Sanctions on Tornado Cash: What You Need to Know

On August 8, 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) sanctioned the virtual currency mixer Tornado Cash. OFAC states that Tornado Cash “has been used to launder more than $7 billion worth of virtual currency since its creation in 2019. This includes over $455 million stolen by the Lazarus Group, a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) state-sponsored hacking group that was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2019, in the largest known virtual currency heist to date. Tornado Cash was subsequently used to launder more than $96 million of malicious cyber actors’ funds derived from the June 24, 2022 Harmony Bridge Heist, and at least $7.8 million from the August 2, 2022 Nomad Heist.”

OFAC released subsequent guidance on September 13, 2022 explaining that U.S. residents and citizens can apply for a license to recover legitimate funds that may be tied up as a result of the sanction. Specifically, the OFAC guidance states:

For transactions involving Tornado Cash that were initiated prior to its designation on August 8, 2022 but not completed by the date of designation, U.S. persons or persons conducting transactions within U.S. jurisdiction may request a specific license from OFAC to engage in transactions involving the subject virtual currency.  U.S. persons should be prepared to provide, at a minimum, all relevant information regarding these transactions with Tornado Cash, including the wallet addresses for the remitter and beneficiary, transaction hashes, the date and time of the transaction(s), as well as the amount(s) of virtual currency.  OFAC would have a favorable licensing policy towards such applications, provided that the transaction did not involve other sanctionable conduct.

In order to apply for a specific license to complete a transaction or withdraw virtual currency involving Tornado Cash that was deposited prior to its designation, or to engage in other transactions or dealings with Tornado Cash, you are encouraged to file a licensing request by visiting the following link: https://home.treasury.gov/policy-issues/financial-sanctions/ofac-license-application-page.

Additionally, OFAC is aware that certain U.S. persons may have been dusting victims and received unsolicited and nominal amounts of virtual currency or other virtual assets from Tornado Cash. OFAC advises that its sanctions regulations do apply to dusting transactions and should be blocked and reported to OFAC within 10 days. To file a report, complete the form available at this link and email to OFAC’s Sanctions Compliance and Evaluation Division at [email protected]

We've previously written about protecting yourself from dusting attacks.

SALT Blockchain Inc., SALT Lending LLC, SALT Platform LLC and its employees operate in compliance with all applicable U.S. federal and state laws, including with respect to laws governing money laundering and anti-terrorism. SALT reserves the right to decline to open an account if, after conducting its compliance review, SALT determines it risks noncompliance with money laundering and anti-terrorism requirements.

The Evolution of Money

Entrepreneur Jim Rohn famously mused, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” Mr. Rohn may have been more right than he knew because while time has infinite value, money, by itself, has none. Whether you’re holding a dollar, a franc, some yen, a metal coin, or a seashell, it has no value—not until someone wants it. This goes for anything that can be traded, but the reality is far harsher when it comes to the paper people carry in their wallets in the hopes of exchanging it for goods and services. At the same time, money is, in some ways, an important block in the foundation of modern society. Why? Let’s take a closer look at the evolution of money to find the answers.

A brief history of money

Bartering
Before people carried around pieces of paper that symbolized value, they would trade goods and services with each other to make transactions. Each possession had a relative value. This means that what it meant to the holder was not necessarily equal to what it meant to the person to whom they wanted to give it in exchange for something else.

Take, for example, a farmer who grew potatoes but needed tomatoes. The farmer may approach his friend who grew tomatoes and offer him 10 potatoes for 10 tomatoes. The friend may say, “Well, to part with these 10 tomatoes, I’m going to need 15 potatoes.” If the potato farmer agreed and had that many potatoes to barter, he would present them, make the exchange, and both parties would leave the transaction satisfied.

On the other hand, if the potato farmer approached a different farmer with the same proposition, the transaction may not go as planned. If the second farmer already grew potatoes, he may ask for something else. It could be corn, beets, or another type of produce. But the other farmer may also prefer a tool or some form of service from the potato farmer. Each transaction was, therefore, relative. Currencies, although abstractions of value, brought concreteness to previously relative transactions. One of the progenitors of modern currency was salt.

Salt
Salt itself used to be a currency (fun fact: this is how we got our name). Far more than a common seasoning, salt has been at the center of trade and culture for multiple millennia—to the point where the word “salt” is at the root of the word “salary.” Salt, as a flavor additive, has long been a valued commodity. The word “salad” comes from when the early Romans used to add salt to vegetables and leafy greens.

Before the large mass-production of salt became commonplace, the production of salt was a time-consuming process. And as people figured out different ways of producing it, its production was limited to maintain its value. Therefore, people with a salt surplus had a coveted commodity.

The Egyptians used to use it as part of their religious offerings. This lead to salt becoming the currency of choice while trading with the Phoenicians. The practice continued for many centuries and spread across much of the developed world. Marco Polo, while traveling through China in the 11th century C.E., noted how the Chinese used to boil water to create a salt paste that, when formed into a cake, was worth two pence.

