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Decentralized Finance DeFi A business guide to understanding benefits, applications and risks

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By making financial services more accessible and user-friendly, it is hoped that DeFi will lead to a more inclusive financial system that works for everyone. Digital assets are subject to a number of risks, including price volatility. Transacting in digital assets could result in significant losses and may not be suitable for some consumers. Digital asset markets and exchanges are not regulated with the same controls or customer protections available with other forms of financial products and are subject to an evolving regulatory environment. Digital assets do not typically have legal tender status and are not covered by deposit protection insurance.

Decentralized finance is a financial system that runs on a decentralized network of computers rather than a single server. DeFi is an emerging digital financial infrastructure that theoretically eliminates the need for a central bank or government agency to approve financial transactions. The idea is that no single entity has control over, or can alter, that ledger of transactions.

These layers work together to create DeFi and its related applications that serve users in a variety of different ways. Fraud and crime continues to be a significant issue; according to calculations by blockchain data platform Chainalysis, $14 billion in cryptocurrency was sent to illicit addresses in 2021, nearly double the figure seen in 2020. The applications – the products we use to manage and access the protocols.

Prediction markets

Traditional futures contracts have an end date, and when the contract reaches maturity the investor needs to either buy or sell the underlying asset at the stated price. While initially proposed over 30 years ago, the concept of perpetual futures was only actualized because of smart contract capabilities. Some of the features that we expect to see in the future of DeFi are actually already possible thanks to market-leading applications such as Dharma, Aave, Compound, Yearn Finance, and more.

How and where is DeFi used

The project said in a blog post that the crash was due to a “bank run,” or panic selling, and the token’s algorithmic code. “In DeFi anyone can launch their own project, token, contract — that is why you should be aware of scams and low quality projects,” notes Mozgovoy. Aside from being aware of scams, in practicality, Mozgovoy states that with DeFi users can save, lend, or take part in derivatives and exchanges. There are certain DeFi “building blocks” that create a software stack, with every layer building upon another.

The New Way: Decentralized Finance

DeFi was developed to create a financial system that is open to everyone and minimizes the need to trust and rely on a central authority. With DeFi, you don’t necessarily have to have a bank account to access financial tools, but you do need an internet connection. “Typically, less mature pools or newer protocols will have higher yields because they’re untested,” said Demirors. “There’s a significant amount of risk related to how the yield you’re earning is being generated.” At first, some in the crypto world speculated that this was the result of a rug pull, which is a type of scam where developers abandon a project and leave with investors’ funds.

It lets participants use cryptocurrency to provide most services that traditional banks offer with government-issued fiat currencies—lend, borrow, earn interest, trade assets, buy insurance, and more. DeFi services tend to be faster, cheaper, and more simple, with new advantages and services being offered each day. The composability of DeFi has unlocked opportunities for product developers to build DeFi protocols directly into platforms across a variety of verticals. Ethereum-based games have become a popular use case for decentralized finance because of their built-in economies and innovative incentive models.

  • For instance, many dApps are being developed on top of theEthereum blockchain, which provides reduced operational costs and lower entry barriers.
  • Using DeFi applications, you will be able to lend or borrow crypto from peers, trade crypto assets without any centralized entity, earn high interest, and much more.
  • Blockchains are basically distributed public ledgers, and are commonly used in the crypto space for recording transaction information.
  • Cryptocurrency is an exciting, dynamic area of finance but learning the basics is an important first step before you venture into this world.
  • There are many different decentralized applications, or dApps, and uses within DeFi that open accessibility but come with risk.
  • The past performance of a digital asset is not a guide to future performance, nor is it a reliable indicator of future results or performance.
  • And although it’s rare for coins to completely tank, like with titan, it’s still possible, and investors should be aware.

Yield farming can take various forms, with the most common being depositing funds in high-yielding lending protocols. Compound and Dharma are two examples of the convergence of fintech and crypto, where crypto-native applications enable simple savings solutions. In the summer of 2020, Ethereum saw an eruption of decentralized finance protocols, which attracted massive amounts of attention and money. Before we dive into specific protocols, let’s quickly cover two aspects of DeFi that caused such a massive interest. If an investor places ETH into the Compound protocol to earn interest, for example, there is the possibility that an ETH price drop offsets all yield earned, leaving the investor with a loss.

What are the tax implications of DeFi?

For example, if you want to use the no-loss lottery PoolTogether , you’ll need a token like Dai or USDC. These DEXs allow you to swap your ETH for those tokens and back again when you’re finished. If exchange B’s supply dropped suddenly and the user wasn’t able to buy enough to cover the original loan, the transaction would simply fail. This allows you to borrow money without credit checks or handing over private information.

Advocates of DeFi assert that the decentralized blockchain makes financial transactions secure and more transparent than the private, opaque systems employed in centralized finance. You might think, “Hey, I already do this when I send my friends money with PayPal, Venmo or CashApp.” But you don’t. You still have to have a debit card or bank account linked to those apps to send funds, so these peer-to-peer payments are still reliant on centralized financial middlemen to work. As a result, there are few paths for consumers to access capital and financial services directly. They cannot bypass middlemen like banks, exchanges and lenders, who earn a percentage of every financial and banking transaction as profit.


A decentralized exchange can still have centralized components, whereby some control of the exchange is still in the hands of a central authority. A notable example being IDEX blocking New York State users from placing orders on the platform. According to their site, you can “Swap, earn, and build on the leading decentralized crypto trading protocol.” The aggregation layer, which consists of aggregators that connect the various dApps and protocols which make up the foundation for borrowing, lending on and other financial services. But because it’s still largely unregulated, investors generally don’t have the same protections they do in traditional financial markets.

