What Is DeFi? Understanding Decentralized Finance


So, let’s take a look at how DeFi differs from traditional forms of finance, how it relates to the blockchain, and its many uses—from currency exchange to lending digital assets. There have been a few high-profile hacks in the DeFi space that have lost users millions of dollars. It’s critical to do your own research before using any crypto product or service. But this also means users may open finance vs decentralized finance have little recourse should a transaction go foul. In centralized finance, for instance, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. reimburses deposit account holders up to $250,000 per account, per institution if a bank fails. Moreover, banks are required by law to hold a certain amount of their capital as reserves, to maintain stability and cash you out of your account any time you need.

What is meant by decentralized finance

Aside from being aware of scams, in practicality, Mozgovoy states that with DeFi users can save, lend, or take part in derivatives and exchanges. “In DeFi you hold your money, you control where your money goes and how it’s spent. DeFi is efficient, since everything is programmable, in a click of a button you can perform complex transactions,” explains Mozgovoy. There are certain DeFi “building blocks” that create a software stack, with every layer building upon another. These layers work together to create DeFi and its related applications that serve users in a variety of different ways. The DeFi protocols and applications are all open for you to inspect, fork, and innovate on. Because of this layered stack , protocols can be mixed and matched to unlock unique combo opportunities.

Companies have started streaming their employees their wages in real time. Some folks have even taken out and paid off loans worth millions of dollars without the need for any personal identification. Comparing this to today’s financial system, even the most efficient, price-competitive, and secure banking processes can’t offer these benefits at the level that a blockchain network can—or so say blockchain proponents. Karl Montevirgen is a professional freelance writer who specializes in the fields of finance, cryptomarkets, content strategy, and the arts. Karl works with several organizations in the equities, futures, physical metals, and blockchain industries.

Benefits of decentralized finance

You never have to manage any of the details and you can withdraw from the fund whenever you like. Pool-based where lenders provide funds to a pool that borrowers can borrow from. Her topics of expertise include futures and options trading strategies, stock analysis, and personal finance. The person or entity behind a DeFi protocol may be unknown, and may disappear with investors’ money.

Uniswap doesn’t have a native token, but liquidity providers get tokens which represent their share of the pool. Unlike centralized exchanges, which have been reported to charge exorbitant amounts to list tokens, anyone can list any token on Uniswap. All they have to do is create a liquidity pool by supplying the ERC20 token and ETH. Interest rates paid out by borrowers of tokens including BAT, DAI, SAI, ETH, REP, USDC, WBTC and ZRX, is earned by lenders of those assets.

What is meant by decentralized finance

Decentralized finance software protocols on blockchains are standards and rules written to govern specific tasks or activities on the blockchain. It enables buyers, sellers, lenders, and borrowers to interact peer to peer with one another . Decentralized applications are applications that offer simple consumer-focused services. They can be used for crypto asset trading, lending, borrowing, savings, payments, derivatives trading and to mitigate risk. A decentralized finance platform is a consumer-facing financial interface that require blockchain technology and crypto stakers to operate .

Decentralized finance is a broad term for all financial products and services built on top of open-source public blockchains. Several definitions of decentralized finance, or DeFi, have emerged in the literature. Defines decentralized finance as an ecosystem of financial applications that are developed and enabled using blockchain and distributed ledger technology.

Decentralized finance (DeFi) vs. traditional finance (TradFi)

Potential funders can come from anywhere – Ethereum and its tokens are open to anybody, anywhere in the world. There are fund management products on Ethereum that will try to grow your portfolio based on a strategy of your choice. This is automatic, open to everyone, and doesn’t need a human manager taking a cut of your profits. For example, if you want to use the no-loss lottery PoolTogether , you’ll need a token like Dai or USDC.

  • Blockchain is a kind of ledger technology that tracks all transactions on a given financial platform.
  • Therefore, there is no need to immediately regulate the decentralized finance market until it reaches a certain level of maturity.
  • Google Scholar was used because it is the world’s most recognized web search engine that indexes the full text or metadata of scholarly literature across an array of publishing formats and discipline.
  • Most DeFi products don’t take custody of your funds, allowing you to remain in control of your assets.
  • As soon as that transaction clears, the user can pull all their collateral off of the Aave platform.

