Inflation and deflation are common economic terms that can be a bit confusing. They aren’t always addressed in school, but they affect our lives in so many ways. While the causes and consequences of inflation and deflation can be complicated, their definitions are surprisingly simple. Here is what you should know about these two terms and their role in a greater economy.
What is inflation?
In the simplest terms, inflation occurs when the price of goods and services goes up over time. It can happen slowly, over decades, or with sudden and devastating effects. Not every economist agrees on the reasons for slow, gradual inflation. It’s often tied to factors like market demand or the availability of certain goods and services.
Inflation in action
A current example is the inflated price of backyard swimming pools, pool filters, and pool maintenance supplies. With COVID-19 precautions closing many local swimming pools, more people than ever decided to put up backyard pools this summer. This increase in demand forced the price of pools and supplies up; another factor was the scarcity of some pool supplies since they have traditionally been manufactured in countries that slowed or shut down production due to COVID. The combination of increased demand with a short supply led to a deep inflation in the cost of these goods.
There’s more to the story, however. When both the cost of goods goes up, and the value of the local fiat goes down, it’s often referred to as “hyper-inflation,” especially when both happen in a short time frame. Unlike standard inflation, which experts aren’t always able to attribute directly to a source, economists tend to agree on the cause of hyperinflation.
The most common cause is a sudden and excessive growth of a country’s money supply. How does this happen? The Fed usually plays a role in making more money available in a strangled economy. Additionally, it’s not uncommon for governments to step in and tinker with interest rates or offer economic cash infusions (stimulus payments) in an attempt to stop the financial bleed that frequently happens with long periods of hyperinflation. Unfortunately, the bandaids for hyperinflation can often make problems worse.
How can you know if we’re in a period of inflation or hyper-inflation?
While the Fed aims for a rate of 2–3% per year inflation, this isn’t always manageable. Venezuela, for example, has seen inflation rates of 200,000% in a single year, an obvious sign of hyperinflation. It doesn’t have to be that severe to be counted, however; experts define anything above a 50% annual inflation rate to be a form of hyperinflation.
What is deflation?
The exact opposite of inflation, deflation, is the decrease in the cost of goods and services. It is usually accompanied by an increase in the value of the fiat. While some see this as a pleasant situation, deflation can be difficult for lenders who rely on climbing interest rates to make money on the cash they lend. Too much deflation or inflation can hurt essential industries. It can also harm consumer confidence over time, as people can get used to seeing prices go lower and actually hold on to their money waiting for the absolute best price. This can further aggravate the deflation cycle, something we saw during the Recession of 2008.
Remember, the role of government, unemployment, natural disasters, and technological advances can impact the cost of products we buy. Further, in the U.S., inflation doesn’t always happen across the board; consumer categories such as food and housing may see inflation over time, while items like electronics or clothing may see deflation during the same period. While consumers can’t always do much to affect inflation or deflation, we can better prepare our investment portfolios to secure our individual economic futures.
When your Loan-to-Value ratio (LTV) exceeds 90.91%, we stabilize your loan by converting all of your volatile assets into stablecoin (USDC).
At this point, you will notice that your USDC wallet reflects the total US Dollar value of your combined portfolio. Each collateral wallet balance will show $0. Don’t panic!
How Do I Convert Back to My Original Assets?
To get your original assets back, you will need to manage your LTV and restore the health of your loan to a safe state (83.33% LTV or lower). To do this, follow these steps.
Navigate to the Loan Status page or click “Manage LTV” in the notification module on the dashboard.
2. Manage your LTV by either depositing more crypto or making a one-time payment in the Manage LTV Module.
3. We recommend curing your LTV to a healthy state (<70%), but as long as you have managed it to 83.3% or below, you will be eligible to convert.
4. Navigate back to the Loan Status Page. You will see that your LTV has dropped, but you are still being held in Stabilization Mode.
5. In the Manage LTV module, you will notice that you are now eligible to convert. Click “Convert Now” to convert back to your original assets or to a mix of any assets we accept as collateral.
6. The convert tool will default to the percentages of your original collateral mix. You may edit this and convert back to a different collateral mix if you’d like.
7. Click “Next” to review the details of your conversion and then click “Convert Now” to confirm. Once confirmed, you will have successfully reverted back to your asset mix of choice.