Bronze castings
As time progressed, around 770 B.C.E. the Chinese began developing bronze representations of the things they were trading. For example, if a farmer wanted to trade a hoe for a hammer, he would present a bronze casting of a hoe and give it to a carpenter—or someone else—in exchange for a small bronze hammer. The bronze statue could then be exchanged for the real thing. This solved the problem of having to physically transport large or cumbersome objects to places of trade.

Coins
Soon, it became more practical to use coins instead of little castings of valued objects. This approach maintained the convenience of being able to carry an item in your pocket and added an extra convenience: the ability to easily manufacture them.

The manufacturing of money was first performed in Lydia, which is now in the west of Turkey. This was the first mint. Inside, people manufactured coins that represented value. Around 600 B.C.E., Lydia’s ruler, King Alyattes, made the first official state currency. The coins were manufactured using electrum, which consists of a naturally-occurring combination of silver and gold. Each coin was stamped with a picture, and each picture represented a different value. Thus was born the concept of denominations. This system of minting denominated money helped facilitate a more efficient trading system, propelling Lydia to being a powerful, wealthy empire.

Paper
The Chinese made the switch to paper currency around 700 B.C.E. The distribution and use of the bills were carefully regulated by the emperor. In fact, on the bills, there was an inscription warning people that if they counterfeited the money, they would, literally, lose their heads.

After some time, banks began adopting the use of paper money. Inside the bank would be an amount of gold that corresponded to paper money the bank could issue to individuals with whom they did business. For example, if someone deposited half a pound, or eight ounces, of gold, at the bank today, according to the rates at the time of this writing, it would give them $15,197.60. The person would then be able to use that paper to purchase goods and services.

If the individual went and bought a new horse, perhaps spending $8,000 of his money, the person who sold the horse could take that paper money to the bank. The bank would then give the horse-seller $8,000 worth of gold. This gave birth to the modern concept of money, with gold as the underlying asset of value.

Currency-based conflicts
As more countries adopted the use of currency, some took advantage of the, admittedly arbitrary, value of money. They would do things that would cause the value of another country’s currency to rise. On the surface, this may sound like a good thing. However, when a currency is inflated, the cost of the goods within the country goes up. This inflation is due to the fact that more work has to be performed to produce the goods being traded. If someone were to do the same amount of work they did before the currency was inflated, they wouldn’t get paid enough to cover their bills. With goods that cost too much, a country wouldn’t be able to trade with others that could help them build the weapons and armies they needed to engage in war. Currency battles for the sake of weakening another nation continue to this day.

Credit cards
Similar to how going from bronze castings to coins made transactions easier, going from paper to credit cards made buying and selling more convenient for 20th-century consumers. With a credit card transaction, the money of the individual is still held within a bank, but the credit card is used to make the transfer. This is made possible due to two concepts: fungibility and transferability.

When a unit of value is fungible, it has the same value as another unit with the same denomination. For instance, a $10 bill in Boston has the same value as a $10 bill in Los Angeles. And the same goes for an electronic transaction that provides access to $10 stored in a bank. Thanks to fungibility, an individual can put $1,000 into a bank and get a credit card that has a $1,000 spending limit. The transferability of money refers to the fact that money can be moved from one party to another. In a credit card transaction, this happens electronically.

The bank that supports a credit card transaction can also allow the person to spend more than they actually have by lending the individual money. The conditions of the loan agreement are contained within the credit card contract. In many cases, the individual may not have enough money in the bank to cover the transaction. Therefore, they agree to put at least that much, and often a percentage more, into the bank in exchange for the right to spend the money the bank lent them. The use of debit and credit cards and the process behind credit card payments are pivotal factors in the evolution of money. They set the stage for a crucial monetary concept: electronic payments.

Electronic payments
Electronic payments are at the heart of the culmination of the evolution of money. In many ways, electronic payments solve the original problem money sought to tackle more efficiently. When money was first conceived, it’s creators were trying to create an abstraction of value that was fungible, transferable, and easy to spend and accept. With credit and debit card payments, electronic transactions become commonplace while providing a solution for everything money was meant to be.

However, one problem still remained: the middleman. If you have someone working as a go-between that generates wealth by charging you to spend money electronically, how can you guarantee a transparent, trust-worthy, error-free, corruption-free transaction?

Enter cryptocurrency. With the onset of bitcoin, cryptocurrency became an efficient way to both provide an electronic, tradable abstraction of value and, once again, provide the world with a one-to-one, two-person transaction, devoid of a middleman. But the crypto movement wasn’t arbitrary. The signs have been there for years.

The historical signposts that pointed to cryptocurrency

Because cryptocurrency is such an innovative idea, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that it was born, not so much out of innovation but out of necessity. The modern monetary system has, in many ways, been broken for quite some time. For many decades, there have been signs pointing to the need for a better solution.

Interest rate manipulation
Perhaps one of the most powerful historic indicators of the need for an alternative to typical fiat currency was revealed in the 1970s. The interest rates, designed to help stabilize the United States economy, ended up doing the exact opposite. When the government manipulated interest rates to help slow the inflation of common goods, it ended up having the opposite effect. Inflation skyrocketed as certain goods saw huge leaps in their prices. While some people could afford to pay the higher costs, others couldn’t and had to go without essential items.

