The Emerald Handbook on Cryptoassets: Investment Opportunities and Challenges

Cover of The Emerald Handbook on Cryptoassets: Investment Opportunities and Challenges
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Synopsis

Table of contents

(25 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xxiv
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Part I: The Cryptoasset Landscape

Abstract

Bitcoin’s introduction as the first cryptoasset in 2009 ushered in a new era, representing a seismic shift in the financial markets. Since then, this evolving asset class has generated much interest, excitement, and growth. This chapter begins by providing a brief background of cryptoassets. It then discusses their main types (cryptocurrencies, security tokens, and utility tokens), users (individual investors, major financial institutions, endowments, and hedge funds), and benefits and drawbacks. Next, it sets forth the book’s purpose, distinguishing features, intended audience, and structure. The chapter provides a synopsis of each of the remaining 21 chapters. Although no single book can encompass all changes and iterations of these technologies as they emerge in the marketplace, this book brings together a broad collection of industry expertise and academic analysis to create a book helpful to researchers, academics, and practitioners.

Abstract

This chapter examines some emerging topics and trends as it connects cryptoassets to accounting, auditing, and financial reporting. It discusses the treatment of cryptoassets from a financial reporting perspective under the US and international accounting standards, frequently asked questions about auditing and attestation, and potential best practices for auditing various cryptoassets. It also discusses accounting for now and potential in the future. The chapter outlines how the rapidly changing cryptoasset landscape could lead to differentiated accounting treatment and audit best practices for practitioners seeking to attest to certain aspects of cryptoassets.

Abstract

This chapter discusses the current landscape for digital asset investing and the many operational risks facing cryptocurrency investors. It also discusses the ongoing progress in the institutionalization of digital asset investment and the risks inherent when investing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain opportunities. Investors considering investing in a public or private fund that invests in digital assets must be aware of the operational risks that may directly impact their investments, including risks from portfolio concentration, illiquidity, hacking, digital asset custody, and digital asset valuations. Operational due diligence reviews of funds and fund managers are critical in assessing operational risks for digital asset investment.

Part II: Types of Cryptoassets

Abstract

This chapter introduces the concept of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, ether, or litecoin. The chapter describes the history of cryptocurrency, blockchain technology, and the quest for secure digital money, followed by a discussion of cryptocurrency as a phenomenon. Next, it discusses individual cryptocurrencies, including an overview of bitcoin and relevant subgroups, such as so-called forks or privacy coins. It also explains developments such as stablecoins or central bank digital currencies, which are potentially much more in line with bitcoin’s original idea of digital cash. Overall, the chapter provides a basic understanding of cryptocurrencies, their defining characteristics, challenges, and markets.

Abstract

This chapter synthesizes the economics, law, and technology of security tokens and security token offerings (STOs). Security tokens are an increasingly important instrument in decentralized finance (DeFi) markets. They are blockchain-based investment contracts that are subject to securities law. Interoperability, fractional ownership, market liquidity, and rapid settlement are the main reasons security tokens are a primary catalyst for digitizing finance. The chapter empirically compares STOs with initial exchange offerings (IEOs) and initial coin offerings (ICOs). STOs take longer and raise more funding. However, controlling for other factors, the amount raised in STOs and IEOs is lower than in utility-token ICOs. These findings suggest an avenue for future research. Moreover, both the law and the technology of security tokens need to address critical challenges related to the competent jurisdiction in multinational activities and blockchain interoperability, scalability, and natural resource degradation.

Abstract

Utility tokens are digital currencies that serve as the only accepted means of payment for services and products provided through a blockchain-based platform. They finance the development of their product or service, reward and incentivize early adopters and network promoters, align economic incentives between supply, demand, and the marketplace, and enhance network effects among all participants. Their tokenomic design consists of the rules and regulations governing a token’s issuance, distribution, allocation, and potential destruction. The chapter describes utility tokens, compares them with other types of cryptoassets, and discusses their value creation process and role in network economics. It also reviews common tokenomic designs, discusses different regulatory approaches, and provides examples of current utility token applications in decentralized applications such as decentralized finance and virtual reality platforms (metaverses).

Abstract

This chapter introduces the concept of stablecoins such as Tether, DAI, or Ampleforth. It also provides a taxonomy of the different types of stablecoins consisting of (1) traditional asset-backed stablecoins, (2) crypto-collateralized stablecoins, and (3) algorithmic stablecoins and seigniorage shares. The chapter continues with a brief history of stablecoins, starting from BitShares as the first stablecoin implementation over tether and market-wide stablecoin adoption to Facebook-initiated Diem. Next, the chapter explains the impact of stablecoins on cryptocurrencies and other markets and discusses trends and challenges facing stablecoins. The chapter provides a basic understanding of stablecoins, their defining characteristics, challenges, and markets.