Still have questions about stabilization?
Please call our support team at +1 (720) 575–2272.
Legal Notice: Please be sure to review your Loan Agreement for additional information. The liquidation or conversion of pledged assets could result in adverse tax consequences. You should consult your tax advisor in order to fully understand the implications associated with pledging digital assets as loan collateral. Notwithstanding a general policy of giving you notice of margin deficiency, we are not obligated to do so. We may convert or liquidate pledged assets in your account without notice to you to ensure that minimum maintenance requirements are satisfied. If Salt Lending sells or converts some or all of your assets, such transactions made on your pledged collateral assets are accepted or rejected in Salt Lending’s sole discretion and may be at prices higher or lower than your initial acquisition cost. In the event of a liquidation or conversion, Salt Lending may choose to sell some or all of your assets to an affiliate of Salt Lending at applicable market rates.
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.”
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/).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From business closures to event cancellations and stay-at-home orders, the coronavirus pandemic has had its way with the United States. Millions are unemployed, and millions of small businesses struggle to stay afloat in the punishing economic downturn.
The Federal Reserve, or “the Fed,” has been making headlines as it tries to limit the pandemic’s economic damage, including by lending $2.3 trillion that the government called for in its relief package, dubbed the CARES Act. This action has left many Americans wondering where the Fed got so much money, what the Federal Reserve can and can’t do, and what power the Fed has over our nation’s economy.
What Is the Federal Reserve, anyway?
It’s essential to define what the Fed is to understand its role in our economy. The Federal Reserve is America’s central banking system. Before the Federal Reserve, people panicked their bank would fail when a neighboring one closed its doors. Hordes of customers would run to withdraw their money, ultimately causing those banks to go belly up, too.
After a particularly terrible panic in 1907, Congress stepped in to create the Federal Reserve in 1913 through the Federal Reserve Act. The initial goal was to avoid these bank runs and provide banks with emergency funding. But today, the Federal Reserve System takes other measures to ensure the health and stability of the economy and a secure banking system.
How does the federal reserve work?
The Federal Reserve Act created a decentralized bank that functions without government financing or approval but still protects both public and private interests as a mixed organization.
It has three key entities:
1. Board of Governors
At the heart of the Fed is the Board of Governors, made up of seven officials appointed by the government and confirmed by the Senate. It acts as an independent federal agency, and its job is to direct the monetary policy — the money supply and interest rates. Its goal is to make sure we maintain a stable economy.
2. Reserve Banks
There are 12 Federal Reserve Banks spread throughout the U.S., each one having nine directors. Six directors are elected by commercial banks and three by the Board of Governors, protecting interests from both parties.
Reserve Banks are structured similarly to private corporations. They oversee member banks and carry out the monetary policy in their region. Reserve Banks act independently, but the Board of Governors supervises their actions.
These banks also have other vital roles like distributing currency to other banks, placing money into circulation, acting as a bank and fiscal agent for the U.S. government, and providing critical information about their local, national, and international economies to the Federal Open Market Committee.
3. Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC):
The FOMC is a committee comprising the Board of Governors, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York President, and four members from the other 11 Reserve Banks, who serve for one-year terms.
The FOMC’s primary role is to determine whether the Federal Reserve should buy or sell government bonds, known as Open Market Operations (OMO), to maintain the economy’s stability. It also establishes a target federal funds rate, which is the interest rate banks charge one another for overnight loans.
Where does the Federal Reserve fit into the government?
The role of the Federal Reserve within the government can seem confusing since it has public and private aspects. The Fed is accountable both to Congress and the public and maintains transparency in all its operations.
Ultimately, the Fed is a product of the government because it was created by an act of Congress, which still oversees the whole system and can amend the Federal Reserve Act at any time.
But Congress created the Fed to work autonomously and to be shielded from political pressures by using a privatized structure for the Reserve Banks. It also keeps a hands-off approach by letting the three entities carry out their core responsibilities independently of the federal government.
Can anyone override Federal Reserve decisions?
There isn’t a formal legal power that can supersede the Fed’s monetary policy decisions. Still, the Federal Reserve Act allows the Treasury to “supervise and control” the Fed where jurisdictions overlap.
