Canada’s policy makers and regulators should work to make the country a leading destination for cryptocurrency and blockchain companies as part of a broader strategy to diversify its economy, Wealthsimple Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Mike Katchen said.

Blockchain technology is “wildly exciting,” and regulators should clarify the tax and legal issues surrounding cryptocurrencies, Katchen said Wednesday in a discussion with the Canadian Club Toronto. Wealthsimple is an online financial-services company partly owned by Power Corp. of Canada. 

“The smartest people in technology and the smartest engineers are flocking to build applications in this space, which is generally the thing that we see at the cusp of any major technology revolution,” Katchen said. “Canada could plant a flag and say, ‘We want to help the smartest people that want to be working on crypto projects, companies on the blockchain -- do it from Canada.’”

Along with its robo-adviser business and no-free trading platform, Wealthsimple allows users to buy cryptocurrencies including Bitcoin, Ethereum and Dogecoin. The firm last year added retirement portfolios that include Bitcoin and Ethereum for its group-retirement clients. 

Katchen said he doesn’t take a view on the long-term value of any particular cryptocurrency, saying that Bitcoin could become a reserve currency or “could not be anything of value ever.” He sees “a heck of a lot of speculation” in crypto, and highlighted Wealthsimple’s efforts to educate users on how to invest responsibly.

Canada’s efforts to help crypto and blockchain companies operate in a compliant way should be part of a broader effort to diversify the country’s economy with knowledge-based industries, he said. 

Overall, he said he’s never been more optimistic about the future of Canada’s technology industry because firms like his own and Shopify Inc. have shown an ability to expand and attract capital. They’ve also helped build a base of skilled workers who could become entrepreneurs building the next round of startups.

But currently, Canada primarily does two things: “We pull things out of the ground, and we finance that activity,” Katchen said.

“That has been a wonderful business to be in for many decades -- it is the source of so much we take for granted and so much of the prosperity that we have enjoyed,” he said. “But if it is the story we tell our kids in 20 years, I believe we are in trouble.”