The Rise of Crypto Lending, a Natural Progression of Peer-to-Peer Financing

Nexo

The rise of new technologies often give rise to new business models. The peer-to-peer lending space is just over a decade old and still have much to grow into. However, not long after the first P2P lender–Zopa in 2005–opened its doors, a new technology that promises to challenge traditional ways to deliver financial services emerged. […]

Nexo

The rise of new technologies often give rise to new business models. The peer-to-peer lending space is just over a decade old and still have much to grow into. However, not long after the first P2P lender–Zopa in 2005–opened its doors, a new technology that promises to challenge traditional ways to deliver financial services emerged. That technology was the blockchain, a distributed ledger that underlies the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Since then, other blockchains have been created along with new business models to suit. As it stands in 2018, crypto lending has not made a big dent in P2P lending services, but the potential is there. This article will highlight some of the more significant blockchain-based P2P lenders, which we hope will inspire a new look at technological innovation in this space.

Think of crypto lending like you would the banking industry: Even if Capital One provided perfect products at every turn, there would still be plenty of room for JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America. There would still be room for the hundreds of other banks that compete for customers.

The companies listed here are not ranked in any manner. Rather, they=se are just some of the choices available for consumers in the market for cryptocurrency loans.

1. SALT (Secured Automated Lending Technology) Lending

One of the best benefits crypto-based lending has to offer is that a lessened importance on traditional credit scores as a factor for risk assessment. SALT Lending touts blockchain-based assets as “the perfect form of collateral.” The company is using this fact to “dramatically reduce the complexity and cost of the loan process.” SALT operates under Regulation D and, in lieu of credit checks, the company does AML and KYC verifications.

Offering three tiers of product, SALT’s loans start at $5,000 and go as high as $250 million. Loan percentages run between 12 and 22 percent APR, but the borrower retains the value of the collateral currency claiming any gains and losses that happen over the life of the loan. SALT accepts Bitcoin, Ethereum, Litecoin, and Dogecoin as collateral, and funds loans in USD.

One fact that could be a significant factor when deciding to use the SALT Lending platform is that loans are not transferable on the blockchain, but through existing financial channels. Thus, they become securities.

It’s not foolish to base a good bit of faith in a company that has proven players on its team. Founder Erik Voorhees was also involved in founding several other crypto websites prior to starting SALT Lending. Among these include Satoshi Dice, which he later sold, Coinapult, and ShapeShift.

2. ETHlend

Unlike SALT Lending, Estonia-based ETHlend is a fully decentralized P2P platform built on the Ethereum blockchain for lending Ether as tokens for collateral. Some insiders fear that platforms that allow their loans to become securities might run the risk of being swallowed up by banks.

ETHlend lends Ethereum, Bitcoin, their own LEND tokens, and DAI tokens, as well as 180+ other Ethereum-based tokens. The company offers address-to-address loans that are sent within minutes, with no middle men, assuring that no one, not even Ethlend, can stop one’s lending or borrowing. The company plans to expand beyond Ethereum to other distributed ledger platforms in Q3 of 2019.

The company’s interest rates range from .25 to five percent MPR, and all transactions are carried out on digital wallets. Borrowers that transact in the LEND token can get a no-fee loan.

Announced earlier this week, Aave is a tech-based company designed to expand on the offerings of centralized fintech companies like PayPal and Coinbase. Aave Pocket, Aave Gaming, and Aave Lending (SaaS) are among the offerings this expansion adds to the platform.

Unfortunately, the service is not yet available everywhere including a block to U.S. citizens.

3. Nexo

A new kid on this block is Nexo, and being a new kid means that they are doing things in a new manner. Founded in Zug, Switzerland—even more of an “EF Hutton” mention than Estonia—in 2017, Nexo promises the world’s first instant crypto-backed loans. Available worldwide, Nexo loans start at $1,000 and top out at $2 million.

The process is an easy one.

  • Log on to the website.
  • Verify your account
  • Deposit crypto assets into Nexo wallet
  • Withdraw loan to your bank account

There will be brief pauses while the borrower is verified—the company complies with the highest AML and KYC (provided by Onfido) standards—and while your deposit is confirmed on the blockchain. Overall, the Nexo process reads like a rather quick and seamless process.

The platform loans Euros, USD, and Tether while accepting Ether, bitcoin, Bincance coin (BNB), and Nexo as collateral currency. The interest rate is eight percent if the collateral currency is Nexo and 16 percent for all others. Nexo assets are stored in multi-signature wallets, more than one multiple cryptographic keys are necessary to gain access, and cold storage (wallets not connected to the Internet) at BitGo and PrimeTrust.

4. LendingBlock

LendingBlock predicts that, as digital assets grow as an asset class, demand for hedging, swaps, repurchases, and short selling will increase. The currency crypto market has more than $500 billion in assets circulating with less than one percent used as collateral. That leaves lots of room for growth.

