The anticipated flow of institutional capital into the crypto market has been a popular narrative over the last few years, but often with limited traction. Now, in the aftermath of the 2020 macro backdrop, it’s actually happening. Preparations for institutional involvement have been made, and enterprise-level solutions built for crypto custody, digital asset management, and trade execution brokerage.
As the crypto market recently topped $1 trillion for the first time and following projections for that to grow fivefold, it’s more important than ever that institutional-grade rails are in place to capture this critical mass. Some of the projects at the forefront of that task are leading the way for the institutional money flow that will benefit the entire space.
The Digital Currency Group subsidiary Grayscale Investments has been involved in the space longer than most. The GBTC Bitcoin Trust offering from the early adopters was one of the only available institutional products for the legacy market at one time, having debuted back in 2013. Its client base now boasts more than 20 institutions with investments of over $100 million, including Ark Invest and Rothschild Investment Corporation, and it recently hit $20 billion assets under management in its latest milestone.
Until Grayscale encounters greater competition in this area, perhaps in the form of a bitcoin ETF approval this year, its growth is likely to continue expanding at pace. It offers regulated institutional-grade investment products across a range of individual digital assets, including bitcoin, ethereum, and litecoin, as well as cryptocurrency baskets such as its large-cap fund.
Finxflo is the first hybrid liquidity aggregator, going a step further than Tagomi’s solution. It aggregates cefi and DeFi venues through one regulated platform, one KYC process, and one wallet, without the need to open multiple accounts. Its enterprise-level tools deliver the best of both worlds, providing a liquidity sponge for users to execute trades at the best prices via more than 25 exchanges and liquidity providers with minimal slippage, reduced risk, and zero withdrawal fees. It offers the required institutional protection from front running and optimal price without limitations on liquidity supply.
Finxflo also supplies an institutional-grade insured custodial storage solution in partnership with leading provider Fireblocks, ensuring client funds are held in encrypted, segregated vaults with access to insurance.
Adding further utility, the Finxflo ecosystem is fueled by the native FXF token, a blockchain 3.0 asset allowing users to access all the additional features of Finxflo including staking, governance rights, and reduced trading fees. It also opens up the world of DeFi protocols and cross-chain interoperability across the Ethereum and Tron ecosystems, introducing users to yield farming liquidity provision and arbitrage opportunities. With a private sale already sold out, FXF is set to launch on Polkastarter, DEX and CEX in the coming weeks.
Tagomi, acquired by Coinbase last year, is a leading crypto prime brokerage platform providing trading, custody, margin, lending, shorting, staking, and financing in one account. Tagomi brings together access to over 14 exchange and liquidity venues, allowing users to combine balances in different accounts frictionlessly while accessing the best price execution, and advanced trading tools for institutional investors to segregate trading strategies.
Tagomi has already become the platform of choice for several well-known hedge funds and family offices, including Paradigm, Pantera, and Bitwise. By bringing in expertise from legacy finance firms like Goldman Sachs, Citadel, and KCG, it’s building out the foundations to onboard the next wave of institutional investors.
Fidelity Digital Assets
Fidelity Investments, one of the largest financial service organizations worldwide with $3.3 trillion of assets under management, launched Fidelity Digital Assets, helping to bridge the gap between legacy finance and the crypto market. Its new crypto division provides a full service, enterprise-grade platform for secure custody, trade execution, and investment services. More recently, it launched a bitcoin fund for qualified investors made available via family offices, registered investment advisors, and other institutions.
Fidelity’s survey of institutional investors highlighted the 80% of respondents who find something appealing about crypto as an asset class, demonstrating the pent up demand potential of the space, provided solutions like Fidelity Digital Assets can deliver the viable product-market fit required.
The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE), which operates the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), established a new company, Baakt, in partnership with Microsoft, leveraging its cloud solutions to enable consumers to buy, sell, store, and spend cryptocurrencies on a global network. Bakkt delivers a range of digital asset services including a dedicated wallet and application, secure custody, and trade execution. It also offers bitcoin futures and options in a challenge to derivative products from the legacy provider Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), though settled in bitcoin rather than cash.
Building on initial success, Bakkt is set to go public via a merger with a special purpose acquisition corporation (SPAC), VPC Impact Acquisition Holdings (VIH). The deal has a value of $2.1 billion and is expected to close in Q2, providing vital investment to capitalize on growing institutional demand in the space. This follows a similar announcement from the cryptocurrency platform Coinbase and provides greater acceptability towards the digital asset market.
The Institutional Cycle
Central bank money printing has been in overdrive, especially in the US with M1 supply, which includes bank deposits in checking accounts and physical currency, up a staggering 70% year-on-year.
Understandably, institutional players are increasingly concerned at the prospect of inflation, one of the major factors driving greater interest in 2020 towards a crypto industry that can act as a safeguard against it.
This potential gateway use case opens up institutions to further utility in the space, facilitating significant adoption in this coming cycle. The projects at the forefront of this are building out the infrastructure needed for institutions to fulfill that role.
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Participation in the DeFi and staking ecosystems has seen explosive growth over the last year, with the combined sectors currently accounting for over $50 billion in value.
DeFi growth was predominantly fueled by the breakthrough success of Ethereum-based projects such as Aave, Compound, and Uniswap, utilizing ERC20 stablecoins like USDC and Dai to generate yield. Digital assets staked on other networks were left behind, unable to participate in the emerging DeFi ecosystem.
If those stakers wanted to access DeFi without introducing new capital, they needed to unstake and sell their investments to enter the market. That meant giving up on potential capital gains and staking rewards from those assets.