Even though companies selling their goods to other Americans during a period of inflation may benefit, those exporting American-made goods suffer. Because it costs more to produce goods in the United States, companies have to charge buyers from other countries more. Consequently, some goods become unaffordable for international buyers and they look to other countries to get what they need. This impacts the gross domestic product (GDP) of the country suffering from inflation, hurting their overall standard of living. Because the government can choose to print money anytime it wants, regardless of whether or not there’s enough gold to support the printed currency, inflation in the modern system can easily spin out of control. As in the 1970s, it can start with a poorly adjusted interest rate and have global implications.

With cryptocurrency, the supply of each token is either limited or controlled by the currency’s governance team—a group of individuals and token-holders who make decisions using a voting system. This helps control the inflation of each cryptocurrency. Also, because the currency isn’t hindered by national borders, you have one common means of purchasing goods and services, and its value is the same regardless of where you are.

The housing crisis
The financial crisis of 2007 was another bellwether for the global economy because it highlighted the corruption that can occur when you have profit-hungry “middlemen” involved in transactions. When someone wants to buy a home, they often have to get a loan from a bank. The bank decides who they will lend the money to, as well as how much they will make that person pay, in interest, for the right to use that money. In theory, the system makes sense. However, as the world saw in 2007, when the banks, hungry for profits, abuse the system and those involved, it can have far-reaching implications.

If the interest rate at which money is lent isn’t decided by a bank but by mathematical equations that take into account real supply and demand factors, the lenders can only earn more by lending more. Manipulating interest rates for the bank’s bottom line would be a thing of the past. Cryptocurrency also addresses the problem of predatory lending. The economic crash was partially a result of banks lending money they knew couldn’t be repaid—and then selling the problematic loan to another, unsuspecting, bank. When transactions happen between two people instead of three, the middleman, and his potentially greedy ambitions, are removed. Cryptocurrency, therefore, eliminates some of the major causes of the financial crisis of 2007.

SALT Lending: A historical turning point in the evolution of money

Throughout history, the utility, divisibility, verifiability, and fungibility of salt made it a perfect asset to be used as a method of trade and currency around the world. Through the products and services at SALT, the legacy continues. SALT is now bridging the gap between cryptocurrencies and traditional lending.

Even though cryptocurrencies are, in many ways, a superior monetary solution, they are still not yet widely accepted. With SALT, holders of crypto can get loans using their digital assets as collateral. You can then spend the USD or stablecoin you get any way you’d like. SALT empowers those in the cryptoverse, allowing them to turn the most innovative monetary solution since, well, salt, into liquid assets.

The Stable Makeup of Stablecoin

In 2008, Satoshi Nakamoto released the Bitcoin white paper, introducing the concept of a decentralized currency to the public. From that time on, many have turned to cryptocurrency for an alternative to traditional fiat currencies that offers decentralization, transparency of exchange, and ease of use—especially when it comes to international exchanges.

However, along with the plaudits have come disadvantages, notably the volatility of digital assets relative to the US Dollar. The perceived value of a specific cryptocurrency by investors can lead to wide fluctuations in the value of Bitcoin, Ether, and other types of crypto. This, in turn, can make cryptocurrency more difficult to use as a medium of exchange or store of value.

Enter stablecoins, an inherently less volatile option being considered the best of many worlds. They provide a desirable link between the stability of fiat currency and the decentralization and efficiency of cryptocurrency.

What are stablecoins and where did they come from?

Stablecoin is a catch-all phrase for cryptocurrency that is pegged to specific reserves or other asset types. More specifically, stablecoin is divided into four groups:

The first stablecoins, BitUSD, and NuBits, came online in 2014 and were collateralized through various other cryptocurrencies. Also released in 2014 was RealCoin (now Tether), the first crypto to be backed by so-called “real” assets. Active dollar-based stablecoins today include Paxos Standard, TrueUSD, USD Coin, Tether USD, and Gemini Dollar.

How to use stablecoin for a crypto-backed loan

Though it might not be a strong addition to an investment portfolio, stablecoins are useful in many ways. For example, at SALT Lending, as a provider of crypto-backed loans, we accept stablecoins for:

SALT also offers loan payouts via stablecoin or fiat currency. The advantage of a stablecoin payout is that only a stablecoin address is required, no bank account is needed.

The potential of stablecoins

Cryptocurrency enthusiasts see value in stablecoins given their decentralized properties, ability to facilitate better payment rails for global commerce, accessibility in unbanked jurisdictions, and programmability to streamline business operations.

Meanwhile, more traditional institutions are researching stablecoins for their potential in cross-border lending and overseas transactions without conversion into fiat, or sovereign currency. The Bank of Canada mentioned the use of stablecoin in its 2020 vision, focusing on it as a part of emerging payment technologies. Meanwhile, The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency released guidance indicating that national banks are free to hold reserve currencies for stablecoin.