But the Treasury hasn’t needed to do this because a system of checks and balances keeps the Fed’s operations transparent and answerable to the public and Congress. Just because the Fed can influence the economy, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to follow the rules.
Independent public accounting firms audit Reserve Banks annually. The Board of Governors also gets audited by its Office of Inspector General and an outside auditor. The Board of Governors annually publishes the results on its website.
The House of Representatives and the Senate hold the Fed accountable by requiring it to report twice a year on its monetary policy and economic decisions. Fed officials also deliver speeches throughout the year to the public so that everyone understands the reasoning for its decisions and actions.
Does the Federal Reserve print money?
If you’re a Bitcoiner, or you spend a decent amount of time on Twitter, you’ve most likely seen the “money printer go brrrr” meme that went viral in March of this year. It cropped up in response to the Fed’s announcement on March 12, 2020, that it would offer $1.5 trillion in short-term loans to banks to help combat “unusual disruptions” in financial markets as a result of the coronavirus. The meme, while more of a social commentary than an accurate depiction of the Fed’s responsibilities, expresses frustration regarding the government’s role in inflation and the devaluation of the US Dollar — as evidenced by the meme’s numerous likes and shares, many Americans share this same sense of frustration. While the meme is accurate in many ways, it unintentionally brings to light the common misconception that the Fed prints money. In reality, printing money is the responsibility of the U.S. Treasury. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing prints paper currency, while the U.S. Mint makes coins. The Treasury oversees both offices.
While it doesn’t print money in the literal sense, the Fed does buy cash as needed from the Bureau at cost to put into circulation, but the monetary base in circulation and at central banks typically stays the same.
The Fed manages the money supply by creating and destroying money. It swaps old, ragged bills for fresh ones or adds and deducts from digital balances. But it also manipulates the amount of money in circulation. The FOMC decides on whether to add or remove cash from the economy by buying or selling government bonds and other securities. This influences the amount banks will lend out and keep on deposit, which then affects interest rates.
That being said, where the misconception holds some truth is in the way the Fed puts more money into circulation; the Fed can’t print money, but it does have the power to essentially create money out of thin air. As a banker’s bank, it does so by making “large asset purchases on the open market and adding newly created electronic dollars to the reserves of banks.” In exchange, the Fed receives large amounts of bonds including US Treasury securities, mortgage‐backed securities, corporate debt and other assets. Rather than paying for these bonds in cash or gold bars, the Fed instead credits the account of the bank selling the bonds so that digital money moves from one place into the other.
The process is like taking out a personal loan of $10,000 at the bank. The bank doesn’t give you a suitcase full of cash. What you get is a credit that shows up as some numbers on a screen, reflecting your new account balance.
Because the Fed operates digitally, it can create money with a few keystrokes and use it to purchase assets or lend money. On a televised interview with “60 Minutes,” Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said, “To lend to a bank, we simply use the computer to mark up the size of the account they have with the Fed. So it’s much more akin, although not exactly the same . . . to printing money, than it is to borrowing.”
The Fed did this when it promised to lend Americans $2.3trillion, as called for in the CARES Act for economic relief and stability across the nation for those who were struggling because of the pandemic.
What can the Federal Reserve do or not do?
If the Fed can make money but not print it, what other actions is it able to take or is prohibited from taking?
What can the Federal Reserve do?
The Fed is an emergency lender for banks in financial distress, so it can lend money to failing banks to keep them afloat. But the Fed’s core responsibility is to manage the money supply, which has far-reaching effects on regulating the financial market.
It’s permitted to use four main tricks to change the amount of money in the economy:
1. Changing the reserve requirement
The Fed dictates what percent of deposits banks have to keep on hold. It usually ranges from zero to 10 percent and is currently set at zero because of COVID-19. The more banks have to keep on reserve, the less there is to go out into the market.
2. Changing interest rates on reserves
The Fed pays commercial banks interest rates on their required and excess reserves, a rule that went into effect in 2008. When the Federal Reserve wants to speed up the economy, it lowers the interest rate so that banks have less of an incentive to hold on to money.
3. Changing the discount rate
The Fed encourages and discourages banks from borrowing money from it by raising or lowering its lending interest rates. When the discount rate is low, banks borrow more to lend to each other and the public.