Singapore startup RAMP DeFi is now pioneering an alternative solution, opening up participation in the Ethereum-based DeFi ecosystem – without giving up the future benefits of other staked digital assets. It has attracted investment from Alameda Research, IOST, and Blockwater Capital, among others.
A Cross-Chain Liquidity On/Off Ramp
RAMP DeFi’s innovative decentralized protocol solution proposes that capital staked on non-Ethereum blockchains can be collateralized into a new stablecoin “rUSD” issued on Ethereum, acting as a bridge between non-ERC20 tokens and the Ethereum chain.
By lending/borrowing, bootstrapping stablecoin liquidity, and integrating with other DeFi solutions, rUSD holders can either deploy rUSD into higher yield generating opportunities or swap into USDT/USDC. This creates a seamless on/off ramp for users with staked capital on other chains to access DeFi without giving up future potential gains or rewards from the collateralized digital assets.
How Does It Work?
For each blockchain “X” integrated, a RAMP staking node and smart contract on blockchain X are set up to manage the assets. Token X is staked in the RAMP ecosystem to continue to receive blockchain X staking rewards.
A Wrapped Token X is then issued and used to collateralize and mint a blockchain X native stablecoin, xUSD. xUSD is based on a collateralization ratio similar to MakerDAO.
xUSD can then be swapped into the ERC20 rUSD stablecoin, using the on/off ramp cross-chain bridge. From there, rUSD can be deployed into yield farming opportunities or swapped directly for other stablecoins using decentralized liquidity pools.
A Broadening Ecosystem That’s Gaining Traction
RAMP DeFi’s liquid staking solution opens up an ecosystem of services, assets, and opportunities that is already beginning to gain traction:
rStake is the part of the ecosystem where non-ERC20 tokens are staked and wrapped tokens are issued to represent the ownership of the underlying assets. It is an aggregator of staking nodes on the participating blockchains, returning 70% of the staking rewards to the user, incentivizing participation through additional RAMP governance token rewards. The remaining staking rewards generate fees for the RAMP ecosystem to help with stability.
rStake has already launched integrations for the IOST, TomoChain, and Tezos blockchains.
rMint uses the wrapped tokens issued by rStake as collateral to mint a stablecoin for the respective X blockchain (xUSD). xUSD is then swapped into ERC20 rUSD to use in the Ethereum DeFi ecosystem, earning RAMP rewards in the process.
Early adopters include Elrond, NULS, and Solana for cross-chain DeFi farming.
The Vaults utility platform for RAMP and rUSD allows holders to stake, farm, and participate in yield stacking opportunities.
rUSD can also be swapped for USDT/USDC directly, and Vaults can connect to existing solutions such as YFI, Uniswap, or Sushi.
rKeeper manages the conversion of liquidated assets into stablecoins for rUSD where necessary for value support or redemptions. rKeeper converts the value of liquidated assets into USDT/USDC at the equivalent rUSD originally minted.
The repurchase of rUSD by rKeeper only takes place when rUSD is less than 1:1 with USDT/USDC, creating stability for rUSD utility.
The fees generated by rStake are used to buy back and burn RAMP, removing tokens from circulation. rBurn is designed as a “smart burn” mechanism that again helps provide stability for rUSD as an alternative stable <a class="wpg-linkify wpg-tooltip" title="
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Opening Up Defi To Non-ERC20 Tokens
RAMP DeFi introduces a solution with the potential to unlock over $30 billion in a previously illiquid staked digital asset sector, set to expand fourfold with the transition to Ethereum 2.0 alone.
The RAMP ecosystem represents exciting growth potential for DeFi, harnessing existing success while opening up further possibilities for ERC20 and non-ERC20 tokens to gain access to additional yield generating services. It frictionlessly connects a range of digital assets to the decentralized finance marketplace, across an increasingly interoperable space, boosting DeFi adoption as a result.
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An upcoming DeFi project positioning itself as the best cross-chain liquidity aggregator, Router Protocol has announced a successful conclusion of its first seed funding round. The project has raised a total of $ 480,000 from a prominent consortium comprising of crypto, fintech and DeFi investors based out of Singapore, India and the US.
The Router Protocol is in the process of creating a DeFi ecosystem that forms a bridge between layer 1 and layer 2 blockchain solutions. By doing so, it contributes towards scalability and encourages a greater penetration of DeFi solutions in a world that continues to be dominated by conventional financial infrastructure. Router achieves its mission by implementing a suite of cross-chain liquidity infra primitives.
By facilitating cross-chain interoperability, the Router Protocol connects blockchains to enable the free flow of information and value between them. In addition, it also empowers the connected networks with smart order-routing capabilities so that users can seamlessly swap assets between them in the most transparent manner.
In a recently published statement regarding the fundraising round, the Router Protocol team said,” We believe that in the current DeFi environment and in the spirit of open-source building, there is no need for flashy VC names and glamorous NDAs. It’s all about true value being added to the community, and real problems being solved as opposed to capturing the next wave of the perpetual crypto hype cycle…”
With the recently raised funds, the Router Protocol will be expanding the team as well as the number of supported blockchains and blockchain solutions. The Easy Access Program is another significant step in the development of Router Protocol as it will make the Router token readily available to the DeFi community much before it gets listed on centralized exchanges. The Easy Access Program for Router was oversubscribed within 19 minutes of listing.
Meanwhile, the project will soon introduce cross-chain farming for providing liquidity on Ethereum and Matic, to be further expanded to other platforms in the near future. Liquidity providers on various exchanges like Uniswap, 1Inch, Sushiswap and Dfyn will be able to stake their LP tokens and earn Router’s governance token — $ROUTE.