Touted as the first cross-chain lending platform for the crypto economy, the company promises a product that will help its customers access secure, transparent, and fair crypto-to-crypto loans. Not a lender itself, LendingBlock provides the platform upon which parties can enter P2P contracts. The company acts as agent for both lender and borrower, as well as security trustee of the collateral. This ensures that the borrower doesn’t face any uncovered credit risk to the lender.

All collateral deposits are held in cold storage. Those who think regulation will be necessary before the crypto market can fully mature can take comfort in the fact that the company is focused on becoming a regulated business. They have submitted the full regulatory application to the country of Gibraltar and await the regulator’s response. They have also begun regulatory processes with the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK, and the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodities Futures Trading Commission in the United States.

Basing the platform on its own token (LND), which is used to make payments and receive interest on loans, allows the company to reduce the cost of exchange fees and makes it easier to manage interest payments. The use of smart contracts reduces expenses, risks, and complexity, which makes for lower costs for borrowers and higher returns for the lenders.

5. BlockFi

New York-based BlockFi might be the ideal platform for Americans who want to secure USD loans with Bitcoin and Ethereum, provided that said Americans live in any of the 44 states where the company is currently conducting business.

The attractive thing about the BlockFi platform is that it seems easy enough for a lay person to understand without any kind of financial advice. A borrower needs to meet only two requirements to qualify for a loan: They can have no liens or bankruptcies on their record, and they must have at least $15,000 of crypto assets between their Bitcoin and Ethereum portfolios.

If those criteria are met, the customer can borrow up to 35 percent of their crypto asset value, with loans ranging from $2,000 to $10 million. Interest rates go from 12 to 14 percent APR, and there is an added fee of one to four percent of the loan value. Borrowers can take a loan in Bitcoin, Ethereum, or Litecoin.

Unlike other crypto-based lenders on this list, BlockFi does not have its own coin or token.

6. Unchained Capital

Texas-based Unchained Capital could very well be the platform of choice for those who want to liquidate their Bitcoin while maintaining it and seeing it go to work in the world.

Not only is the team at Unchained Capital in the market to make money as a lender, they have an idealistic side as well. Noting that 60 percent of Bitcoin sits around and does nothing, they have a goal to circulate it and use it to strengthen the platform. The company was founded by people who believe cryptocurrencies can change the world only if they’re useful.

The Unchained Capital team has designed its personal loans to be ideal for people who are looking to make large purchases, who hope to avoid tax events, and who want to invest. Their commercial loans are geared to companies that want to free up capital, expand their businesses, buy expensive equipment, and balance their portfolios.

Unchained Capital does not have its own cryptocurrency.

7. Other Companies to Consider

The crypto lending space is expanding. New lenders seem to be popping up quite often, which means that some people in the cryptocurrency space, at least, see a market for crypto-backed lending. Despite the market having taken a downturn in 2018, rebounding from the bull run last year that catapulted Bitcoin to $20,000 in December, this space is expanding. Lately, Bitcoin has been holding around the $6,500 mark. Since the majority altcoins tend to follow Bitcoin’s price, that means the market as  whole is down, yet more crypto lenders are ambling to get in the door.

Some of the other companies in the crypto lending space that might be worth checking out include BitBond, Credible Friends, Bitfinex (a crypto exchange that facilitates crypto financing transactions between parties), Celsius, Poloniex (another cryptocurrency exchange that allows traders to lend to other users), CoinLoan, Nebeus, GetLine, and BTCpop.

Authors:

Written by Paul Keenan and Allen Taylor.

Allen Taylor

Securing Digital Payments on a Mobile Phone

MagicCube

Digital payments have crossed the Rubicon and are now not only an acceptable form of payment but soon expected to become the dominant form. But the problem is small businesses are still hampered in leveraging digital payments for the convenience of their customer base. The below graph indicates the share of small business owners in […]

MagicCube

Digital payments have crossed the Rubicon and are now not only an acceptable form of payment but soon expected to become the dominant form. But the problem is small businesses are still hampered in leveraging digital payments for the convenience of their customer base. The below graph indicates the share of small business owners in the United States who accept digital and mobile payment methods as of October 2017.

Source: Statista

Similarly, IoT is no longer the future. Autonomous cars and voice-controlled assistants like Amazon’s Echo and Google’s Home are already in our lives. All of these technology developments represent a new challenge in how to manage and secure our digital payment and IoT devices and infrastructure.

The MagicCube Business Model

The MagicCube solution helps in securing digital transactions on different devices, with the same level of security as device hardware solutions without the complexity and cost associated with hardware deployments.

While working with VISA, founder and Chief Executive Officer Sam Shawki witnessed that companies had to use Apple Pay to access chips while securing credit cards. This required an extensive hardware set up. This led him to embark on a project to create virtual chips.