4. Conducting open market operations
The FOMC decides how many bonds to buy or sell. When it wants more money in the market, it buys these bonds from banks to put more money into their account. When it wants to slow down the economy, it sells the bonds to take away bank money.
This is the Fed’s most common tactic to influence the economy. For example, from 2008 to 2009, it bought over a trillion dollars of government bonds to inject money into the stumbling financial market. This lowered interest rates on short-term loans to almost zero percent.
But the recession went too deep. So, the Fed did something it hadn’t done before. It started buying long-term assets from banks in a process that’s known as quantitative easing (QE), boosting the money supply further and stimulating lending and investment.
What can’t the Federal Reserve do?
The Fed can only indirectly influence the nation’s economy. This means it does not have the power to take any of the following actions:
Set the federal funds rate
The federal funds rate is the amount of interest banks charge to lend their excess cash reserves overnight to each other. Banks frequently do this to meet the Fed’s reserve requirement.
While the Fed can’t set this number directly, the FOMC sets a target federal funds rate depending on what direction it wants the economy to go. Then, it works within what it’s permitted to do to influence banks and reach the benchmark rate.
Set the prime rate
Banks use the prime interest rate for commercial and consumer borrowing for things like credit cards and personal, car, and home equity loans. Banks often set the prime rate based on the Fed’s target federal funds rate.
Hike up mortgage and student loan rates
Mortgages and student loans are long-term assets whose rates are determined more by market-driven factors than FOMC decisions.
That said, the Fed purchased mortgage-backed securities to lower long-term rates on mortgages in 2008 so that banks wouldn’t need to borrow from each other to meet the reserve requirement. But these actions still affect federal funds rates significantly more than mortgage and student loan interest rates.
Use taxpayer money to fund its operations
The Fed doesn’t get any funding from taxpayers because its money comes from interest accruals on government securities and treasuries purchased through its OMO. There are other sources, too, such as foreign currency investments. After paying its expenses, the Fed turns any extra money over to the U.S. Treasury because it’s not operated for profit.
What’s the potential impact of the Federal Reserve’s powers on the economy?
Although the Fed can only work behind the scenes to stabilize the economy, it exerts a massive influence on its operations.
For example, the Fed can speed up or ease the economy by manipulating the money supply to increase or decrease consumer spending. It starts by influencing bank lending rates through selling and buying government bonds.
When banks have more excess reserves, there’s more to lend to the public, so interest rates are lower. Lower interest rates encourage people to borrow money, which is then spent on goods and services. More consumer spending generally means a better economy, while “even a small downturn in consumer spending damages the economy” and can even lead to a recession. Below is how the Fed’s actions impact specific aspects of the economy.
The Fed uses a trickle-down effect to influence interest rates. Remember, they can’t set federal funds or prime interest rates, but they can bend them to their will through OMO.
The Fed buying back government bonds from banks leaves more money for banks to play with while selling them means banks have to be more cautious about lending out their reserves. The economics of supply and demand shows excess cash in the market will drive down the interest rates banks charge to each other and the public, while a lack of money has the opposite effect.
The Fed also raises or lowers the discount rate and reserve requirements to change the interest rates commercial banks ultimately offer customers.
Inflation and deflation
When federal funds rates drop because of the Fed’s actions, prime rates usually drop with them. Consumers then borrow money for business and personal purposes to take advantage of lower interest rates. With greater amounts of money in their pockets, people spend more on goods and services, creating a spike in demand.
The larger demand pushes wages and costs higher to meet the production necessary to keep up with supply, causing a ripple effect. Prices increase across sectors, leading to reduced purchasing power. This is inflation and explains why a dollar today is worth less than a dollar last year.
Some annual inflation is good. It’s a sign the economy is doing well because consumers are spending. The Fed has a target core inflation rate of two percent. When inflation goes above or below the benchmark amount, the Fed steps in and works within its limits to move the needle toward inflation or deflation.
Although directing the U.S. monetary policy for the nation’s economic benefit is a crucial part of the Fed’s job, it also has foreign concerns.
Financial crises within our borders often have a global impact. The 2008 recession strained international markets because many countries have at least some assets and liabilities dominated by the dollar, causing them to sometimes borrow and lend in dollars.
