Crypto Companies Adopt Features Similar To Banks (Only Better) To Drive Growth (#GotBitcoin)
Cryptocurrency exchange Deribit recently published an analysis explaining that cryptocurrency companies are racing to adopt financial services known from legacy finance. Crypto Companies Adopt Features Similar To Banks (Only Better) To Drive Growth (#GotBitcoin)
The post points out that all crypto companies, exchanges included, will soon offer users interest accounts, cost-effective ways to perform transactions, and tax services. Throughout his post, he explains why these features, along with others, will become a standard offering for exchanges in the next 2 years.
Adoption Is Well Underway
The crypto community is already seeing a number of companies adopt features that traditional financial institutions offer. The only difference is that many of these companies are making these features more appealing to their customers, in ways that banks cannot or will not..
The crypto lending platform Celsius, for example, recently began to offer users outside of the US and Japan up to 8.1% APR on bitcoin deposits at its highest loyalty level. While the majority of traditional banks have savings accounts and loyalty programs that allow investors to earn interest, most offer much lower rates than what Celsius will provide.
According to Celsius CEO Alex Mashinsky, it has become difficult to earn yield on crypto today due to the rise of crypto-lending platforms. As a result, he is attempting to increase investor returns with higher interest rates that are paid out in Celsius’s CEL token. Mashinsky told Cointelegraph:
“To boost the yield we wanted to do something other than paying bitcoin on bitcoin, so we’ve decided to pay in our CEL token. We also have a loyalty program with different tiers to show how much interest users will receive. Basically, we are convincing people to join Celsius by paying them more.”
And much like traditional banks, Celsius will also offer compounding interest on crypto deposits, joining the likes of Nexo and DeFiprime.
Crypto-lending startup BlockFi also recently announced that users can earn compounding interest on and trade loans backed by assets. BlockFi’s initial annual percentage yield on the assets will be 8.6% for Coinbase’s USDC stablecoin and 3.78% for litecoin.
Founder of TechCrunch and hedge fund Arrington XRP Capital, Michael Arrington, noted that higher interest rates are already driving adoption. He told Cointelegraph:
“I know of first-time crypto users who are buying stablecoins to get higher interest rates than they normally would be able to with fiat.”
Arrington sees great potential for crypto-lending companies, as the entire crypto loaning industry is estimated to be worth $4.7 billion. Arrington said:
“Keep a close eye on crypto-lending companies that are experiencing rapid growth with compelling interest earning rates and low cost loans for crypto and digital dollars, aka stablecoins. We’re seeing growth trajectories in the sector that mirror some of the most successful fintech companies’ like PayPal’s early days.”
Although these rates are much higher than what traditional banks offer, crypto-lending platforms typically only offer collateral backed loans. According to Credit Karma, collateral backed loans in general are risky due to shorter repayment periods and the possibility of losing the collateral if the loan is not paid back as agreed.
Arrington Explained That The Sector Is Growing Rapidly Nevertheless, Saying:
“Leveraging blockchain payment rails instead of the traditional banking system creates an opportunity for firms to distribute a banking app at the same speed and scale as Uber. Traditionally this wasn’t possible because local partnerships were needed for every market that financial companies operated in – crypto fundamentally changes the game.”
Crypto Companies Are Getting Rid Of Fees
Another major innovation being made by crypto companies is the removal of exchange fees, which have been roundly criticized as too high. Traditional banks are also famous for hitting users with costly fees. According to a recent MyBankTracker study, the average checking account fee per month at leading US banks is $9.60.
On Jan. 28 digital money platform Uphold introduced zero-commission trading on 30 cryptocurrencies, but only on through iOS and Android mobile apps.
According to Uphold CEO J.P. Thieriot, removing fees will ensure affordable access to cryptocurrency for millions of retail investors. He told Cointelegraph:
“Cryptocurrencies were one of the more expensive asset classes for retail investors to trade, with fees north of 200 basis points on some mainstream platforms. The goal here is to create something useful for people around the world and in everyday context, while differentiating us from our competitors. Ultimately, the internet of money is likely to evolve in ways that banks haven’t been able to do a good job with.”
Bloomberg also recently reported that zero-fee trading is coming to crypto, just as it has come to traditional exchange-traded funds and to online stock transactions. Global financial technology co-head at ConsenSys Lex Sokolin told Bloomberg:
“Free trading has become a feature of all fintech direct trading offerings, from Robinhood to SoFi and even JPMorgan. So it’s not surprising that in a digital race to acquire the most users, execution prices are starting to collapse.”