DeFi currency exchanges, or DEXs, are peer-to-peer platforms enabling traders to exchange cryptocurrency with one another. Not only do DEXs facilitate direct trading between participants, without a middleman, but users can maintain total anonymity. Traders typically have control over their wallets, and can access thousands of tokens via their private key. Individuals worldwide can use DeFi applications to earn interest, borrow funds, invest in new financial products, take out insurance policies, and more — all made possible by smart contracts and blockchain technology. A stablecoin is any cryptocurrency that is pegged to a stable asset or basket of assets, such as fiat, gold, or other cryptocurrencies. Stablecoins were originally developed to reduce the volatile prices of cryptocurrency and make blockchains a viable payment solution.

How and where is DeFi used

Nevertheless, these decentralized ideals continue to inspire new crypto and other DeFi projects. Other advantages of DeFi include availability to almost anyone with an Internet connection, low fees, and access to financial services like lending and borrowing. Not just shows the assets you own but also how much of it is locked up on different open finance protocols like pools, loans, and insurance contracts. The first generation of DeFi apps relies majorly on using collateral as a safeguard mechanism, meaning you will have to own a DeFi platform crypto and then offer it up as collateral for borrowing more DeFi cryptocurrency. On the remittance market front where foreign workers send billions across borders to their families, the fees that they have to pay are extortionate.

The future of decentralized finance

Through a set of smart contracts that govern the loan, repayment, and liquidation processes, MakerDAO aims to maintain the stable value of DAI in a decentralized and autonomous manner. Though DeFi is usually a main player in the cryptocurrency conversation, it goes beyond creating an alternative digital currency or value. DeFi works to replace the role of traditional financial systems through its smart contracts. Decentralized finance, on the other hand, delivers a whole host of advantages by enabling people to transact through financial applications via a blockchain network, cutting out intermediaries, such as traditional banking groups. Right now, most cryptocurrency investors use centralized exchanges like Coinbase or Gemini.

This is the financial system we are all familiar with, in which third parties control all our transactions while charging a fee for their services. For example, whenever you buy a cup of coffee by card, you and the merchant are not the only parties involved in the transaction. Your bank, the shop’s bank, and a financial network like Visa or Mastercard are typically involved too. This would be another — albeit more esoteric — example of liquidity mining. The DeFi market is currently a playing field for experienced crypto investors who understand how to interact with smart contracts and manage multiple digital assets. Liquidity mining involves pairing your digital assets—either coins or tokens, like ETH and DAI— and storing them in a liquidity pool, so other DeFi users have the liquidity to facilitate trades between the two.

As DeFi disrupts the financial services industry, governing bodies are scrambling to decide who has the jurisdiction to regulate this new field and what those regulations might be. Depending on implementation, DeFi’s rapid growth could see a slowdown in the coming years. The underlying blockchain is updated the moment a transaction is completed, and interest rates are updated multiple times every minute. ICOs gave startups and software developers a way to raise money without the help of an investment bank or the backing of a venture capital firm. Likewise, NFTs can give musicians and visual artists a new way to monetize their work. “NFTs are really interesting because they’ve proven that a digital item can be scarce,” Leising says.

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Borrowing and lending are among the most common use cases for DeFi applications, but there are many more increasingly complex options too, such as becoming a liquidity provider to a decentralized exchange. DeFi applications aim torecreate traditional financial systems, such as banks and exchanges,with cryptocurrency. MakerDAO is a prominent lending DeFi platform based on a stablecoin that was established in 2017.

The rising popularity of DeFi and other cryptocurrency make it seem like an attractive investment. But it’s important to understand what you’re getting into before taking the plunge, and Open Finance VS Decentralized Finance Systems understand the benefits and drawbacks. DeFi was coined in 2018 by a group of entrepreneurs and Ethereum developers who wanted to open up finance applications from traditional systems.

DeFi Today

Securities and Exchange Commission over operating an unregistered securities exchange. “To start in DeFi you need native currencies — like ETH, AVAX, BNB, FTM, MATIC and others — as every transaction will require gas. You can purchase those through various exchanges, wallets, and crypto services,” explains Mozgovoy. It’s an unregulated financial system that many believe will revolutionize the way we conduct financial transactions. There are many different decentralized applications, or dApps, and uses within DeFi that open accessibility but come with risk. Insider’s experts choose the best products and services to help make smart decisions with your money (here’s how).

Blockchain technology acts as a permanent record for transactions and ownership data, and transactions can often be executed faster than they would in the CeFi system. It’s still early for DeFi, so if you’re comparing conventional financial products to crypto networks, it’s smart to weight the risks against the potential rewards. Experts say it’s best to have no more than 5% of your overall portfolio tied up in crypto, and only to go that far after you’ve built up an emergency fund and paid off any high-interest debt. In reality, cryptocurrency and decentralized finance is drawing more and more scrutiny and attention from lawmakers and government regulators as public interest and adoption grows.

Because smart contracts automate traditional brokerage activity, some have begun referring to the rise of “autonomous money markets” in the DeFi ecosystem. Decentralized finance protocols paired with blockchain-based identity systems are an opportunity to help previously locked-out users access a truly global economic system. The DeFi space prizes data privacy around personal identifying information, as well as open access. Anyone with an Internet connection can access DeFi applications while maintaining control of their data and assets.

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