Past, Present, Future With Ex BNY Mellon David Shwed
2022 is coming to an end, and our staff at Bitcoinist decided to launch this Crypto Holiday Special to provide some perspective on the crypto industry. We will talk with multiple guests to understand this year’s highs and lows for crypto.
In the spirit of Charles Dicken’s classic, “A Christmas Carol,” we’ll look into crypto from different angles, look at its possible trajectory for 2023 and find common ground amongst these different views of an industry that might support the future of finances.
Yesterday, we spoke with investment firm Blofin on their perspective on the past, present, and future of crypto. Today, we continue the series with David Shwed, former Global Head of Digital Assets Technology at BNY Mellon, the world’s largest custodian and securities services provider, and current COO at Halborn.
Shwed: “What changed was the reality that too good to be true yields are exactly that, too good to be true. The money needs to come from somewhere, and it turns out that it was coming from risk loans and other business practices that relied on the steady increase of the price of crypto (…).”
This major financial institution, along with some of the biggest banks in the U.S., Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, finally embraced cryptocurrencies in 2021 and 2022. Still, recent events in the industry might impact crypto and digital asset adoption for legacy financial institutions.
Shwed: “I haven’t seen any slowdown from TradFi when it comes to entering/expanding into the crypto markets.”
Traditional Finances (TradFi) and Crypto Finances, in their many forms (CeFi, DeFi, etc.), have been converging. Will the collapse of Three Arrows Capital (3AC) and FTX push these institutions away from crypto? What is the likeliest regulatory outlook for 2023? We asked this former BNY Mellon executive this and much more. This is what he told us:
Q: What’s the most significant difference for the crypto market today compared to Christmas 2021? Beyond the price of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and others, what changed from that moment of euphoria to today’s perpetual fear? Has there been a decline in adoption and liquidity? Are fundamentals still valid?
A: What changed was the reality that too good to be true yields are exactly that, too good to be true. The money needs to come from somewhere, and it turns out that it was coming from risk loans and other business practices that relied on the steady increase of the price of crypto. As the price fell and the loans were due, many faced liquidation of their collateral and margin calls. That being said, we are seeing adoption in many other areas besides finance. Many major retailers are also entering the ecosystem, such as Nike, Matterl, Samsung, and LVMH.
Q: What are the dominant narratives driving this change in market conditions? And what should be the narrative today? What are most people overlooking? We saw a major crypto exchange blowing up, a hedge fund thought to be untouchable, and an ecosystem that promised a financial utopia. Is Crypto still the future of finance, or should the community pursue a new vision?
A: The narrative today needs to be risk management and security. Had 3AC/Voyager/Celsius and others had more institutional risk management practices, their demise may have been avoided. The same thought goes into security. There is a fundamental difference between crypto native security vs what we see in more mature financial institutions. We need to improve both drastically in order to restore trust.
Q: If you must choose one, what do you think was a significant moment for crypto in 2022? And will the industry feel its consequences across 2023? Where do you see the industry next Christmas? Will it survive this winter? Mainstream is once again declaring the death of the industry. Will they finally get it right?
A: The most significant moment was the FTX crash. The progression of SBF from the hero who will save us all to a criminal in a matter of weeks is evidence of the lack of transparency in the ecosystem. We will certainly feel the impact as we head into 2023 . I don’t believe we’ve seen the full impact as it relates to other organizations who have some exposure to FTX or are generally over-leveraged. I believe by the end of 2023 we will be back to where we were in the beginning of 2022 in part due to the institutional/enterprise markets. I’ve heard “Crypto is dead” many times throughout the years and they’ve been wrong every time. While the current situation is much different since the price decline is a result of many systemic failures, the same can be said for many crashes observed in TradFi Wall Street, the most similar being the 2008-2009 crisis and TradFi is still alive and kicking.
Q: Traditional finances (Tradfi) and crypto are merging in many ways. Will the collapse of FTX affect this trend? And in this context, do you see regulations leaning toward adopting an approach that will halt the integration between legacy and crypto financial companies?
A: While the collapse of FTX and the resulting collateral damage has shown to have negatively impacted the crypto market, I haven’t seen any slowdown from TradFi when it comes to entering/expanding into the crypto markets. In fact, many of the G-SIBs (Globally Systemically Important Banks) that I have spoken to have not changed or altered their roadmaps as it relates to crypto. I haven’t seen any indication of regulations halting the integrations between traditional and crypto. That being said, I believe we will see sweeping regulation in the crypto markets similar in size and scope of the Dodd-Frank Act.
As of this writing, Bitcoin trades at $16,800 with sideways movement across the board. Image from Unsplash, chart from Tradingview.
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