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Our CMO, Ryan Hansen, joins crypto industry experts to speak with Finance Magnates on what’s next for #crypto after the chaos of 2022.
FTX’s collapse, Terra-LUNA’s failure and other events are haunting the crypto industry.
However, some think the nightmare may not be over yet as we head into 2023.
No doubt, 2022 has been a hectic year for the global cryptocurrency industry. At the start of the year, the market capitalization of the global cryptocurrency industry stood at $2.19 trillion dollars. However, the market cap collapsed by 63% to about $820.7 billion by mid-June, bearing scars of the wide turn of events that had taken the industry by storm.
This trails back to 2021, when central banks across the world implemented expansionary fiscal policies to boost economic recovery following the battering of COVID-19. These measures boosted the growth of the digital asset economy, leading to record highs for leading cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ether.
However, by early 2022, the apex authorities begin to implement contractionary fiscal policies to combat global inflation, thereby killing investors’ appetite for speculative assets. On June 13, for instance, the stock market entered a bear market, witnessing one of its worst performances in 40 years. This change in the macroeconomic climate spelt doom for the cryptocurrency industry as the pressure on traditional assets rubbed off its digital currency counterparts.
The Terra-LUNA Nightmare
Following the breakout of the Russian-Ukraine war in February and the role digital assets played in enabling financial circumvention, came the first industry shock in March: the Axie Infinity hack. The attack on the Ronin Network, the blockchain-based sidechain that powers the non-fungible token-based online gaming video, saw hackers part way with $625 million. Other hacks would follow in the year.
However, what truly shook the global cryptocurrency industry was the collapse of the Terra-USD (UST) /LUNA. In April 2022, TerraUSD capped its months-long growth, reaching a record high of $119.20 in April. However, economic pressure took hold of the market and on May 9, the UST started to fall below its $1 peg. By May 13th, the algorithmic stablecoin had fallen as low as 35 cents for $1. The governance token LUNA, which was used to maintain the stalecoin’s peg to the US dollar, also felt the heat, sinking by 96% in a day to under 10 cents by May 12th.
“The Terra Luna situation in the spring was a poorly constructed stablecoin selling off steeply and quickly once it lost its peg, and the lesson is that there has never been long-term success story for an algorithmic stablecoin, so sticking to the ones that have real, hard assets or provable fiat holdings underpinning the coin is likely the best path forward for the category,” Ryan Hansen, the Head of Sales at Liquid Mercury, told Finance Magnates.
The tides that swallowed Terra/LUNA swept crypto lenders Celsius Network and Voyager Digital which had lent funds to crypto hedge funds such as Three Arrows Capital (3AC) that had taken over leveraged positions during the market highs. As a result, the hedge funds and crypto lenders went bankrupt, forced by the ensuing liquidity crisis and withdrawal frenzy among customers.
“There was excessive optimism during Bitcoin’s bull market, with many in the industry expecting the Bitcoin price to reach $100k by the middle of 2022. This led companies to hold Bitcoins rather than dollars in their reserves, which unintentionally made them dependent on each other’s success,” the Lead Developer at Seasonal Tokens, who uses the pseudonym Ruadhan O., told Finance Magnates.
Ruadhan added: “When Terra/Luna got into trouble, it was necessary to liquidate Bitcoins to try to survive. That destroyed the value of the reserves of many other big players and led to a cascade of business failures that further depressed the price.”
FTX: Knight of the Crypto Winter?
In the aftermath of the collapse of several crypto lenders, Sam Bankman-Fried, the Co-Founder and then-CEO of FTX, went on several rescue missions to save collapsing crypto enterprises. The exchange, once the fastest-growing, in July offered to provide early liquidity to Voyager’s customers. Additionally, FTX.US, the exchange’s United States subsidiary, offered to buy American crypto lender BlockFi for $240,000. In addition, the exchange acquired Liquid Group, Good Luck Games and Bitvo.
Furthermore, tough macroeconomic conditions contributed to the crypto winter, which saw the prices of cryptocurrencies sink to record lows. For instance, the price of Bitcoin slumped 14% to under $24,000, which is the lowest since December 2020. As a result, major crypto actors, including Coinbase, Gemini and now-bankrupt BlockFi announced job cuts. Experts who spoke to Finance Magnates attributed the mass retrenchment to unpreparedness on the part of these stakeholders. Regardless of this, the ‘deep pockets’ of FTX and Binance enabled them to expand and thrive amidst the drought. But, who won during the crypto winter: Binance or FTX? The answer would come in earnest.
However, in the midst of the crypto winter in summer, The Ethereum Merge, or the hard fork of the Ethereum blockchain technology from Proof-of-Work to Proof-of-Stake, was completed on September 15th. Finance Magnates reported that investors continue to thread a cautious path despite the significant event.
The Fall of a Crypto Giant
While FTX appeared as if headed for industry dominance, its bubble soon burst. In November, a CoinDesk report revealed that the Bahamas-headquartered crypto firm was propping its business with customers’ funds from sister quantitative trading firm Alameda Research. The news, in addition to Binance’s decision to withdraw its FTX Tokens holding, threw FTX into a liquidity crisis that saw the firm running helter-skelter for rescue capital. Binance would later abandon a deal to take over the exchange, citing concerns with its finances. Later, FTX filed for bankruptcy protection in the US, and Bankman-Fried resigned as the crypto exchange’s CEO. The collapse of the exchange is estimated to have cost investors over $8 billion in losses.
