It has been a volatile week for cryptocurrency investors, capping off 2017 as one of the most intense years for adopters of the volatile investment. Bitcoin reached an all-time high of $17,631.42 just two weeks before the year’s end and has been fluctuating between the $15,000 and $16,000 mark ever since. The currency also gained more credibility this month after Bitcoin futures were released on the Chicago Board Options Exchange, with plans to later be offered by the CME Group. The cryptocurrency is set to break another milestone next year which, while risky, could lend even more credibility not just to Bitcoin, but to cryptocurrency as a whole.
The Tokyo-based company GMO Internet Group first entered the world of cryptocurrency trading in May of this year. While the company primarily provides web hosting, domain registration, and other web services to businesses, this summer they opened up GMO-Z.com Coin, later renamed to GMO Coin, a cryptocurrency exchange. They followed this up in September with an announcement that they planned to invest $3 million into a Bitcoin mining operation set to begin in the first or second quarter of 2018. Now it seems the company will be taking an evening bigger risk in the new year: paying employees in Bitcoin.
GMO Internet will allow all of its over 4000 full-time employees to receive a portion of their monthly income, ranging from about $88 USD (10,000 yen) to $882 (100,000 yen), in Bitcoin. To help sweeten the deal, employees who opt in for the new payroll scheme will also receive a bonus, reportedly around 10 percent of the amount of pay they choose to receive in Bitcoin. GMO Internet supported the risky new payroll system with their belief that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies will eventually become “universal currencies” that create “borderless economic zones.”
Japanese labor regulations require that employees be compensated in yen, but the company seems to have structured the new payroll system so as to avoid breaking this law. GMO told journalists at Kyodo News, a nonprofit news agency, that because the system is voluntary and is deducted from the paycheck, it is still within the bounds of labor law. While many are still warning of a bubble, Japanese investors have increasingly moved towards cryptocurrency. As of November of this year Bitcoin trades made in yen reached 4.5 billion bitcoins. Whether or not GMO’s new payroll system will pay off remains to be seen, but the public interest is certainly there.