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.

May Update from SALT

In case you’re not a subscriber to our newsletter, we want to share some of our favorite highlights from May right here on our blog to help keep you up to date on all things SALT. Image for post

Event Follow-Up with SALT’s CPO

We want to thank everyone who watched & participated in Bitcoin Magazine’s Halving live-stream celebration with us last month. To address some of the questions that came up from the event including questions regarding the SALT token, our CPO Rob Odell sat down with one of their team members for a follow-up video. You can learn more about the changes we’ve made to the SALT token from our blog post, New Changes Add Value for SALT Supporters.

Watch the full follow-up video here


Coins vs. Tokens

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

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We Want to Hear from You

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We have recently added an option to our “What’s New” feature for you to share your feedback on our content. You can share your thoughts by rating our content and/or leaving a comment.

See what’s new at SALT here.


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Twitter Poll Results: Bitcoin Pizza Day

On Bitcoin Pizza Day we asked our Twitter followers in a poll what they would do with 10,000 bitcoin, and these are the results. You can participate in our next poll by following us on Twitter.

To see the results on Twitter, click here.


Refer a Friend

Get $50 in bitcoin for you & your friend when they take out a crypto-backed loan. To learn how you can refer your friends, check out our blog post Pass the SALT, Grow Your Wallet.


Black Lives Matter

As operations at SALT carry on, it is not lost on us, as a company nor as individuals, that Black Americans continue to fight for racial justice. Until racism is eradicated completely, we are committed to hearing, learning from, and supporting our Black customers & communities in this fight for a more inclusive world. As we reflect internally on the immediate changes SALT can make to support this mission, we have proactively chosen to make Juneteenth a company holiday to honor the significance of June 19, 1865.


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Questions about our products and offerings? Contact [email protected]

Neobanking and the Push Toward Better Customer Service in Banking…Finally

By Rob Odell

Article originally published on ValueWalk

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While neobanks initially emerged in response to the barriers presented by traditional banks, they have become viable businesses in their own right by offering products, services, and a level of convenience that traditional banks have been slow to adopt.

Traditional Banks Slow To Respond To Evolving Customer Preferences

Though most traditional banks have worked to add new features and services, overall they have been slow to respond to evolving customer preferences. Take mobile apps for example. Most major banks today offer a mobile app that enables customers to conduct some of their banking via their phones. But these platforms often act and feel like digital extensions of their monolithic physical branches, clumsily ported onto your phone, and unable to harness the immense power that smartphones and internet-connectivity offers.

As frustrating as it is, this lack of innovation on the part of traditional banks makes sense if you consider their history. For decades, the biggest banks in the world functioned within the structure of an oligopoly and it wasn’t until fairly recently that they ever needed to worry about new kinds of competition.

While this lack of innovation has reduced the appeal of big banks among customers and has created space for the emergence of neobanks, it is not the only contributing factor to this shift in customer perspective. Unethical behavior by banks has come to the forefront in the past decade as many of the world’s biggest traditional banks have embroiled themselves in scandals and the details of those scandals have been broadcast to the public.

To name just a few, Deutsche Bank has been linked to money laundering, Wells Fargo paid a $185 million fine for creating millions of accounts on behalf of customers without their knowledge, and the financial crisis of 2007–2008 reads like a murderer’s row of the biggest names in the global banking industry. Additionally, repeated regulatory attempts by world governments to rein in unethical banking practices have merely resulted in newer, more creative ways for banks to break the rules in pursuit of profits.

It’s safe to say that this shady behavior has not sat well with customers. According to a survey by The World Economic Forum, “45.3 percent of respondents said they ‘disagree’ with the statement that they trust banks to be fair and honest.” This lack of trust in banks has paved the way for neobanks to enter the finance space, opening customers’ minds to consider alternative banking options.

Now consider some of the advantages that neobanks such as PayPal, Square, Alipay, Monzo, Wealthfront, Robinhood and Simple offer.

It starts with greater convenience. By offering a way for customers to bank from the palm of their hand, neobanks are able to avoid incurring the real estate and operational costs associated with maintaining and operating physical branches. These cost savings can then be passed along to customers in the form of lower interest rates on loans.

Beyond offering lower rates, neobanks also focus on making loans more accessible. They bring with them far less bureaucracy than traditional banks offer, enabling customers to get faster loan approval. This has also been the narrow focus for my company SALT, where digital asset-backed lending has enabled us to provide our customers with access to cash and offer competitive interest rates without having to take their credit scores into account.

Unlike traditional banks, neobanks have boomed in the time of smartphones, building their platforms with a mobile-first approach. This completely digital environment produces a user-friendly interface, driven by cutting-edge APIs.

