Crypto Liquidity aggregators in need for institutional trading

liquidity

Liquidity is one of the main attributes of an asset class that deserves an allocation in a retail or institutional portfolio. Clashing indicators that measure liquidity especially for over-the-counter financial assets, are nothing new. Corporate bonds or stock options, for example, are largely traded over the counter; liquidity fluctuates and measures are more than one (e,g, issue size, bid-ask spread, trading block size, price impact from trade, etc).

Naturally, the emerging crypto asset class cannot escape the liquidity conundrum. With this year’s increase in the overall market capitalization and with more than 5,000 tokens now issued on the blockchain ecosystem; we start paying attention. We have already witnessed the first flash crashes on exchanges, like GDAX run by Coinbase, simply because a large order came in that resulted in wild price swings.

On June 21st, 2017 around noon EST: “Within seconds the price of ETH crashed from ~$320 to as low as $0.10. While the price recovered quickly, the rapid price movement caused many traders to experience margin calls or stop loss orders, resulting in potentially severe losses.” Source; Coinbase is reimbursing losses caused by the Ethereum flash crash

 This recent flash crash was caused by a multimillion dollar sell order ETH/USD. Given the crowded pipeline of crypto-hedge funds (see more details in Shapes and colors of the booming US crypto hedge fund space) we expect an increased need for liquidity providers in the crypto asset class. Add on to this, the additional emerging appetite from asset managers (fund managers, family offices, pension funds, governments etc) there is a pressing need to create liquidity pools for institutional trading of cryptos.

I see a significant risk for the crypto asset class because there are too many startups building software and apps to facilitate the evolution of the crypto market, but there won’t be enough liquidity to accommodate the users of these technologies (especially for institutional appetite) once they grow out of the MVP-beta phase. I am worried even more because this pipeline of technology is also congested and we will be flooded with such tech-tools in the next 3-4 quarters.

Crypto Liquidity aggregators in need. The race is on!

Who’s who in the crypto liquidity aggregation space at the institutional level

 To trade large quantities of crypto assets, there are few established businesses:

Cumberland is a US mining company offering two-way markets for institutional size transactions (probably the largest). Genesis Trading and Itbit is based out of NY; Circle Financial, out of Boston (the money transfer company); and Gemini Exchange (the Winklevoss Brothers). Bitcoin Suisse from CryptoValley Switzerland.

The biggest problem institutional clients face is that each exchange operates in isolation and has its own cumbersome agreement requirements.

There is a pipeline to address the problems around the liquidity for crypto-assets, that really needs to be filled up. I have identified the upcoming platform, code-named “Project Omni,” that is being designed to serve as “the first large-scale institutional infrastructure specifically targeted towards crypto assets” from an ex-State Street executive.  The B2Broker who is building liquidity and brokerage software for the crypto space; a broker and a B2B liquidity enabler with a business focus towards the East (from the Arab world all the way to Japan).

Who else did I miss, operating in the crypto institutional space?

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Efi Pylarinou is a Fintech thought-leader, consultant and investor. 

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.

Shapes and colors of the booming US crypto hedge fund space

hedge fund

At the end of March, I covered Polychain Capital which caught my attention since Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures funded them with $10million. In Polychain Capital: A hedge fund investing at the Protocol layer of Web 3.0, I started with the motto: “Today is the slowest day of the rest of our lives”, and just 4 months later Polychain Capital is proof of accelerated growth. They have already accumulated already $200mil in assets under management.

Over the past year, despite the stricter regulatory pre-positioning towards the crypto world (digital “currencies” or “assets” and tokens) in the US, the growth of dedicated hedge funds aiming to capture the boom is stunning. In early July Forbes reported Crypto Boom: 15 New Hedge Funds Want In On 84,000% Returns

“43 projects raised $1.2 billion in initial coin offerings since May 1, according to Nick Tomaino’s The Control, and with stratospheric returns for so many ICOs — 82,000% for Ethereum, 56,000% for IOTA, 44,000% for Stratis, 21,000% for Spectrecoin” excerpt from Forbes.

There is clearly a summer boom in investment vehicles that are only suitable for accredited investors in the US and are deployed a variety of strategies to gain exposure in the booming space.

“From July 1, 2016, the value of bitcoin rallied from $680 inch-close to the $3,000 mark in mid-June and is now trading around the $2,650 mark. This impressive 12-month rally caught the attention of institutional investors who want their piece of the pie in this new high-performing asset class.” excerpt from “How Big Money Investors Will Boost the Price of Bitcoin

There are some investment vehciles taking the buy-and-hold Buffet style approach, that end up in retirement accounts. There are others that are closer to the approach of futures and commodities trading, and could end up in the “alternative” allocation of HNW portfolios, since the 90s alternatives can’t promise anything close to the spectacular returns of the crypto asset class.

There is a mesh of digital currencies of sorts of capitalizations and of tokens of all kinds (utility, or equity or hybrid). And more recently, there are investment companies that are issuing or plan to issue their own token (ICO) that gives exposure and liquidity to various of their fund vehicles.

This is my categorization of the US crypto hedge fund space right now. If I have missed any hedge fund and if the strategy changes in the future, please let us know in the commentary below.

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US crypto hedge fund space – more details

Mestable Capital was founded by Lucas Ryan, Josh Seims and Naval Ravikant, the chief executive officer and cofounder of Angel List, in late 2014 and has $45 million in assets under management.

Crypto Assets Fund (CAF) invests in bitcoinetherzcash, ripple, litecoin and dash. It is the first fund focused on Latin American family offices and is co-founded by former senior manager at Bain, Roberto Ponce Romay. The first tranche has raised $10mil and aims to grow to $50m.

The BKCM Digital Asset Fund is an investment fund for institutional clients that so far has invested in bitcoin, ethereum, litecoin, ripple and Zcash, among others. It strategy is hybrid: Buy-and-hold for about 50% of the tokens, ICOs for 20% and actively managed for the remaining. Investments consist of foundational protocol tokens such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, currencies such as Litecoin, XRP, Zcash and Stellar, plus tokens such as Golem Network Tokens (GNT), Augur’s REP and Siacoin.

Alphabit is a Cayman Islands-based fund with $13 million AUM aiming to raise $300 million and also offer an ICO. Its uses a mix of manual trading, algorithmic trading, and ICO investing. It has so far invested in Ethereum, Ark, Ethereum Classic and PeerCoin, as well as ICOs MetalPay, Blocktix, Matchpool, Aeternity, and Skycoin.

Blockchain Capital is a unique case because it is the first VC that in 2013 started investing on blockchain companies, like Bitnet (sold to Rakuten) and Coinsetter (sold to Kraken). This spring, they raised a third round ($50mil) to invest not only in blockchain startups but also tokens. Then they tokenized $10 mil of this fund, selling BCAP tokens to the public (but only accredited investors in the U.S.).

Auryn Capital will launch this month with a $12.5 million. It will be the holding company for a crypto hedge fund that is actively managed with a mix of technical and fundamental strategies. It will also launch a decentralized exchange, and ICO incubator, and token called Karma (to launch this September).

SuperBloom launched in July with both a $10 million hedge/venture fund as well as an accelerator/investment bank. SuperBloom plans to hold a $30 million pre-ICO crowdsale for the Seed token this month for both accredited and non-accredited investors to fund its accelerator companies. