Bear Market Is Helping Crypto Lending Businesses to Prosper

On Wednesday (2 June 2019), Bloomberg reported that while "a growing number of cryptocurrency ventures struggle for funding" in the current bear market, crypto lending businesses seem to be "thriving" rather than suffering.

Crypto lending businesses that primarily focus on the needs of individual HODLers (who might need a loan, for example, to buy a car or pay their taxes), such as Salt Ledning, allow you to borrow fiat currency (usually USD) or fiat-backed stablecoins using your crypto as collateral, while others, such as Genesis Capital, that mainly focus on institutional borrowing, can lend crypto (against fiat). 

The Bloomberg report says that these lenders are saying that "they’re finding strong demand from borrowers who don’t want to sell their virtual coins at depressed prices, as well as from big investors eager to borrow coins for short selling." Here are three examples:

  • "BlockFi says its revenues and customer base have grown 10-fold since June, when Michael Novogratz’s Galaxy Digital Ventures invested $52.5 million."
  • "Aave, which owns online crypto-lending marketplace ETHLend, just opened an office in London, plans to enter the U.S. soon and is nearing profitability."
  • "Salt Lending, which already employs 80 people, said it’s hiring more every month as its revenue ticks higher."

Bloomberg says that, initially, crypto lending startups, most of which were reportedly launched in 2017, were "offering enthusiasts a way to borrow cash without having to sell down their stockpiles of Bitcoin or other crypto assets they believed would soar even higher," but after "prices crashed in 2018," they "pivoted into new roles and continued to flourish," and this type of crypto business may in fact "fare even better in bad times than good."

Michael Moro, the CEO of Genesis Capital, told Bloomberg in a phone interview:

“The bear market has certainly helped -- at least has fueled the growth... We’ve been profitable from day one... We’ve certainly proven that there is market demand, that there’s product fit and that it’s time to invest even more in this side of the business.”

Moro also said that Genesis Capital "has already issued $700 million of loans" and that it currently has "about $140 million in loans outstanding with an average duration of six weeks." Apparently, Genesis is planning "to more than double its staff in the coming year to as many as 12 people, and it’s looking at growing in regions such as Asia."

Their loan terms are a follows:

  • "Minimum loan size is $100,000"
  • "Fixed durations from two weeks to six months"
  • "USD collateral accepted to back loan"

Bloomberg says that Genesis "typically requires customers to deposit around $1.2 million in fiat to take out $1 million of crypto," and that if an institution wishes to borrow Bitcoin, for example, it is charged "an annual rate of between 10 percent and 12 percent."

According to Bloomberg:

  • Businesses that accept crypto as collateral for fiat cash loans "usually demand much larger buffers to ensure they don’t get burned by falling prices." For example, Zac Prince, the CEO of BlockFi, told them that his firm "typically requires customers deposit $10,000 of digital coins to take out $5,000 in fiat."
  • When the price of the crypto collateral falls, "customers face margin calls, often starting with a warning that their holdings may be sold off soon." In the case of BlockFi, "margin calls are triggered if the price of the crypto collateral falls by 35 to 60 percent from the time the loan was granted," and approximately "20 percent of the startups’ loans faced margin calls last year."

BlockFi says this is what happens if the value of your cryptoassets significantly change during one year term of the loan:

"If the value of your coins significantly increase then they are kept in storage until the loan is paid. If your coins significantly decrease then that sets off a trigger event, and you will have to add more collateral to your account to maintain a minimum LTV ratio. You can use the value of your cryptoassets stored with BlockFi to make principal and interest payments at anytime. We plan to add the ability to draw more USD funds in the event of price appreciation over time."

And here is how BlockFi defines a trigger event:

"A trigger event happens when the value of your collateral drops and thus increases the LTV of your loan. The first trigger event occurs at a 70% LTV, which would require a 50% drop from the price at loan initiation. At this point, you have 72 hours to take action by positing additional collateral or paying down the loan balance. We will keep you informed if your LTV starts to near the 70% mark so you can take action preemptively."

One happy customer of BlockFi is Angela Ceresnie, the CEO of Climb Credit. She says:

"The ability to get liquidity on my significant Bitcoin and Ethereum holdings, without selling them, is something that I was looking for and found with BlockFi. For long term holders like myself, the tax benefits alone make the value proposition a no brainer."

 

Featured Image Credit: Photo via Pexels.com

Could President Trump Ban Bitcoin? Experts Weigh In

  • Experts weigh in on the possibility of President Trump banning bitcoin.
  • Increasing concern over libra and large platform digital currencies is driving political agenda. 

Following last week’s attack on bitcoin and Facebook’s libra, experts have voiced their opinion on whether US President Donald Trump could realistically impose a ban on cryptocurrency. 

Not a Fan of Bitcoin

On July 11, President Donald Trump published a series of tweets attacking bitcoin and digital currencies, while championing the dollar. 

President Trump’s comments come in the midst of growing concern over Facebook’s libra, as political regulators around the world scramble to enact policies to deal with the rise of digital currencies. 

Members of the crypto community have questioned the impact of the US President taking an unfavorable stance towards bitcoin. Some crypto pundits predicted the tweets would be good for the price of BTC and ultimately increase exposure to cryptoassets. However, others worry that political influence may lead to a crackdown on cryptocurrency usage. 

Scenarios for Banning Crypto

Alex Kruger, economist and market analyst, published a tweet thread examining the legality and possibility of President Trump banning bitcoin. 

According to Kruger, It would be almost impossible for the US government to outlaw bitcoin as a technological instrument. Aside from the Herculean task of eradicating a decentralized, digital technology, bitcoin is code, which is protected under the first amendment.

However, that same protection is not extended to third-party operators, including cryptocurrency exchanges. 

Kruger quoted Abra CEO and Founder BIll Barhydt, who explained in a Forbes article how the government could target fiat onramps to exchanges, 

“You can’t prevent people from holding ones and zeroes on a device in their pocket. That ship has sailed. We already know that. The question is: What can they do at the edge of the network -- the onramps and offramps, the places where they exert control over the banking system, the exchanges, [and the] stablecoins.”

The US government could prevent retail investors from having access to crypto-assets through exchanges and prevent banks from allowing transfer of funds. Users would still be able to buy crypto through alternative channels, but the current ease of investing would be severely hampered. 

Unlikely, But Not Impossible

President Trump could also issue an executive order banning citizens from dealing in bitcoin, similar to the one he issued against the Petro. While there is a precedent for this route, Kruger claims the order could be easily overturned by Congress, 

Ultimately, Kruger believes that it is unlikley the President or Congress would move to ban bitcoin, and it would be difficult to enact fool-proof policy. However, it's worth considering the political landscape as regulatory concerns mount over Facebook's libra.

Just last week, a copy of a bill reportedly drafted by the House Financial Services Committee surfaced online, under the title "Keep Big Tech Out of Finance." The bill would put an end to Facebook and other large platforms from issuing digital currencies without incurring a severe penalty.

The same could be extended to bitcoin in the event the government finds crypto-assets no longer tolerable for the general public.