While much of the world continues to rely on fiat currency for financial operations, digital currencies have been quickly disrupting this archaic financial infrastructure. Of those currencies, stablecoins could bridge the divide between cryptocurrency volatility, decentralized ownership, and providing banking solutions in otherwise untouched jurisdictions.

For more information about cryptocurrency loans and stablecoins, contact SALT Lending.

SALT announces the SALT Card

Waitlist now open for the first crypto-backed credit card designed to help you HODL.

YouTube video

Today we announced our concept for the SALT Card, the first crypto credit card that lets you use your crypto to buy anything — from large purchases like vacations to everyday purchases like coffee and groceries– without selling or spending any of your crypto. Unlike other cards on the market that encourage you to spend your crypto, the SALT Card is designed to help you HODL and stack sats by earning bitcoin rewards on every purchase. No credit check required.

Already sold on the concept? Join our waitlist to stay in the know or keep reading to learn more.


How will the SALT Card work?

With the SALT Card, your crypto is your credit. This means we won’t ask for your credit score or do a credit check because your digital assets (not your credit score) will secure your line of credit and determine your credit limit.

We designed it this way because we know you want to get the most out of your crypto assets without having to sell them.

How is it different from a crypto-backed loan?

While the SALT Card is secured by your crypto assets, it’s different from a crypto-backed loan in that you can choose to borrow only what you need, and you only pay interest on an existing balance. Like a traditional credit card, if you pay the balance off each month, you won’t owe any interest. Plus, by having a physical SALT Card, you will be able to use it in the same places and for the same purposes as the other credit cards in your wallet.

What makes the SALT Card stand out?

Here are just a few of the existing benefits. We’re still in the early stages of developing the card and are currently in search of a card partner.

Once we have a partner on board, we will be able to finalize the card rewards and any additional benefits. In the meantime, we’d love to hear your input on what you value most in a crypto credit card.

We’re excited to be launching a new product and hope you’ll join our waitlist to receive the latest updates in the development of the SALT Card.

If you are connected to a major credit card partner and are interested in working together, please contact [email protected] We’d love to hear from you and explore opportunities.

Disclaimer: By joining the waitlist you agree to receive marketing communications from SALT. The waitlist does not guarantee that you will receive a SALT Card. SALT Card will be subject to eligibility requirements, including geographic and suitability limitations. Fees and terms are not final and are subject to change at any time in SALT’s sole discretion.

How to Grow Your Business Capital Through Cryptocurrency

By Annabelle Pollack

Disclaimer: Buying cryptocurrency is risky. This article is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute investment or financial advice.

Cryptocurrency is reshaping the finance and business worlds. Not only has it challenged conventional thinking, but it has provided new avenues for entrepreneurs and business owners to start and grow their businesses in these uncertain times. Many of them have turned to crypto as a way to raise initial capital or to fund ongoing operational costs. If you’re seeking creative ways to grow your business capital through cryptocurrency, there are a few ways to go about it — the most important thing when it comes to getting involved with crypto is doing your research to identify the best avenue for achieving your business goals.

Choose the right cryptocurrency for your business

When it comes to determining which cryptocurrency is the ideal fit for your business, you have several options from which to choose. At the moment, there are already more than 1,000 unique cryptocurrencies in which you can transact. But just as there are blue-chip stocks, a guide to cryptocurrencies by FXCM details how some digital currencies are considered the “gold standard” of the industry. At the top is Bitcoin, which is regarded as the first incarnation of cryptocurrency and is projected to have a market capitalization of $1 trillion in the near future. Next is Ethereum, whose $83 billion market capitalization is poised to expand in the coming years due to its growth potential in the online sphere. Then, there is Litecoin, and its surging market cap of over $18 billion. Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin are seen as the strongest investments, with Yahoo! Finance noting how a high market cap is indicative of high investor activity. All three are extremely liquid, too, which means they can be easily sold at the market price. Each cryptocurrency is different and may boast specific features that others do not. Some factors to consider as you’re choosing a cryptoasset for your business are security, privacy, transaction speed, block times, market cap, liquidity, and the blockchain upon which the cryptocurrency is built. Once you identify which factors are most important to you, you can narrow down your options and choose the crypto(s) best suited for your business.

Buy and Trade Crypto

Once you’ve done your research, identified your cryptocurrency of choice, and learned the ins and outs of the industry, you can evaluate whether you’re confident enough in your knowledge to move forward with buying and trading digital currencies. That being said, it’s essential to prioritize safety and security regardless of whether you’re trading frequently or buying for the long term. A good way to do that is to find a reputable online cryptocurrency trading platform that can help you buy and trade crypto, as well as help protect your investments. Some trading platforms even offer crypto CFDs (not available in the United States) that don’t require a special wallet or exchange account, but will ask you to speculate on the direction of their price movements instead. You can also invest in several coins at the same time, as doing so may help you mitigate the risk that comes with putting all your eggs in one basket. This way, you’re more likely to see your business capital increase.

