DealBook Online Summit: Tim Cook on Cryptocurrency

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What’s your thought on cryptocurrency right now and potentially accepting it through Apple Pay or otherwise? Um, it’s something that we’re looking at. It’s not something we have immediate plans to do. I would sort of characterize it as there are things that I wouldn’t do like our cash balance. I wouldn’t go invest that in crypto, not because I wouldn’t invest my own money in crypto, but because I don’t think people buy an Apple stock to get exposure to crypto. And so if they want to do that, they can, you know, invest directly in crypto through other means. And so I wouldn’t do that and I’m not planning to in the immediate future to take crypto for our products as a mean of tender. But there are other things that we’re definitely looking at. Like what? Like, I wouldn’t want to have anything to announce today. Well, let me ask you a different question, because you just said that you might not do it personally. Do you own crypto in any Bitcoin or Ethereum? Or do you play around with this? I do. Yeah, I think it’s reasonable to own it as a part of a diversified portfolio, and I’m not giving anybody investment advice, by the way. When when did you get interested in it? I’ve been interested in it for a while and I’ve, you know, been researching it and so forth. And so I think it’s interesting.

While Apple might not offer users a way to pay with cryptocurrency anytime soon, its leader has invested in it personally.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said at the DealBook Online Summit on Tuesday that he has bought cryptocurrencies. “I think it’s reasonable to own it as part of a diversified portfolio,” Mr. Cook told DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, quickly adding that he wasn’t giving investment advice.

It was a rare insight into how Mr. Cook manages a portion of his billion-dollar fortune. He said he has done some research on crypto and has been interested in it for “a while.” The typically volatile Bitcoin price hit a record at above $68,000 earlier on Tuesday.

The revelation came as Mr. Cook said that Apple itself did not intend to join a growing number of big businesses incorporating crypto in their operations. Tesla, for instance, began accepting Bitcoin as payment for its electric vehicles this year and bought $1.5 billion worth to hold in its corporate treasury.

Mr. Cook said, however, that Apple didn’t plan to buy any Bitcoin with its roughly $200 billion in cash — “I don’t think people buy Apple stock to get exposure to crypto,” he said — and added that it had no plans to make crypto an accepted method of payment anytime soon. “It’s not something we have immediate plans to do,” he said.

But never say never: Mr. Cook added, cryptically, “There are other things that we are definitely looking at.”

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I think that we have a responsibility as a business to do business in as many places as we can because I think business is this huge catalyst. I believe in what Tom Watson said is world peace through world trade. I have always believed that. And so I think we should be about not, you know, not pulling up the drawbridge, but we should be about building the bridges. And so I think that’s key for business and in terms of what we speak up on, we speak up on some privately, we speak up on some publicly. We do it in different ways. And you have to get your head around when you’re operating outside the U.S. and any country in the world that there are different laws. That’s part of both the complexity and part of the beauty of the world is everybody has their own laws and customs.

Companies have a responsibility to be a force for good in society, according to Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive. But how to achieve that is sometimes less than clear.

In a wide-ranging interview at the DealBook Online Summit on Tuesday, Mr. Cook touched on areas where he believes corporate America can, and should, have an effect. Mr. Cook singled out mental health, saying that not only does the topic deserve more research, but also that “all of us should care about making products that help people’s mental health and not play against it.”

He cited the iPhone’s feature for tracking screen time, which he said helps inform people about what is good for their mental health. “If you are scrolling mindlessly, or letting yourself be spun up on negativity, I think this is bad,” he said. “This is bad for your mental health and it’s bad for the people around you.”

But when it came to criticism that he hasn’t spoken out enough against allegations of human rights abuses in China, Mr. Cook defended a low-key approach, saying that Apple speaks up privately on matters of concern. The company’s responsibility is “to do business in as many places as we can,” he said. That means following different countries’ laws and not unduly ruffling feathers, which could risk a place at the table.

“Being on the sidelines is never a good place, at least for business,” Mr. Cook said. “Engagement is the right approach.”

On the first day of the DealBook Online Summit, hosted by Andrew Ross Sorkin, top newsmakers in the worlds of business, policy and culture discuss the future of technology, gender equality, the direction of democracy and life after the pandemic, among many other consequential topics. Register here to attend, free of charge, and catch up on any sessions you may have missed.

Here is today’s lineup (all times Eastern):

10 a.m.-10:30 a.m.

Tim Cook of Apple

The chief executive of the iPhone maker shares his vision for the future of privacy, payments and the internet in general.

11 A.M.-11:30 A.M.

Adam Neumann

The co-founder and former chief executive of WeWork speaks about his tumultuous quest for a workplace utopia, lessons learned and his next act.

2 P.M.-2:30 P.M.

Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, of Archewell and Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments

Two groundbreaking figures discuss how women can reach economic and professional parity, and reflect on how their shared experiences have influenced their thinking.

3:30 P.M.-4 P.M.

Albert Bourla of Pfizer

The chief executive of the pharma giant reflects on the race to create highly effective Covid vaccines, the battle against new variants and what life after the pandemic will look like.

4 P.M.-4:30 P.M.

Ken Chenault of General Catalyst and Ken Frazier of Merck

Two of corporate America’s most prominent leaders make the case for creating opportunities for underrepresented talent and protecting the voting rights of all Americans.

4:30 P.M.-5 P.M.

Matthew McConaughey

The Academy Award-winning actor, philanthropist and self-described “poet-statesman” discusses how to mend a broken political system.

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