The first community surveys that were published, such as the self-selected community census, often showed gender ratios upwards of 93-7 male-to-female. Our data shows a greater split, at 78-22.

Chart showing privacy safeguards.

Examining the profile of male and female crypto-investors we see that women are more likely to be university educated and are also better off financially:

21% of women fall within the top 10% income group versus 16% of men. 

But they’re both more likely to work in finance and banking than the average European. 

They’re also similar when it comes to their attitudes and they stand out in the same areas – being open to risk and adventure, caring about their image and status, and being easily influenced.  

It’s interesting that female crypto-investors are more different from other women than male crypto-investors are from men. This is in terms of their interests, profession and income.

To take an example, they’re 80% more likely to be interested in computers and coding than the average female internet user, while being less likely to be interested in topics where female respondents otherwise over-index: cooking, books and literature. 

Cryptocurrency has sat on the edge of a mainstream breakthrough for some time, which can be attributed to questions around the safety of the currency and uncertainty around the market itself. 

However, what we have here is a risk-willing and business-minded audience who are happy to take on this uncertainty. Any marketer looking to target this audience would do well to tap into its well-documented sense of daring and optimism, rather than rely on more traditional messaging around security.

Click to access our full ecommerce trends shaping 2019

Written by

Katie is a Strategic Insights Manager at GWI. Moving to the company 4 years ago, Katie heads up the Strategic Insights team, overseeing the production of bespoke assets for clients. Katie also writes on GWI's blog, with a particular interest in social media and marketing.

You’ve read our blog, now see our platform

Every business has questions about its audiences, GWI has answers. Powered by consistent, global research, our platform is an on-demand window into their world.