Get a crypto-backed loan

In an instance where you need cash but are unwilling to part with your crypto entirely, consider taking out a crypto-backed business loan. As the name suggests, this type of loan is secured by cryptocurrency, offering a way for you to get cash or stablecoin without having to sell your cryptoassets. The amount of cryptoassets you’ll be required to put up as collateral is contingent on a few factors including your loan amount, loan duration, and Loan-to-Value ratio (LTV). If this option appeals to you, a SALT loan might be just what you’re looking for. SALT accepts a dozen coins as collateral including Bitcoin, Ether, and Litecoin, and you can choose one or more of the offered collateral types to secure your loan. SALT also offers flexible loan terms, allowing you to choose your desired loan-to-value ratio from 30%-70% (amount borrowed divided by the value of your crypto), the duration of your loan (3–12 months), and whether you’d like to receive your loan proceeds in fiat or stablecoin. Interest rates are competitive, too. By taking out a crypto-backed loan, you can secure the funds to start a new business or operate and improve an existing one without selling your crypto.

Accept cryptocurrency payments

Another way that a business can generate further capital is to accept payments via cryptocurrency. For instance, Business2Community claims that businesses can lower the transaction fees involved during payment transactions due to the high number of peer-to-peer processing networks accepting popular coins. Compared to traditional methods like wire transfers and check payments, cryptocurrency can be a lot faster and more efficient. In addition, cryptocurrency transactions can be conducted directly between the business and the customer on the blockchain, which avoids the potential for third-party scams and external payment disputes. By accepting cryptocurrency payments, businesses can simultaneously grow their capital and streamline payment processes.

While there are significant risks that accompany cryptocurrency investments, doing your research and being diligent can help you significantly grow your business capital and fund new developments. Exploring different payment options and looking into specific coins can help you become more knowledgeable when it comes to determining the best way for you to start or operate your business.

SALT announces first-ever distributed custody model for securely storing collateral assets, onboards Fireblocks as first partner

This new model will allow SALT to distribute risk, enhance security, reduce interest rates, fund loans more swiftly, and focus on expanding its suite of wealth preservation products

We’re excited to announce Fireblocks, a platform that secures digital assets in transit, as our first partner for securely storing and transferring customers’ collateral assets. The partnership with Fireblocks marks a shift in SALT’s business model from self-custody to a more distributed custody approach that will allow us to onboard additional partners in the future and add greater flexibility for capital providers. This new approach also enables us to distribute risk, fund loans and conduct transactions more quickly, and provide customers with enhanced security for their cryptoassets, as well as lower interest rates on crypto-backed loans.

“When SALT was founded in 2016, custody wasn’t where it is now, so we built a proprietary custody solution to keep our customers’ collateral assets safe,” said Justin English, CEO of SALT. “Now that the industry has matured and companies like Fireblocks have come to the forefront, we’re excited to work with them to streamline our operations and expose their networks to our suite of wealth preservation products. They have a proven ability to safely and securely store and transfer collateral assets and to do so swiftly, which will inevitably allow us to provide faster service to our customers and focus more on product development.”

The move toward third-party custody solutions will also enable SALT to provide greater security and flexibility to capital providers that may prefer to work with a specific custodian, provided the custodian meets our rigorous security standards.

“MPC has quickly become the industry standard among the largest and most trusted institutions in the digital asset space,” said Michael Shaulov, CEO and co-founder of Fireblocks. “We’re proud to partner with the SALT team to help them strengthen security, reduce costs and expand operations as they move into the next stage of their growth.”

Fireblocks meets these security standards by combining multi-party computation (MPC) with Intel SGX technology to create a proprietary, defense in-depth approach to digital asset security — this allows organizations to accelerate operations without relying on physical hardware or slow, manual processes.

“Security is our top priority as we make this shift to be commensurate with our growth and distribute risk among trusted custodians,” said Dirk Anderson, chief technology officer at SALT. “The primary reason we’ve chosen Fireblocks as our first partner is because of their approach to MPC technology. Not only does it meet our security standards, but it will grant us more flexibility and increase the speed at which we can conduct transactions. This means we can fund stablecoin loans much faster and reduce the turnaround time for returning customers’ collateral assets once their loan has matured.”

From a customer standpoint, the biggest and most exciting changes to note are increased security, faster services, and the offering of lower interest rates. Aside from these changes, the customer experience will largely remain the same. Just as they do now, borrowers will still be able to make deposits and withdrawals, and will be able to continue tracking the health of their loan via our Loan-to-Value monitoring and real-time notification systems.

“We believe working with Fireblocks and other custody partners in the future is in the best interest of both the business and our customers,” said English. “Not only will we be able to offer more competitive interest rates, but we will have the time and resources to focus on expanding our offerings to include products that are designed to help our customers build and preserve their wealth.”

To apply for a loan or learn more about our suite of wealth preservation products, visit https://saltlending.com/getaloan/ or contact [email protected] For questions contact [email protected]

About SALT

SALT, the pioneer of crypto-backed lending, offers a way for individuals and businesses to use their cryptoassets as collateral to secure a fiat or stablecoin loan without having to worry about credit checks. SALT offers flexible loan terms and accepts multiple cryptoassets as collateral including cryptocurrencies, stablecoins, and tokenized gold. SALT also offers competitive interest rates and does not charge origination or prepayment fees. As cryptocurrency becomes more widely adopted and additional real-world assets become tokenized, SALT’s mission is to offer solutions that make it possible for people to securely hold, manage, and borrow against their cryptoassets. Founded in 2016, SALT is headquartered in Denver, Colorado. For more information, visit www.saltlending.com or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Medium.

All SALT loans are subject to KYC, AML, and other Terms, Conditions, and Restrictions. Please see saltlending.com/terms and FAQ for additional information. Loan options and terms may not be available in your jurisdiction, for your loan amount, and/or collateral type. SALT Loans are subject to jurisdictional limitations and other restrictions. SALT may not be able to offer a loan to all borrowers. SALT loans are originated by Salt Lending LLC. NMLS #1711910. NMLS Consumer Access (https://www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org/).

About Fireblocks

Fireblocks is an enterprise-grade platform delivering a secure infrastructure for moving, storing, and issuing digital assets. Fireblocks enables exchanges, custodians, banks, trading desks, and hedge funds to securely scale digital asset operations through the Fireblocks Network and MPC-based Wallet Infrastructure. They have secured the transfer of over $70 billion in digital assets and have a unique insurance policy that covers assets in storage & transit. For more information, please visit www.fireblocks.com.

Media Contacts

SALT

Kendra Staggs, [email protected]

Fireblocks

Yelena Osin, [email protected]

The Evolution of the Crypto Market and its Role in Asset-Based Lending

Originally published in ABF Journal

Cryptocurrency is a disruptor. Not only has it changed the way we conduct business, but it has changed the way we think. The most obvious manifestation of how cryptocurrency has disrupted our thought patterns is in the way we think about money — about who issues it, how to transact with it, how to put it to work and how to keep it safe. It also has changed the way we think about our government, our right to privacy and our financial freedom. What’s less obvious is how cryptocurrencies are disrupting the way we think about and participate in asset-based lending. The advent of Bitcoin catalyzed the creation of a myriad of cryptocurrencies, many of which became viewed as assets, yet at the time, there was no way for crypto investors to unlock the value of these assets without selling them. This is the problem SALT’s founders set out to solve in 2016 and in doing so successfully, made asset-based lending as we once knew it a thing of the past.

Creating a New Asset Class

As Bitcoin began to experience wider adoption following its release in 2009, it became clear that some investors were purchasing crypto to trade on a daily basis while others were choosing to invest long-term, viewing Bitcoin more as an asset than as a spendable currency. As more investors adopted this long position and began to think of cryptocurrencies as an asset class in their own right, the term “HODL” emerged in 2013 on a bitcoin-talk forum and has since become one of the most commonly used words in the crypto vernacular. This HODL culture has grown significantly over the years and has evolved to where investors are buying, selling and trading these assets not only for themselves but on behalf of others. This activity has taken the form of crypto portfolios and crypto funds, which offer access to this new asset class for individuals and allow them to diversify their portfolios while eliminating some of the overhead of learning how to purchase and safely hold cryptoassets. By providing a way to collateralize cryptoassets to secure a cash or stablecoin loan, SALT provides opportunities for individuals, businesses and capital providers to build and preserve wealth.

How to Lend Cryptoassets

As the first-ever crypto-backed lender, SALT has developed the technology and processes required to successfully lend against cryptoassets, giving borrowers a way to unlock the value of these assets without selling them. Take Bitcoin for example. It’s one of many cryptoassets we accept as collateral on our platform, yet it makes up more than 80% of the collateral securing our loan book.

What makes Bitcoin a strong form of collateral? The answer lies in Bitcoin’s combined characteristics. Like gold, Bitcoin is scarce, fungible, divisible, transferable and durable. It is also extremely liquid given it is traded on global exchanges every day. Additionally, as a decentralized asset, Bitcoin is highly secure. All of these properties make Bitcoin both a viable asset and a highly efficient form of collateral that has piqued the interest of some of the largest financial institutions in the world.

One thing to note is Bitcoin’s volatile nature, which can pose challenges specifically for the ABL market. However, SALT’s risk management technology effectively manages this volatility. Our technology includes real-time loan-to-value (LTV) monitoring, margin call and liquidation triggers, real-time notifications and the safekeeping of assets through institutional grade custody solutions. For example, our loan-to-value (LTV) monitoring system tracks the prices of assets 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, providing borrowers with the ability to monitor the health of their loan in real-time. If, during periods of heightened volatility, a borrower’s collateral declines in value and their LTV breaches our margin call threshold, we protect the borrower by issuing a margin call that prompts them to take action to restore the health of their loan. Actions borrowers may take include paying down principal or depositing additional collateral to recalibrate their LTV to an appropriate level (70%). If no action is taken and asset prices continue to decline, SALT has the ability and the right to liquidate collateral assets to preserve lender capital. The overcollateralized nature of our loans combined with our risk management technology and ability to liquidate assets enables us to protect the lender, and as a result, we’ve experienced zero losses of principal to date.

Choosing a Crypto-Backed Lender

SALT’s business model is attractive to crypto investors (e.g. traders and asset managers) and businesses (e.g. mining operations and exchanges) for a few reasons. First, we provide access to liquidity, offering loans ranging from $5,000 to the millions. Typical use cases include businesses seeking working capital to fund operational costs and large capital expenditures, or investors seeking leverage, diversification or risk management. Second, since our model is asset-based and requires overcollateralization, we do not rely on a borrower’s credit profile and can fund loans within 24 to 48 hours, assuming the borrower meets our strict AML/KYC requirements. Third, customers know their assets are safely and securely held with institutional-grade custody providers for the duration of their loan. Fourth, our loan process is straightforward and customizable. We allow borrowers to lend against a single cryptoasset or a portfolio of cryptoassets and offer flexible loan terms, including durations ranging from three to 12 months, LTVs up to 60% for individual loans or up to 70% for business loans, and competitive interest rates ranging from 5% to 12% depending on the borrower’s jurisdiction, loan amount and LTV. While we are no longer the only crypto-backed lender in the world, we are one of the few that incorporate a human element into our business model. Unlike completely automated lenders, SALT offers both phone and online support, and assigns each customer a loan support specialist at the time of loan origination. These human touches positively impact a borrower’s experience with the platform; they know that by choosing SALT, they will always have the option to speak with someone about their financial needs.

The Evolution of the Crypto Market and Tokenization

Since SALT’s founding in 2016, the crypto lending market has grown exponentially. According to a report from Credmark, the crypto lending market reached $8 billion in total lifetime loan originations as of Q4/19 and has since surpassed $10 billion following Q1/20. These numbers not only indicate the growing demand for liquidity among crypto holders but also the growing interest among capital providers to get involved in the crypto market. For example, we’ve witnessed an influx of both crypto native (BitGo Prime and Genesis Capital) and traditional financial institutions (Silvergate) that provide leverage and liquidity vehicles at the institutional level.

Another thing to consider regarding the evolution of the crypto market is that as the world becomes tokenized, the very definition of the term “crypto market” is changing. With the emergence of companies like Paxos and Harbor, we’re beginning to see increased tokenization of real-world assets like gold and real estate. At SALT we already accept Pax Gold (a gold-backed cryptoasset) as collateral on our platform and our vision for the future goes well beyond our current collateral scope.

The Role of Alternative Investments

As crypto becomes more widely accepted, a growing number of people are assessing their own risk profiles and determining the best way for them to participate in the crypto market. For those with lower risk profiles, the market has evolved in recent years to offer individuals or businesses indirect exposure to this new asset class. As previously mentioned, crypto portfolios and crypto funds are part of this evolution along with alternative investment companies like Cadence (portfolio company of Coinbase Ventures). Cadence is a securitization platform for private credit that grants access to exclusive high yield, short term investments traditionally reserved for institutions. In February 2020, we partnered with Cadence to offer prospective investors the opportunity to gain exposure to cash flows associated with a portfolio of underlying loans collateralized by cryptoassets. The first note of $500,000 was oversubscribed in five days and we have since worked with Cadence to issue $2.9 million in notes to investors to date. As more companies like Cadence provide structure, liquidity and indirect exposure to alternative asset classes like crypto, we expect to see even greater demand from investors seeking attractive risk adjusted returns.

Opportunities for Institutional Investors

There’s no doubt cryptocurrency has changed the way we think about asset-based lending. It has formed a new asset class and also has catalyzed the trend of broader tokenization — a trend that will inevitably expand the universe of collateral options and have a meaningful impact on the ABL industry. If you’re a decision maker at an institution and are interested in learning more, email [email protected] to discuss opportunities to build and preserve wealth in this rapidly evolving industry.

A CBDC Crash Course: Can sovereign-focused digital currencies become a monetary reality?

Article originally published on ValueWalk

China’s central banking system officially launched large-scale testing of what could be the world’s first digital sovereign currency. The People’s Bank of China, the nation’s central bank, is working with main banks in major cities, with a focus on digitizing the renminbi. During this trial, users register their mobile phone numbers for access to digital wallets. Through that access, they can use digital currency, issued by the central bank, to withdraw and transfer money, and to pay bills.

If this test is successful, it means that China could be one of the first countries to develop and maintain central banking digital currency, or CBDC. But China’s move toward CBDC doesn’t necessarily mean that other countries’ central banking systems will, or can, automatically follow. Moving an economy from bills and coins — whether physical or virtual — to 100% digitization isn’t something a country just does. Furthermore, there is the question of whether central banks can — or should — work directly with consumers and businesses, in direct competition with commercial and investment banks.

As such, the CBDC reality is a few years away.

Defining Digital Currency And Central Banks

Mention the words “digital currency” and the first thought that might come to mind is Bitcoin.

Certainly, Bitcoin, Ether, Litecoin, and other cryptocurrencies are digitized value exchanges, which can be used to buy goods and services. But cryptocurrencies and central banking digital currencies are two very different sides of the digital coin. While cryptocurrencies are privately developed and distributed, CBDCs are government-backed sovereign currency systems, complete with appropriate denominations. In other words, think digitized fiat currency, overseen by the central banks.

