‘Train has left the station’

If you’re just now thinking about investing in cryptocurrencies or blockchain technology, former U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios says you’re probably already too late to get in on the ground floor.

“The train has already left the station,” Rios, who served as treasurer in the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2016, tells CNBC Make It. “Blockchain technology is here.”

Rios, a visiting scholar at Harvard University, has built much of her post-government career around investing and crypto. She’s a board member for blockchain start-up Ripple, CEO of real estate investment consulting firm Red River Associates and investor on online reality show “Unicorn Hunters” alongside co-stars Steve Wozniak and Lance Bass.

Based on those experiences, Rios says she has one piece of advice for anyone looking to invest in blockchain-based platforms or assets like cryptocurrencies or NFTs: Stick to easy, basic questions like “Is the product practical?” or “Is there room for growth?”

Since many experts believe that assets like NFTs are just a speculative flash in the pan, Rios says she’ll only invest in platforms that have growth potential and provide meaningful services or real-world value.

“Whether there is intrinsic value is very meaningful to me,” she says.

For her, that means understanding how it can be used “responsibly” and whether it can save you real-world time or money. That’s the main reason she joined Ripple’s board, she says: Its cryptocurrency, XRP, advertises the ability to facilitate cross-border payments faster and cheaper than traditional foreign exchange services.

“It’s not just the future,” Rios says. “It’s already being used all over the world.”

Crucially, Rios hopes that 2022 will provide more regulatory clarity for the crypto market. In November, a group of regulators including the U.S. Federal Reserve said that lawmakers plan to offer more clarity on how banks and other large financial institutions will be allowed to handle cryptocurrency next year.

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