They run automatically when previously established conditions are met. You can use them to do things like send funds to a particular account on a specific day. Most DeFi applications are built on the Ethereum blockchain platform, though other platforms, like Cardano, Binance, or Solana, are quickly developing similar applications as well. DeFi is still in its infancy compared to centralized finance systems, so new applications are being released all the time.

Global DeFi statistics

The Ethereum blockchain maintains the transaction history and status of accounts while Ether and other cryptocurrencies are used as assets. Smart contracts are in-turn used by decentralized applications, giving way to new innovative smart contracts. As DeFi is an open-source movement, its protocols and applications are widely accessible. Compound is an Ethereum-based app that facilitates decentralized, peer-to-peer borrowing and lending. Compound automatically connects lenders with borrowers, and autonomously manages loans using smart contracts. This has led to a rise in popularity of what is known as ‘yield farming’, as anyone is able to lend their crypto assets and earn interest in the process.

Brian Beers is the managing editor for the Wealth team at Bankrate. He oversees editorial coverage of banking, investing, the economy and all things money. The offers that appear on this site are from companies that compensate us.


In DeFi, a smart contract replaces the financial institution in the transaction. A smart contract is a type of Ethereum account that can hold funds and can send/refund them based on certain conditions. No one can alter that smart contract when it’s live – it will always run as programmed. When you use a centralized exchange you have to deposit your assets before the trade and trust them to look after them. While your assets are deposited, they’re at risk as centralized exchanges are attractive targets for hackers.

What is meant by decentralized finance

Popular DEXs in the DeFi space currently include AirSwap, Liquality, Mesa, Oasis, and Uniswap. By using Web3 wallets like MetaMask to interact with permissionless financial applications and protocols, DeFi market participants always keep custody of their assets and control of their personal data. Those who are looking to get started in DeFi, beyond the basics of cryptocurrency trading, should proceed carefully and be sure that they work with a reliable counterparty. Though the yields offered by DeFi are enticing, don’t let the potential return blind you to the other risks.

Is Bitcoin a Decentralized Finance?

DeFi is primarily based on Ethereum, the top cryptocurrency next to Bitcoin. Decentralized exchanges let you trade https://xcritical.com/ different tokens whenever you want. This is like using a currency exchange when visiting a different country.

In order to create a reliable, secure decentralized finance system, you need a stable currency. Bitcoin is not compatible with the Ethereum platform, and Ether – Ethereum’s own programmable cryptocurrency – is highly volatile. Bitcoin lets you really own and control value and send it anywhere around the world. It does this by providing a way for a large number of people, who don’t trust each other, to agree on a ledger of accounts without the need for a trusted intermediary. Bitcoin is open to anyone and no one has the authority to change its rules.

The Definition of Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

“DeFi is new and experimental. Since everything is code, it can have bugs. Bugs lead to money loss or hacks. DeFi is new and complicated,” says Mozgovoy. “User experience can still be rough. Learning curve is still steep, but it will change.” DeFi was coined in 2018 by a group of entrepreneurs and Ethereum developers who wanted to open up finance applications from traditional systems. The GoCardless content team comprises a group of subject-matter experts in multiple fields from across GoCardless. The authors and reviewers work in the sales, marketing, legal, and finance departments. All have in-depth knowledge and experience in various aspects of payment scheme technology and the operating rules applicable to each.

A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that uses cryptography and is difficult to counterfeit. Investing in cryptocurrencies and other Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”) is highly risky and speculative, and this article is not a recommendation by Investopedia or the writer to invest in cryptocurrencies or other ICOs. Since each individual’s situation is unique, a qualified professional should always be consulted before making any financial decisions. Investopedia makes no representations or warranties as to the accuracy or timeliness of the information contained herein.

Advantages and Disadvantages of DeFi

DeFi relies on the use of a blockchain, which is often based on Ethereum in many DeFi operations. The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace. “DeFi Beyond the Hype, The Emerging World of Decentralized Finance,” Page 7. “DeFi Beyond the Hype, The Emerging World of Decentralized Finance,” Pages 2-3. “DeFi Beyond the Hype, The Emerging World of Decentralized Finance,” Pages 4-5.

DeFi refers to financial products built on a public blockchain such as Ethereum. DeFi protocols may be used to earn interest, borrow and lend funds, trade and store cryptocurrencies, and much more. Uniswap is one of the largest decentralized exchanges by trading volume on Ethereum. Uniswap is one of the first DEXs to pioneer the automated market maker system, which allows traders to swap tokens without relying on an order book.