Yet without exchange fees, crypto companies will likely be earning smaller amounts of revenue. Thieriot is confident this model will be beneficial overall, though, saying:
“In moving to lower fees, Uphold expects the typical tradeoff between higher volume and lower margin. The good news is that unlike incumbent banks and brokerages, our cost structure is a fraction of theirs. We are crypto-native and technology-led, which imbues important structural advantages.”
Crypto companies aim to drive user adoption, but will this help?
While high interest rates and zero-fee trading, along with other features, are aimed to drive user adoption of cryptocurrencies, skepticism remains.
According to a new report entitled “Cryptocurrencies and the Future of Money” published by IE University’s Center for the Governance of Change (CGC), existing cryptocurrencies have failed to achieve the objectives envisioned by their pioneers, and are in general not considered as money.
Research Director at the IE Center for the Governance of Change, Mike Seiferling, said:
“Although innovations are making digital currencies more realistic candidates to replace traditional money and create benefits for users across large volumes of transactions, our research suggest that cryptocurrencies still have a long way to go before they can compete, let alone or overtake, traditional forms of money backed by central and commercial banks.”
Pomp’s Morgan Creek Leads $50M Investment In Crypto Lender BlockFi
BlockFi’s Bitcoin reward card is inching forward.
BlockFi, a major American cryptocurrency lending startup, has completed another funding round featuring major industry investors.
The company has raised $50 million in a Series C round led by Anthony Pompliano’s crypto asset management firm Morgan Creek Digital, BlockFi announced on Aug. 20.
Also known as Pomp, Morgan Creek’s co-founder Pompliano is joining BlockFi’s board of directors following the investment.
The appointment comes after Morgan Creek participated in all three of BlockFi’s funding rounds over the past 12 months, including the $18 million Series A round in August 2019 and the $30 million Series B round in February 2020.
The funding round also featured some established BlockFi investors like Winklevoss Capital, venture capital fund Valar Ventures and CMT Digital. Other participating investors included Castle Island Ventures, SCB 10X, Avon Ventures, Purple Arch Ventures, Kenetic Capital, HashKey, and NBA player Matthew Dellavedova.
As announced, the new funding comes amid BlockFi seeing a 10-fold revenue increase over the past year. The company now has $100 million in revenues over the past year, while managed assets account for more than $1.5 billion to date, BlockFi’s representatives said.
Similarly to previous funding round announcements, BlockFi outlined that the newly raised funds will be used to further grow the company as well as the upcoming release of a Bitcoin (BTC) rewards credit card.
BlockFi revealed plans for the card in early 2020, positioning it as the “world’s first ever crypto-rewards credit card.” Similarly to existing crypto reward apps like Lolli, BlockFi wants to provide global customers with cashback in cryptos like Bitcoin. The card is expected to be released in Q3 or Q4 2020, with CEO Zac Prince claiming that the crypto rewards would amount to somewhere between 1.5% and 3% from purchases in fiat.
Arrington begs to differ. “Fewer people are making this argument. Features like zero-fee trading and high interest rates are already driving adoption.”
BlockFi Takes 5% Stake In Grayscale’s $4.8B Bitcoin Trust
Crypto lender BlockFi has become one of Grayscale Bitcoin Trust’s (GBTC) biggest whales.
* BlockFi holds 5.07% of Grayscale’s $4.8 billion bitcoin trust, or 24,235,578 GBTC shares, according to Tuesday Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings. Grayscale is owned by CoinDesk’s parent firm Digital Currency Group.
* CEO Zac Prince said in a press statement BlockFi’s “significant” GBTC position will “add value” to the “marketplace for liquid and illiquid” shares. “There are lending markets related to GBTC,” he told CoinDesk in an email.
* Crypto fund manager Three Arrows Capital is the only other entity with comparable GBTC holdings, having amassed over 21 million shares by June. That represented a 6.26% stake in GBTC at the time.
* Entities are required to publicly disclose ownership positions over the 5% threshold. GBTC became an SEC reporting company in January.
Important Update – BlockFi Wallet Accounts
Today, we took an important step toward our goal of returning assets to clients through our chapter 11 cases. It is our belief that clients unambiguously own the digital assets in their BlockFi Wallet Accounts. As such, we filed a motion requesting authority from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to allow clients to withdraw digital assets that are held in their BlockFi Wallet Accounts.
We will be seeking similar relief from the Supreme Court of Bermuda with respect to BlockFi Wallet Accounts held at BlockFi International Ltd. This motion does not impact withdrawals or transfers from BlockFi Interest Accounts, which remain paused at this time.
In order to facilitate withdrawals from BlockFi Wallet Accounts, we also requested permission to update the User Interface to properly reflect transactions as of the platform pause on November 10, 2022 at 8:15 p.m. (prevailing Eastern Time).