Neobanks’ systems tend to be both highly automated and scalable. They offer open infrastructures with the idea that other creative applications can be built on top of their basic banking platform to improve their offerings. This also means they can adapt quite rapidly to a fast-changing industry. It’s far more likely to see one of these newcomers start to offer cryptoasset services before any traditional institution.

While big banks seek to own as many pieces of a customer’s financial existence as possible, neobanks understand that choice is the future of finance. By offering customers the opportunity to choose from an array of creative banking solutions, neobanks are completely disrupting the banking industry. While some companies are offering microlending, others are offering commission-free stock trading, undercutting the costs of even the lowest-price discount brokers.

Combine these offerings with FDIC-insured savings accounts, checking accounts with debit cards, ATM access, credit cards, and mobile-first features such as mobile check deposits, and customers have nearly every banking service they need in one place.

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Source: McKinsey

Even with all of these advances, neobanks still constitute a small percentage of the overall banking and financial services space, leaving plenty of room for significant growth. How that growth manifests itself remains an open question.

That question is this: Will fintech companies overtake traditional banks, or just add competition?

The answer will likely depend largely on how quickly and extensively traditional banks evolve. Historically, they’ve been slow to change, and haven’t paid the price for that intransigence. That’s because over the years, most banking customers have been fairly inert, accepting higher interest rates on loans, recursively punitive overdraft fees, and monthly account maintenance fees because they haven’t found better alternatives that they can trust.

The current COVID-19 pandemic could force change, both among banking service consumers and the industry itself. Visits to physical bank branches were already an inconvenience to customers before the outbreak of COVID-19. Now that banks are inevitably having to focus on their digital service offerings, even traditional banking customers will get to experience fully digital banking. How well their bank performs in this aspect will determine whether a customer remains loyal to their bank following the crisis, or chooses to make the switch to a neobank that can better meet their needs.

As more customers seek better banking alternatives, the younger generation will be able to teach traditional banking customers about the benefits of neobanks. From there, it won’t take much due diligence before more people realize that neobanks offer smoother platforms, better interest rates, and more flexibility than traditional banks.

If that happens and traditional banks’ market share starts to erode at a faster pace, traditional banks will be faced with the classic build-or-buy dilemma. Will they hire the best, more forward-thinking engineers to catch up to neobanks’ superior technology and user interfaces? Will they seek to acquire leading fintech companies as a way to protect themselves? Or will they remain complacent, and let fintech upstarts pass them by?

Fintech companies’ ability to grab market share will entail overcoming significant challenges, beyond just traditional banks’ huge edge in brand recognition.

Stock-trading app Robinhood suffered multiple shutdowns as financial markets crashed in early March. Chime, a leading branchless U.S. bank, has experienced multiple outages over the past year, with the company’s five million users unable to see their balances and intermittently unable to use their debit cards. Above all other banking features, customers want to know that they can access their money when necessary, so these kinds of setbacks must subside if fintech contenders want to make serious headway.

Meanwhile, regulatory complexity within countries and across regions is contributing to “winner take most” outcomes for fintech disruptors. Neobanks need to invest more in regional compliance to gain traction, rather than trying to launch globally on day one.

The landscape is changing rapidly for neobanks, and it will keep changing. Venture capital-backed startups will try to grab a big piece of the consumer banking world, but they’ll face plenty of competition. We might also see fintech firms partner and bundle services in an effort to compete head-on with the big banks.

Ultimately, the future of banking could simply come down to consumer awareness. Take my brother-in-law for example. After recently receiving a check from his grandfather, he sent it home to his parents so they could deposit it into his bank account. Although he’s highly educated and technologically savvy, he had no idea that he could deposit the check in a matter of seconds with a mobile banking app. Instances like this demonstrate that there’s still ways to go in terms of shifting consumers’ mindsets to challenge traditional banking.

It’s something that people don’t really think about, unless they work in the industry, or need to get a mortgage or some other major service from their bank.

Just as disruption has changed consumer habits in so many other industries, it will eventually do so in banking. Neobanks are better positioned to integrate with top data transfer network providers like Plaid, as they think about service through a lens that is different from that of traditional banks. As consumers become more aware of alternative banking options, they will catch on to the advantages of neobanks and inevitably make the switch, choosing to abandon their traditional bank in the process.

For the banking industry, change is already here. And more change is coming.

About the Author

Rob Odell is Co-President & Chief Product Officer at SALT where he is responsible for developing the strategic direction of the company and managing the product and marketing teams. Rob has been a Bitcoin believer since 2013 after being introduced to it by a Bali-based coffee roaster selling his beans for Bitcoin. SALT allows borrowers to use their cryptoassets as collateral to secure cash or stablecoin loans.

