Vladimir Potanin (C) Nornickel


Risky cryptocurrencies, such as much-hyped Bitcoin, will give place to asset-backed digital financial assets like non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in the long-term due to the latter’s reliability, Vladimir Potanin, one of Russia’s richest men with assets in different industries and countries, including Finland, told Bloomberg in an interview.

Last week, Atomyze Russia, a fintech startup backed by Potanin’s conglomerate Interros, became the first in Russia to obtain the central bank’s license to issue digital financial assets.

“Unlike some cryptocurrencies, platforms like Atomyze offer consumers high-quality and secure digital goods and may squeeze unreliable products out from the market,” Potanin, who owns Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta plant and co-owns Helsinki-based ice hockey club Jokerit, told the agency.

Atomyze, launched in late 2020, allows trade in tokens backed by physical assets, which can be virtually anything: commodities, real estate, fine art or train tickets. In 2021, Nornickel’s Global Palladium Fund issued the first tokens via Atomyze — exchange traded commodities (ETCs) physically backed by Nornickel-produced metals.

Potanin, worth some $29 billion, has been long lobbying the idea of digital assets, as well as the launch of a digital currency by Russia’s central bank.

Once implemented properly, these developments make disputes over cryptocurrencies outdated, Potanin told Bloomberg. Tokens actually represent a contract for a real-world product or service, while cryptocurrencies and stablecoins are in fact uncontrolled monetary emissions, he stressed.

“Metal coins were replaced by paper money, and then transactions became cashless. Digital financial assets are just the next stage,” Potanin said.

Digitization also makes businesses more transparent, responsible and socially acceptable, the businessman said last week after the launch of Atomyze.

Russian President Vladimir Putin tends to share Potanin’s view about big risks associated with cryptocurrencies, acknowledging, however, Russia’s competitive advantages for their mining, such as cheap electricity.