Abstract

Tokenization is a relatively new activity in digital finance. Tokenization, a process that creates a blockchain representation of the underlying instrument, can enhance the standard features and characteristics of assets and securities. Asset and security tokenization produces many benefits. These benefits include reducing issuance and trading costs, lessening dependency on intermediaries, facilitating more liquidity in markets, and providing greater transparency around an asset’s lifecycle for all parties involved. This chapter synthesizes the key characteristics, benefits, processes, tools, and techniques of tokenizing real-world assets. It also provides several examples of current asset-backed token applications to help understand the rapidly growing industry and analyzes future expectations of this new technology.

Part III: Cryptoassets as Investment Opportunities

Abstract

Cryptoassets are an asset class recorded in a digital form that does not represent a financial claim or liability for an issuer or a custodian. This chapter provides a detailed review of various cryptoassets by comparing different characteristics, products, and listing exchanges and discusses criticisms of the crypto ecosystem. It also discusses cryptoasset features, methods of tokenization, and advances in decentralized, peer-to-peer exchanges. Another topic examined is the criticisms of cryptoasset exchanges and ongoing regulatory implications due to cryptocurrency’s open-source nature. The chapter evaluates numerous types and trends of cryptoassets, including currency, utility, platform, and transactional tokens.

Abstract

One aspect of the opportunities and challenges for cryptoassets concerns decentralized finance (DeFi). DeFi is a growing area of cryptoassets that couples blockchain technology, digital assets, and financial services. DeFi is a publicly available system on a decentralized blockchain network, offering financial products and applications. This chapter provides an overview of the DeFi universe that has enormous potential in various industries in the global market. It also discusses the implications of DeFi’s new wave and its applications involving initial coin offerings and stablecoins and specific challenges like the scalability trilemma in DeFi and financial markets.

Abstract

This chapter examines the current state of crypto exchange-traded funds (ETFs). It focuses on issues preventing wider implementation and specific products. ETFs have become a popular investment vehicle that investors use to help achieve their long-term goals. A recurring theme is that regulators protect individual investors from direct exposure to cryptocurrency, which many view as highly speculative investments. Pressure from institutions and investors for a bitcoin-based ETF made progress in 2021 when Proshares, an ETF specialized investment company, debuted the first-ever bitcoin futures ETF in the United States. This event is the first-time investors could buy a fund on the New York Stock Exchange that tracks derivative futures contracts of bitcoin. This occurrence pushed this digital asset’s spot price to all-time highs, serving as a breakthrough in cryptocurrency history.

Abstract

Cryptocurrencies are notoriously difficult to value from a fundamental perspective. This valuation challenge is rooted in various debated issues in academia and the investments industry. For example, do cryptocurrencies and other cryptoassets have intrinsic value in the conventional sense? Can one appropriately regard cryptocurrencies as digital fiat currencies? What distinguishes cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether from precious metals like gold from a financial perspective? How do cryptocurrencies compare to other cryptoassets in terms of pricing and valuation? This chapter aims to provide responses to these questions, discuss approaches to cryptoasset valuation, and identify areas for future research.

Abstract

Since the inception of modern portfolio theory, traditional asset classes have been the standard investment products for portfolio construction. With the introduction of cryptoassets such as cryptocurrencies, tokenized securities, smart contracts, and blockchain-based token assets, the crypto “revolution” has created a new asset class for consideration in a modern portfolio. This chapter explains cryptoassets in a portfolio, including their limitations and parameters as an asset class in a diversified portfolio. Finally, it reports an improvement in a new portfolio’s reward/risk ratio using the Sharpe ratio when adding cryptoassets to simulated equity, bonds, and real estate portfolios. A caveat is that a cryptoasset’s contribution to a well-diversified traditional portfolio differs from the performance of investing in a single and isolated cryptoasset.

Abstract

This chapter introduces the fundamentals of portfolio and financial consumer protection from frauds in the cryptoasset space. Cryptoassets pose new risks to portfolios and financial consumers: idiosyncratic risks stemming from their unique features and systematic risks arising from transitioning from centralized to decentralized finance. Market experience indicates that these risks threaten every portfolio and financial consumer holding cryptoassets. In the consumer protection framework, cryptoasset risks are higher than traditional asset risks. Cryptoassets fall outside the regulatory domain in many jurisdictions. Moreover, their decentralized nature, technological attributes, and the momentum of financial technology cause asymmetric technology, disarming system-based portfolio and consumer protection mechanisms against frauds and abuses. Hence, the idiosyncratic and systematic risks of cryptoassets highlight the importance of developing more vigilant self-protection mechanisms.

Part IV: Trading, Reporting, and Technical Aspects

Abstract

This chapter examines institutional investors’ considerations while investing or otherwise engaging in the cryptocurrency sector, whether exclusively in bitcoin or the broader universe of crypto or decentralized finance assets. Given the rapid change in legal and regulatory oversight and cryptocurrency and blockchain innovation, offering inviolable advice about due diligence and compliance during commercial engagement is exceedingly difficult. However, general guidelines and rules of thumb are available.