March Update from SALT

In case you’re not a subscriber to our newsletter, we want to share some of our favorite highlights from March right here on our blog to help keep you up to date on all things SALT. Image for post

Need something new to binge watch?

Catch up on Season 2 of Worth Your SALT to see our discussions with industry leaders including Bill Barhydt, Shira Frank, David Chaum, and many more.


CoinTelegraph: French Court Moves the BTC Chess Piece — How Will Regulators Respond?

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“France is the 7th largest economy in the world by GDP, so it certainly is likely to influence other markets, especially in the EU, initially. In such a new and emerging market and technology like Bitcoin, regulators around the world do look to how other countries’ regulators are viewing cryptocurrencies. So, any ruling France makes will be closely observed by regulators worldwide.”

— Rob Odell, co-president and chief product officer, SALT

For full text article, click here.


Crypto Chat: Q&A with Dustin Hull, Co-President & CFO, SALT

Image for post As one of Cadence’s latest originator partners, we sat down with Brian Guerra of Cadence to discuss SALT’s business and how we’re able to contribute to Cadence’s efforts to give investors exposure to private credit assets linked to cryptocurrency. For full Q&A, click here.

Finance Magnates: Coronavirus & Crypto Lending: Could the Crisis Bring New Clients?

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“Crypto-backed lenders are likely faring better than other crypto businesses during the global pandemic, as they offer a way for crypto holders to get cash without having to sell their cryptoassets.”

— Rob Odell, co-president and chief product officer, SALT

For full text article, click here.


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Updated Sign-up Process

Our 2-step verification process has been updated to make it faster and easier for you to complete the sign-up process and explore our platform. Learn more about the update by logging into your account.

Signup for our monthly newsletter here: https://cdn.forms-content.sg-form.com/76a45090-a050-11ea-8926-5efcf9d8f941

Questions about our products and offerings? Contact [email protected]

Rewriting the Rules

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This week Shannon Grinnell, host of the “Speaking of Crypto” podcast spoke with our COO Jenny Shaver for the first episode of her new series, “Women in Crypto.” The series will air each Wednesday and will highlight women in the crypto space who are making waves and challenging the status quo in a predominantly male industry.

In this episode Jenny and Shannon discuss Jenny’s experience at American Express, her thoughts on Libra, SALT’s ability to collateralize the Dash associated with a Dash masternode, and what it’s like to be a woman in a C-level role at a crypto startup. She describes how crypto is a mashup of two traditionally male-dominated cultures — Wall Street and Silicon Valley — and how she feels empowered by our opportunity to be radical — not only in terms of the technology we build, but in who builds it.

“We have the opportunity to break down old ways of thinking and being. That’s where it feels empowering to me. I feel a responsibility as a woman in the space to rewrite the rules, rewrite the narrative and the assumptions around women thriving — not just in the financial or tech industries but in a highly volatile, competitive, complex space where you traditionally don’t see women in these high-risk places. But here we are and we’re thriving.”

Jenny also shares the best piece of advice she’s ever received and how she applies it every day to her current role at SALT: “Don’t ever sit in the back, be present. When you’re at a meeting, sit at the table and make sure you speak. Make sure you’re heard and that you have a voice.”

Listen to the full interview below to learn more about Jenny’s experience and perspective on the future of crypto.

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https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/soc079-jenny-shaver-coo-at-salt-lending-on-crypto-backed/id1384228965?i=1000447481690

SALT, Dash and Staking: SALT’s Rob Odell Interviewed by Dash News

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Recently we announced the support for Dash as collateral for loans, a feature we were excited to release given the demand from you along with the cryptocurrency’s potential to further financial inclusion around the globe.

Our VP of Product and Marketing, Rob Odell, recently spoke with Dash News about the platform, noting that $100,000 worth of Dash could secure a loan up to $70,000 — perfect for situations where you require cash but are reluctant to sell your cryptocurrency.

Rob qualifies the addition of Dash as “one of the most innovative inclusions that we’ve worked on since the launch of the platform.” We’ve integrated it in such a way that, while custody of the Dash itself is delegated to our platform, you retain the masternode rights so you can continue to earn payouts and voting rights from staking. With comprehensive insurance and the benefit of not commingling assets, this further ensures that SALT can provide you with highly secure storage options — something that may be more convenient and less risky than taking custody into your own hands.

This ability for you to maintain your masternode status, while utilizing your assets as collateral is an industry-first, and Rob dives into this further with Joël.

Listen to the full interview for more details and follow these step-by-step instructions to custody or borrow against your Dash with us and still run your masternode.