Bitcoin was the first digital currency to rely on a decentralized peer-to-peer network instead of a trusted third party. This was achieved through Bitcoin’s revolutionary underlying technology based on cryptographic proof: the blockchain. After Bitcoin’s emergence, many other so called cryptocurrencies entered the market and we have seen enormous price increases that romised large returns for early users. The return characteristics of cryptocurrencies have been studied by various scholars and some have even declared cryptocurrencies to be an asset class instead of a digital currency. Due to the fast changes in the cryptocurrency market and the increased importance of other cryptocurrencies than Bitcoin, we believe that research focusing on the financial performance of cryptocurrencies should be renewed on a regular basis. Therefore, with this work we aim to shed light on the return characteristics of cryptocurrencies in relation to traditional asset classes and on the potential of cryptocurrencies to improve portfolio diversification. In addition, we investigate the cryptocurrency market, describe selected cryptocurrencies in more detail and provide an overview of potential technological risks arising with the use of cryptocurrencies. Our results indicate that cryptocurrencies provide large return potentials with high levels of volatility but compared to traditional asset classes provide a higher level of return per level of risk. We also find that selected cryptocurrencies can improve diversification in a cryptocurrency portfolio, as well as in a portfolio of international equity and private equity investments.
Keywords: Alternative Asset Classes, Cryptocurrency, Portfolio Diversification, Risk-Reward Profile und Cryptocurrency Risks