Pawel Andruszkiewicz, the Chief Operating Officer of VAIOT, believes that the failure of FTX is evidence that “crypto business around the world operates in a ‘wild west’ sort of style.” He further explained: “They do not have to adhere to any rules or standards. They are rarely audited from information security, technical or financial management perspectives. They are often founded by developers or technology enthusiasts who need to gain experience running companies and their muti-faceted operations.”
Pedro Isaac Lopez, Chief Growth Officer at THORWallet DEX
In the latest update, Bankman-Fried was arrested in Bahamas and extradited to the US where he has been charged with fraud by the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. However, he was recently released on a $250 million personal recognizance bond.
Pedro Isaac Lopez, the Chief Growth Officer at THORWallet DEX, believes that “backlash and negative sentiment” that trailed the FTX scandal “will be tough to shake off.” He added that “it is not a fatal blow.” “There are brilliant people innovating in this space worthy of public trust. It is their duty to prop up the authentic use cases in DeFi and regain that trust,” Lopez said.
However, despite these events, a recent study by Eurex, one of the world’s largest derivatives exchanges, found that institutional adoption of cryptocurrency is still on track this year despite extreme price declines and crypto businesses’ failures that defined the market this year.
Sendi Young, the Managing Director for Europe at Ripple
“I would imagine that most institutions believe that crypto is here to stay, and some may even be looking at this crash as a buying opportunity. Crypto is no longer a completely taboo or fringe asset class. Polygon just struck deals with Starbucks and Disney,” Frank Corva, a Senior Analyst for Digital Assets at Finder, told Finance Magnates.
Sendi Young, the Managing Director for Europe at Ripple, also believes that institutional adoption of blockchain and digital assets will accelerate as corporations launch pilots and continue to investigate the technology.
“Banks are no longer questioning whether they require a crypto strategy but are instead asking themselves what their crypto strategy should be. There is a recognition from traditional financial institutions that the technology is here to stay, creating opportunities to bring greater efficiencies, transparency and speed to existing financial infrastructure,” Young explained
The Fall of a Crypto Giant
For the most part, the events of 2022 are keeping regulators on their toes. On June 30th, the European Union reached a provisional agreement on the Markets in Crypto-Assets (MiCA) regulation which seeks to put an end to the ‘crypt wild west’ in Europe. However, Finance Magnates reports that the regulation first has to drive uniformity across the continent’s fragmented crypto landscape.
In the United States, federal lawmakers have introduced bills that are seeking to regulate stablecoins and other cypto assets and enshrine consumer protection. This is even as President Joe Biden’s executive order on digital asset regulation in March marked an important phase of cryptocurrency regulation in the US. But, how will these shape out?
Jez Mohideen, Co-Founder and CEO of Laser Digital, the digital arm of Nomura Bank
Jez Mohideen, the Co-Founder and CEO of Laser Digital, the digital arm of Nomura Bank, considers that what needs to happen is a push toward standards across multiple jurisdictions to allow for crypto establishments to work together “in well-defined, transparent ways.”
“Lawmakers need to view Web3 and DeFi as extensions of the existing economy, rather than a separate entity. The nuances of this space should be considered, as well as the interdependencies of platforms both in cryptocurrency and their connection to legacy offerings,” Mohideen explained.
Across the world, the race for central banks’ digital currencies continued with the launch of new experimental projects in the United States and across Europe including in Spain. Central banks are also looking to impose limits on banks’ exposure to crypto assets by 2025.
“It is important that a fine balance be struck between the imposition of rules and a softer ‘first do no harm’ approach. Regulators must be careful to ensure that the industry remains user friendly,” Doug Brooks, a Senior Advisor at XinFin for the XDC Network, told Finance Magnates. “Regulation is right and much needed right now, but over-regulation will stifle future growth and innovation,” Brooks added.
What’s Next for Crypto?
In a year like 2022, full of drama and industry-defining events, how will the cryptocurrency industry play out in 2023? Experts who spoke to Finance Magnates believe that crypto regulation will be a big part of 2023. Others think the storm might not be over just yet.
Simone Mazzuca, Director of Wallex Custody.
“I strongly believe that 2023 will be the year for institutional adoption on a global scale of stablecoins and bigger transparency in the market and we’re here for it,” Simone Mazzuca, the CEO & Co-Founder of Wallex Custody, told Finance Magnates. “On the regulatory side, I expect to see a speeded advance in regulatory measures, driven by all that happened in 2022,” Mazzuca added.
For Frank Corva, a Senior Analyst for Digital Assets at Finder, it would not be surprising if a new handful of firms blow up in the next year. This might happen “before the dust in the crypto space totally settles,” Corva said.
“Many are still waiting anxiously to see whether crypto borrowing and lending firm Genesis – the firm that powers crypto exchange Gemini’s Earn program – will process the $900 million in redemptions that it owes Gemini Earn customers. If it doesn’t process these redemptions and if it goes under, these events may trigger the next wave of liquidations. So, there may be more pain to come in the first quarter of 2023.”