To address the dollar scarcity, the Fed started swapping currencies with foreign economies in dire need of U.S. currency — over 583 billion dollars’ worth — at a predictable and fixed rate to keep struggling foreign banks afloat and prevent their economies from plummeting.
The Federal Reserve: A system of the People, by the People, and for the People?
The Federal Reserve’s power and influence over our economy leaves many asking if it’s an unconstitutional entity. Though Congress takes a laissez-faire approach to the Federal Reserve, the system teeters between public and private domains.
The effect of its present monetary policy decisions on the future economy could determine which direction future reform sways. It could also decide if the century-old institution modernizes into a structure more accurately reflecting the concerns and voice of the people, and one maintaining greater transparency while ensuring the long-term economic stability of the nation.
ICYMI: SALT Announces Justin English as Chief Executive Officer
In case you missed it, we recently announced that Justin English has been named chief executive officer at Salt Blockchain Inc., parent company to SALT Lending. Co-presidents Rob Odell and Dustin Hull, who have been working together for the past six months to fill the CEO role and onboard English, will remain co-presidents and will continue to support SALT in their respective roles as chief product officer and chief financial officer.
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. We are committed to hearing, learning from, and supporting our Black customers & communities in this fight for a more inclusive world.
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 moneylaundering, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
“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
Crypto Chat: Q&A with Dustin Hull, Co-President & CFO, SALT
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?
“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
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We at SALT want to take a moment to address the market volatility and global uncertainty stemming from COVID-19. We understand this level of uncertainty can be stressful and want to reaffirm that we’re taking the necessary steps to keep our employees and your assets safe.
Even as SALT employees have been asked to work from home for the foreseeable future, our support team will remain available 24/7. We’ve implemented our contingency plan for instances like this to ensure there will be no lapses in our customer service.
While we cannot predict what the market will do, we want to ensure you’re aware of the actions you can take NOW to protect your loan:
Deposit additional collateral — by depositing additional collateral now, you can lower your loan-to-value ratio (LTV) so that your loan and your collateral are better positioned to withstand a large dip in the market.
Add a stable cryptoasset — by adding stable assets like USDC, TUSD, or PAX or by adding gold-backed PAXG as collateral, you can offset market volatility and make your loan less susceptible to downward trends.
Make an additional payment — by paying down an additional amount on your loan, you can bring your LTV down to help reduce risk of liquidation.
Turn on notifications — if you have not already done so, we strongly encourage you to log into your account, go to your notification settings and turn on all notifications. Then log into your account via our mobile app to activate push notifications. This will help you stay up to date on the health of your loan in real time so that you can take immediate action as needed.
Taking any of the above steps will help protect your loan against market volatility. However, in the event of a severe market downturn like the one that took place on March 12, 2020, we want you to know your options for quickly restoring the health of your loan. Our blog post on what to expect when your collateral is on the decline offers additional details on how to manage your loan during a market downturn.*
*This content is meant to educate and inform but should not be taken as financial or investment advice. Trading and investing in cryptocurrencies (also called digital or virtual currencies, cryptoassets, altcoins and so on) involves substantial risk of loss and is not suitable for every investor.
Salt Lending LLC: Salt Master Fund II, LLC – NMLS 1711910
This website contains depictions that are a summary of the process for obtaining a loan and provided for illustrative purposes only. For example a one year $10,000 loan with a rate of 6.00% APR would have 12 scheduled monthly payments of $861. There is no down payment required. Annual percentage rates (APRs) through the website vary. The use or access of the website or platform does not guarantee the availability of any current and/or future offer, promotion, terms, loan, or return. Additional terms, conditions, requirements, suitability, and screenings, among other restrictions, may apply at the sole discretion of Salt. Salt Lending LLC’s loans are issued pursuant to private agreements. You should review the representations and warranties described in the loan agreement.
Available rates and terms are subject to change and may vary based on loan amount, qualifications, and collateral profile. Other terms, conditions, and restrictions may apply.
Individual US citizen borrowers must be a permanent resident and at least 18 years old (or local age of majority).
Valid bank account and social security number/FEIN are required. Borrowing against collateral entails risk and may not be appropriate for your needs. Not FDIC-insured; investments may lose value; no Salt or bank guarantee. Salt does not provide legal and/or tax advice. Please consult your advisor.