MagicCube’s patented technology provides an embedded software solution in the existing hardware set up. Now, Visa users will not have to go to Apple to get tokenized cards. Rather, they can use the hardware of MagicCube on their regular devices via cloud by just entering a pin. Now the phone can be used to access payments and there is no need for a separate external device. A lot of companies used to give these devices to merchants for free to capture payments and lending business. But now, with MagicCube, the onboarding process does not require expensive hardware. This allows for faster and cheaper penetration of the market, and merchants don’t have to interact with bulky hardware for managing transactions. Now, consumers will not require credit cards to make payments and merchants will not need any hardware device for accepting payments.

The company charges a setup fee depending on the geography, specific requirements, and volume of the client. There is a fee for active merchants on a monthly basis and a software license fee for every user.

MagicCube Products

    • Mobile Payments: According to research reports, digital payments will overtake cash transactions by 2023. All stakeholders in the payments ecosystem need to conform to the latest technologies as well as ensure that these payments are as secure as those executed through chip-based credit cards. The company’s MC Token Shield will offer a device-independent, hardware-grade security for mobile payments without the complications of hardware. It will also render the excessive middlemen fees associated with current digital payments redundant. The company has achieved PC-DSS Level 1 SP Certification and needs just a single API for integration with any App.
    • Connected Cars: Device security in connected cars is extremely important. According to research, by 2020, one in five vehicles on the road will have some form of wireless network connection. The company’s MC Vehicle Shield offers hardware-grade security to autonomous vehicles for their most critical parts. It will not only reduce the hardware bill for the car manufacturers, but any updates in security standards can be handled like a normal software update instead of having to recall the vehicles.
    • Pin on Glass: Only 45% of US Small Businesses accept credit cards. The point-of-sale hardware costs and the complexity attached with operating them has made it too expensive for millions of small merchants. Pin on Glass technology allows for a regular smartphone to safely accept payment card PINs, thus transforming the humble phone into a POS terminal. The tech has the power to change the entire payments paradigm. MagicCube’s MC Screen Shield works on delivering hardware-grade security and cloud monitoring services for such “PIN on Glass” payments.

Who Are MagicCube?

Founded in 2014, the Silicon Valley- and Brisbane, Australia-based MagicCube is the creator of the world’s only Software Trusted Execution Environment (sTEE) platform, a technology that enables large-scale deployment and management of IoT and mobile-secure solutions for consumers. The company has raised over $10.5 million in funding from Bold Capital, Epic Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank, and others. The company’s seed round saw participation by payments giant Visa.

Before launching the startup, Shawki was the head of Visa’s Global Remote Payments business unit. He was the driving force behind the company’s global push in mobile and remote payments. He also served as the chief innovation officer of VimpelCom, the sixth largest telecom player in the world with over 214 million customers in 18 countries.

Nancy Zayed is the cofounder and chief technical officer. She was head of engineering and operations at InnoPath, a founding member of OMA (Open Mobile Alliance), head of platform development at Cisco Systems, and also spent 10 years at Apple in various leadership roles.

Partnerships and Competitors

The company has entered into a partnership with Visa-funded Yellowpepper to secure token-based payments and is launching the solution in the Latin American market. The company has also partnered with ID Tech, a POS solutions provider for launching a product that will securely allow any mobile device to be converted into a POS terminal.

The young startup is competing with heavyweights like Qualcomm and Infineon, who provide security chips powering and securing payments today. But the CEO is confident that their software will soon make any hardware solutions obsolete. The company is also looking to partner with other players for launching new products and is in the process of attaining critical industrial certifications which will make the sales process much easier. The company seems to be in the pole position to change how digital payments and IoT devices will be secured in the future.

Author:

Written by Heena Dhir.

Lending Against Cryptocurrencies

crypto lending

In an era where blockchain is transforming the financial landscape, loans against cryptoassets will emerge as an essential financial service allowing investors to retain ownership of their cryptocurrencies along with offering them much needed liquidity. In fact, this is already happening. SALT Lending SALT Lending’s co-founder, Blake Cohen, started working on blockchain technology in 2014. […]

crypto lending

In an era where blockchain is transforming the financial landscape, loans against cryptoassets will emerge as an essential financial service allowing investors to retain ownership of their cryptocurrencies along with offering them much needed liquidity. In fact, this is already happening.

SALT Lending

SALT Lending’s co-founder, Blake Cohen, started working on blockchain technology in 2014. Shawn Owen joined with Cohen and spent the next year surveying the evolving blockchain landscape. The blockchain universe lacked a host of products and services required to support the growing sector, but their Eureka moment came when they saw there was no lending product that allowed blockchain assets to be collateralized for lending in fiat currencies.

