DeFi stands for decentralized finance, which means operating financial applications on a decentralized platform such as blockchain. It is the new financial architecture that leverages decentralized networks and decentralized technologies such as smart contracts to transform old financial products into trustless and transparent protocols that run without intermediaries.
In contrast, centralized finance means a single organization such as a bank controls and manages the funds of the clients. This kind of centralized control has many weaknesses, including the abuse of funds and manipulation of personal data, frauds, single point of failure due to hacking, and more.
Decentralized finance has many advantages as it’s aligned with the characteristics that blockchain technology possesses.
The Advantages of DeFi
Maintain Full Control of your own digital Assets
The digital assets that you own on a DeFi platform solely belong to you alone and you have the freedom to use it in whatever ways you like, without the interference of an intermediary. There is no centralized authority, such as a bank, with the ability to freeze your account, seize your assets, or block your transactions.
According to the World Bank, globally there are still approximately 1.7 billion unbanked adults. These people are at a disadvantage when it comes to pursuing many financial opportunities that could improve their socioeconomic status and lift them out of poverty.
Unfortunately, centralized financial institutions don’t have an incentive to target this population. The revenue they would receive from providing services to the currently unbanked simply doesn’t justify the costs of reaching them. In contrast, DeFi providers operate without expensive intermediaries hence they are more willing to serve the underprivileged people. Furthermore, DeFi is borderless and ‘permissionless’ hence everyone on earth particularly the unbanked population can access this form of affordable financial services. Therefore, DeFi has the potential to reduce the world’s poverty.
Opportunity to own a portion of an expensive asset
Another DeFi application is tokenized assets. Tokenizing assets is creating digital tokens to represent the ownership of real assets that can be traded like securities such as shares. By creating tokenized assets that represent, say, a portion of a real estate investment, you open up the investment for people who previously couldn’t afford it, to having access from anywhere in the world. Almost anyone can trade tokenized assets as he or she is not required to commit to an entire high-value investment at once. Instead, he or she has the option to buy or sell just a portion of the asset.
DeFi data is publicly available, enabling you to keep service providers honest. For instance, you can easily check the reserves of a DeFi bank, shop around for accurate loan rates, or even track the transactions of public figures.
Let’s examine a well known use case of DeFi, the Maker DAO
MakerDAO is an open-source project on the Ethereum blockchain and a Decentralized Autonomous Organization created in 2014. The project is managed by people around the world who hold its governance token, MKR.
MakerDAO is a decentralized credit platform on Ethereum that supports Dai, a decentralized, unbiased, collateral backed stablecoin whose value is pegged to USD. The Maker Protocol which is known as Multi collateral Dai (MSD) allows users to mint Dai by leveraging collateral assets approved by the Maker Governance. Maker Governance is a community organized and operated process of managing various digital assets of the Maker Protocol.
The Maker Protocol is one of the largest dApps on the Ethereum blockchain. It was the first DeFi application to gain significant adoption among the crypto communities. Since the release of Single Collateral Dai in 2017, user adoption of this stablecoin has increased dramatically. Indeed, It has become a driving force in the DeFi movement. The Maker Protocol is designed by a diverse group of individuals that include developers, external partners, other persons, and entities. It is managed and governed by people who hold the governance token MKR through a system of scientific governance involving executing voting and governance polling.
Anyone can use the Maker Protocol to open a Collateralized Debt Position (CDP), lock ETH as collateral, and generate Dai as a debt against that collateral. Dai debt incurs a stability fee (i.e., continuously accruing interest), which is paid (in MKR) upon repayment of borrowed Dai.
The MKR is burned, along with the repaid Dai. Users can borrow Dai up to 66% of their collateral value (150% collateralization ratio). CDPs that fall below that rate are subject to a 13% penalty and liquidation (by anyone) to bring the CDP out of default. Liquidated collateral is sold on an open market at a 3% discount.
Holders of Maker’s other token (MKR) govern the system by voting on, e.g., risk parameters such as the stability fee level. MKR holders also act as the last line of defense in case of a black swan event. If the systemwide collateral value falls too low too fast, MKR is minted and sold on the open market to raise more collateral, diluting MKR holders.
I shall discuss more DeFi use cases in coming articles.