Much like cryptocurrencies, however, CBDCs are recorded on digital ledgers, which keep track of ownership and transactions by users with ledger accounts. But unlike cryptocurrencies, these ledgers would be overseen by central banks, which would also issue the currencies and process transactions.

Speaking of central banks, these institutions have big-picture monetary goals for the nations in which they operate. The above-mentioned People’s Bank of China, as well as the U.S. Federal Reserve, Bank of England, Deutsche Bundesbank, and others are responsible for national monetary policies. They also deal with the nation’s commercial and investment banks, as lenders of last resort. They aren’t in business to work with consumers or businesses.

Just because central banking systems don’t work on the commercial level, it doesn’t mean they haven’t. In writing for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), economists Michael Bordo and Andrew Levin pointed out that central banks’ histories are filled with examples of interactions with consumers and businesses, and “often, these activities were considered more important for the central banks than the conduct of monetary policy, both in terms of daily operations and the priorities of top management.”

For example, the Bank of England conducted general business and consumer banking activities during the 17th and 18th centuries. And, in the United States, a highly successful post office savings bank system operated from 1911 through 1967, using the post office network to offer government-backed deposit accounts and other financial services. In many cases, postal banking performed central banking functions — such as funding two world wars — before the Federal Reserve stepped in to determine national monetary policy.

Digital Sovereign Currency Structure: The Theory…

Researchers and scholars have been pondering the idea of centralized digital currencies for a few years. The most recent study along these lines was released in June 2020 by the Federal Reserve of Philadelphia, and entitled “Central Banking Digital Currency: Central Banking for All?” Led by University of Pennsylvania economist, Jesús Fernández-Villaverde, the authors explored whether a central bank, such as the U.S. Federal Reserve, could successfully implement a 100% digital sovereign currency structure, which could realistically compete with commercial financial institutions without too much disruption.

The authors determined that, in theory, and absent any kind of financial panic, a digital conduit between central banks and consumers might be effective in optimizing fund allocations. Furthermore, a direct-to-consumer sovereign digital currency could help streamline and potentially eliminate current time-consuming and costly payment systems.

Bardon and Levin also suggest that central banking systems could offer digital currencies to the general public through specially designated accounts, opened in partnership with commercial banks. The banks could keep corresponding amounts of commercial funds in segregated reserve accounts at the central banks. Furthermore, setting up a CBDC infrastructure would be a straightforward process. Thanks to the internet, brick-and-mortar branches wouldn’t be necessary.

So, in theory, a CBDC is workable.

Now, The Reality…

China is pushing ahead to set up the first bona fide, workable CBDC. Meanwhile, other central banking systems, including the Bank of England, Bank of Japan and the Swiss National Bank, are working with the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) on additional CBDC research.

But the BIS cautions that jumping on the CBDC bandwagon right now will mean bumps in the road, mostly in the forms of security, convenience and accessibility. The current coins-and-bills banking system has sophisticated infrastructures in place to handle peak demands for money, and can support potential bank runs. Then, there are the questions about privacy and potential data breaches. Take for example, a situation in which the Federal Reserve issues $1 million to an individual’s stablecoin address. That individual then spends $100 from the same address at an online retailer.

Right now, with the way most blockchain technology functions, that retailer can look at that stablecoin address and see without question that there is nearly $1 million in the account. Cryptocurrency proves that while blockchain technology is great for anonymity, it is far from private. We must find a way to bring the same level of privacy to CBDCs as we currently experience with traditional banking, so that it is both private and public in all of the right ways. Until then, CBDC will likely remain more of a futuristic vision than become a reality.

And, from a larger-picture perspective, Fernández-Villaverde and his colleagues caution that the move to CBDCs could give central banking systems monopoly power, siphoning business away from commercial banks. Commercial and investment banks are set up to support maturity transformation — in other words, using consumer and business deposits for longer-term loans, such as mortgages. Central banks don’t have the capacity to do this; such a lack could be dangerous to economic policies.

Keeping It Cash … For Now

Though the Chinese central bank is experimenting with sovereign-backed digital currency and centralized ledgers, the CBDC concept isn’t close to implementation. Even China is phasing in CBDC very slowly. Coins and bills will be with us for a while longer, at least until security, accessibility and privacy issues — not to mention potential monopolization scenarios — can be worked out.

Still, the increasing use of cryptocurrency continues to prove that digital mediums of exchange are workable. As the People’s Bank of China continues working with sovereign-backed digital exchanges, other central banks will likely examine their own regulatory, legal and technical risks to determine the feasibility of CBDCs.

Coins vs. Tokens — Do you know the difference?

Ever get tripped up on the differences between coins and tokens? Our latest infographic breaks it down.

Fireside Chat with Dirk Anderson and Rob Odell

In celebration of the 3rd Bitcoin Halving, our CPO Rob Odell and CTO Dirk Anderson joined Bitcoin Magazine for a fireside chat where they shared their Bitcoin stories and an update on SALT’s business model.

YouTube video