This is a necessary step towards ensuring all clients are treated fairly and that the User Interface properly reflects the digital assets in Wallet Accounts as of the pause so BlockFi can honor all withdrawal requests from Wallet Accounts properly if authorized by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and, with respect to BlockFi International Ltd., the Supreme Court of Bermuda.
While filing this motion is an initial step, we will continue to work towards solutions that maximize value for all clients and other stakeholders and will share updates as quickly as practicable.
We are looking forward to discussing this motion with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and key parties in our cases, and expeditiously moving towards a path that returns Wallet Accounts assets to clients. We expect that our request will be heard by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court at our hearing currently scheduled for January 9, 2023, at 10:00am ET.
We expect that our request for similar relief with respect to BlockFi International Ltd. will be first heard before the Supreme Court of Bermuda at our hearing currently scheduled for January 13, 2023 at 10:30am AST and then scheduled for a full hearing after that on a date to be fixed.
Additional information regarding our chapter 11 cases, including court documents and claim information, can be found by visiting BlockFi’s claims agent Kroll at https://restructuring.ra.kroll.com/blockfi.Clients with questions about the process may call Kroll at (888) 773-0375 (Toll Free) or (646) 440-4371 (International), or email1 email@example.com.
BlockFi Files Motion To Return Frozen Crypto To Wallet Users
Crypto lender BlockFi has asked a U.S. bankruptcy court for the authority to return the crypto held in BlockFi wallets to users.
Bankrupt crypto lending platform BlockFi has filed a motion requesting authority from a United States bankruptcy court to allow its users to withdraw digital assets currently locked up in BlockFi wallets.
In a motion filed on Dec. 19 with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of New Jersey, the lender asked the court for authority to honor client withdrawals from wallet accounts that have been frozen on the platform since Nov. 10.
The court documents also request permission to update the user interface to properly reflect transactions as of the platform’s pause.
In a widely shared email sent to affected users, BlockFi called the motion an “important step toward our goal of returning assets to clients through our chapter 11 cases,” adding:
“It is our belief that clients unambiguously own the digital assets in their BlockFi Wallet Accounts.”
According to BlockFi, this motion will not impact withdrawals or transfers from BlockFi Interest Accounts, which remain paused at this time.
The lending platform has also signaled intentions to seek “similar relief from the Supreme Court of Bermuda with respect to BlockFi Wallet Accounts held at BlockFi International Ltd.”
BlockFi International is a subsidiary of the company based in Bermuda, which runs its non-U.S. operations.
Crypto blogger Tiffany Fong shared the communication sent to her by BlockFi on Dec. 19, commenting that the embattled firm appears to be moving much faster than Celsius, which filed for bankruptcy over five months ago, compared to BlockFi’s bankruptcy filing in November.
According to the court documents, a hearing to decide if the motion will be granted is scheduled for Jan. 9.
A separate hearing regarding wallet accounts held at BlockFi International Ltd is scheduled to go before the Supreme Court of Bermuda on Jan. 13.
BlockFi halted client withdrawals and requested clients not to deposit to BlockFi wallets or Interest Accounts on Nov. 11, citing a lack of clarity around FTX.
By Nov. 28, BlockFi filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, for the company and its eight subsidiaries. BlockFi International filed for bankruptcy with the Supreme Court of Bermuda on that same day.
FTX Paid For Blockfolio Deal Mostly In FTT Token It Invented
FTX, the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, used a token it invented to fund its takeover of trading platform Blockfolio, according to financial statements obtained by Bloomberg News.
FTX paid roughly $84 million in 2020 to take a majority stake in Blockfolio, in what was then among the largest crypto acquisitions. About 94% was paid in FTT tokens, a cryptocurrency that FTX created, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg.
Details of the Blockfolio acquisition, which haven’t been previously reported, offer a glimpse of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried’s appetite for whimsical financial engineering, and an early hunger to amass customers through large-scale deals.
Bankman-Fried doubled down on that ethos this year, going on a buyout binge for firms including Voyager and BlockFi, although those deals were thwarted when FTX imploded in November.
At the time the Blockfolio deal was announced, news outlets reported FTX financed it with a mix of cash, crypto and equity, without further details. The arrangement heralded big things for FTX, which Bankman-Fried founded only a year before.
The agreement gave it a 52% equity stake in Blockfolio and valued the company at almost $160 million — with the option to buy the rest within two years, the financial statements show.
A spokesperson for Bankman-Fried declined to comment.
The disgraced crypto entrepreneur faces criminal charges including fraud. Regulators allege that he misused FTX customer money for luxury real estate and political donations, and to bankroll sister trading firm Alameda Research.
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