Kevin Batteh '95, '98L has always made cash gifts to Washington and Lee, but that is about to change. Over the years, the loyal alumnus has become an expert on cryptocurrency and the regulation of digital assets. This year, Batteh put his knowledge and experience to use in a whole new way by educating the W&L community on digital currencies, and by becoming the university's first Bitcoin donor.
"I received an email from Jamie Killorin in the Development Office that mentioned the benefits of donating appreciated securities, and the light bulb went on," Batteh said. Aware that a number of top university endowments had invested in Bitcoin, Batteh wanted to ensure that his alma mater considered cryptocurrency as an option. "I thought giving a gift of bitcoin would be the best way to get the school engaged," he said.
An electronic system, Bitcoin is transferred between parties using a trading platform with digital wallets. It is the earliest and most popular of the many cryptocurrencies that exist today. According to Batteh, Bitcoin allows people to transfer value anywhere in the world in minutes, without an intermediary and at very low cost. Gifts of bitcoin are treated like gifts of appreciated property, meaning donors can receive a charitable deduction for the current market value and avoid capital gains taxes on the disposition.
Batteh is a partner at Delta Strategy Group, a regulatory strategy and government affairs firm in Washington, D.C., and advises clients on a range of financial services and related areas — including the regulation of digital assets and blockchain technologies. "Our firm was on the forefront of educating lawmakers and regulators on Bitcoin," he said.
In March, Lawrence Term Associate Professor of Finance Aliaa Bassiouny invited Batteh to speak with students in the Williams School. About 80 people attended his presentation, and Batteh was asked to give another for alumni on April 14. "I was surprised to learn that around 30% of the students in the audience own some form of digital asset," he said.
Batteh enjoyed speaking to students about digital currency and looks forward to the alumni engagement presentation, expecting a lively Q&A. He is also excited to see W&L enter the cryptocurrency sphere. "I am thankful that I had the opportunity to study and grow at W&L, so I am always thrilled to give back to the school and the community," Batteh said.