Abstract

Although few fully understand the evolving science of blockchain technology, many agree that such technology promises countless crypto innovative applications. However, institutions using blockchain and cryptoassets face issues. Since more institutions are beginning to explore various private, public, and hybrid blockchains and their related cryptoassets, an increased need exists to understand and anticipate implementation problems. Such problems include contractual issues, privacy concerns, tax implications, jurisdictional issues, financial fraud, and data theft. Others involve intellectual property rights, money laundering, accounting and financial reporting, fork management and governance, and compliance and regulatory obligations. This chapter reviews and analyzes the various problems facing institutions in using blockchain and cryptoassets as financial instruments and mediums of exchange. It focuses on these aspects concerning custody, provenance, and reporting. This chapter also discusses the compliance, disclosure, and regulatory reporting of cryptoassets.

Abstract

This chapter discusses legal considerations relating to digital assets. The legal aspects of tokenized and non-tokenized assets are evolving. Although some states have enacted specific laws or regulations for digital assets, Congress and federal agencies have been slower to craft specific rules and regulations for such assets. As a result, regulators, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and Internal Revenue Service, and market participants must apply existing guidance to digital assets. This chapter examines applying specific aspects of federal securities and tax law to digital assets. It also discusses general business law considerations for blockchain and cyber enterprises. The discussion of state law applications centers on the New York Virtual Currency License and Wyoming and Delaware crypto initiatives. This chapter does not provide a comprehensive review of all legal issues related to cryptocurrency. Each legal issue about cryptocurrency is complex and requires separate analyses.

Abstract

This chapter reviews the underlying technologies of cryptoassets, including fundamental cryptographic primitives used in distributed ledger technologies and permissionless blockchain technologies and their consensus protocols such as proof-of-work and proof-of-stake. It discusses the pros and cons of existing approaches to improve blockchain scalability and considers the requirements for security and decentralization. The chapter also examines the following techniques: layer 1 tuning, layer 1 sharding, and layer 2 solutions. It concludes with an overview of technologies to swap cryptoassets off-chain, technical requirements for cross-chain transactions, and reviews cross-chain atomic swap implementation using hashed time lock contracts.

Abstract

This chapter reviews developments concerning central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). It introduces, analyzes, and discusses the potential implications of CBDCs on the existing cryptoassets landscape. The chapter also provides an overview of the different approaches to adopting and implementing this new form of money. Additionally, it compares traditional cryptocurrencies, privately issued stablecoins, fiat currencies, and CBDCs. Although vastly divergent opinions exist on digital money’s purpose, benefits, and use cases, CBDCs can provide opportunities for innovation and experimentation at a central bank and systemic level. CBDCs may pave the way for democratizing access to unbundled financial services while rethinking the overall purpose of money, monetary systems, and global business.

Part V: Other Cryptoasset Issues

Abstract

The current security trade settlement life cycle presents several inefficiencies derived from intermediaries involved in the transaction between buyers and sellers. This chapter examines distributed ledger technology (DLT), the underlying technology of all blockchain applications, including trade settlements. It also reviews the implications of using blockchain in trade settlements for cryptoassets. Emerging blockchain technology provides investors, exchanges, regulators, and countless potential intermediaries with the most up-to-date technology with the highest efficiency, transparency, credibility, and automation enabled by smart contracts. Smart contracts allow an ecosystem to manage the process of trade settlements starting from execution to clearing and then settlement. These contracts reduce reconciliation and recordkeeping costs and streamline repetitive processes present in today’s trade settlement system. The chapter highlights the benefits of implementing DLT in financial markets globally in all trading aspects, including cryptoassets.

Abstract

Decentralized finance is a technological infrastructure built on a blockchain networking environment that supplies transparent, uncensorable, and decentralized financial services and products. This infrastructure offers the opportunity to replicate traditional financial instruments on a decentralized platform and incorporate added features provided by blockchain technology. It also allows the creation of new instruments native to blockchain technology unavailable through traditional financial institutions. This chapter presents an in-depth analysis of the inner workings of stablecoins, decentralized exchanges, automated market makers, liquidity pools, decentralized lending, synthetic instruments, and asset management. It also provides specific examples for each application and presents some current challenges the sector faces.

Abstract

This chapter differentiates between centralized and decentralized exchanges (DEXs), emphasizing the importance of regulations and compliance related to the market’s development and expansion for cryptoasset trading and investment. It also explains the pros and cons of using different methods to trade cryptocurrencies or virtual currencies and their tradeoffs. The chapter discusses how centralized and DEXs emerged, their history and potential future, and the possible role of future regulations and regulatory clarity around how they may operate. Additionally, it compares cryptoasset markets to other more traditional markets such as equities, real estate, and foreign exchange.

Index

Pages 383-398
Content available
Cover of The Emerald Handbook on Cryptoassets: Investment Opportunities and Challenges
DOI
10.1108/9781804553206
Publication date
2023-01-16
Editors
ISBN
978-1-80455-321-3
eISBN
978-1-80455-320-6