Cohen is now the chief business development officer. His background in real estate coupled with a family history in hard money lending helped him realize the problem of liquidity in the crypto world. After spending a few months conducting a thorough feasibility study where he evaluated the technology barriers, regulatory hurdles, and market size of the crypto market, he realized there was a massive business opportunity. He and Owen incorporated SALT Lending in June 2016 and launched its operations in June 2017.

The company is based in Denver, Colorado. The one year between incorporation and launch was spent building the technology and in business development. The platform enables cryptocurrency owners to take a loan using their cryptocurrency as collateral thereby safeguarding their investments, which can be reclaimed at any time after the repayment of the loan. This allows them to monetize their blockchain investments without having to sell them off. Salt facilitates liquidity for borrowers, but they still get to enjoy the upside (or downside) in the price of their original investments.

The platform went public at the Consensus conference held in New York in 2017 and received an overwhelming response. It started official disbursement of loans in December 2017.

Funding Crypto Lending

Initially, SALT Lending was funded through family and friends and raised an amount in the region of $1 million. Last year, it went on with a membership sale denominated in utility tokens – SALT. The same was considered as a revenue event and not a fundraising initiative. The sale of tokens is still going on. In the discounted round, it had raised an amount of $42 million.

The thought process behind issuance of membership tokens was that ICO is a misleading term and usually confused with IPOs (Initial Public Offering). Membership tokens offered by the company will bring the interested population to the company’s platform without requiring it to spend huge amounts of money on marketing. The idea seems corollary to an IPO, but the difference is that IPOs create shareholders in the company whereas only a small percentage of ICOs are securities giving contributors ownership rights. The majority of ICOs generate utility tokens that are to be utilized in the business ecosystem of the company.

How the SALT Lending Platform Works

The biggest driver behind the platform is its in-house technology. The automated platform operates on Ethereum-based smart contracts that facilitate crypto loans backed by blockchain assets as collateral. Membership, premier, and enterprise versions of products offered by the company allow investors to receive loans in USD or any other currency depending upon selection of the package.

The blockchain assets of borrowers are secured by the company’s proprietary custodian technology. The proprietary multi-signature wallet regularly monitors the blockchain assets from origination till release thereby reducing the risk. The multiple signer features provide borrower and lender with a private key along with a third-party custodian; this ensures that there can be no misappropriation of the collateral.

With a view to minimize the default risk, SALT Oracle Wallet regularly tracks the value of collateral assets and generates alerts in case of a drop in value  below a certain specified limit, which will further trigger liquidation of the collateral. Each loan originates with an LTV of about 60%. In case of a drop in valuation, the system will automatically liquidate a certain portion of the collateral to reach the original LTV, but only after notifying the borrower.

Products Offered

Products offered by the company facilitate borrowers with a maximum of 36 month term loans with interest rates ranging from 10% to 20% depending upon the LTV. Very few companies are offering loans with such favorable conditions. The first product offered by the company was in the form of fiat loans backed by crypto assets.

At present, SALT Lending is working with over 70 full-time employees, has processed 17,000 loan requests, and has 12,000 active SALT members. To date, it has originated loans worth $40 million.

The customer base is widely distributed across different segments. The comapany also serves small investors who are keen to invest in cryptocurrency and do not want to sell their assets for temporary liquidity issues. The purpose of loans may vary from customer to customer. Some may use a loan to repay student loans, rent a home, or invest in other assets, while corporate lenders may require a loan to expand their business and introduce additional revenue streams.

SALT Lending’s Future Plans

Lending against crypto assets is still an immature market and no complete set of solutions is currently available. Regular adoption of technological updates in the blockchain and fintech world is helping the company to fully automate each aspect of the operations and scale the business to new and emerging markets.

Custody of blockchain assets is one of the main issues that needs to be addressed. No platform or solution provider is providing a user-friendly experience in this respect. According to Cohen, this year will bring a drastic change in custodial architecture, and SALT Lending will be at the forefront of this progress.

Conclusion

Borrowers under the cryptocurrency mechanism have no issue with respect to the comparatively high interest rate because the appreciation in value of the underlying asset is expected to indemnify the high finance charges. Sale of such underlying assets results in high amount of capital gains and, therefore, borrowing against these assets provides a more tax efficient solution for crypto investors.

The industry at present is in price discovery mode. Economic pricing policies, daily reviews, and revisions in terms of lending will help SALT Lending establish a long-term market.

Different industries and asset classes are moving to the blockchain technology. SALT Lending is on its way to creating a platform that will bring together the crypto and fiat worlds where crypto assets can be used in the normal course of business.

One target for the company is to analyze and understand the needs of its customer base and respond accordingly. One such need is to make available lines of credit backed by a crypto portfolio. The company is also continually looking to partner with investors who will bring capital to meet the ever-increasing demand for loans in the industry.

Author:

Written by Heena Dhir.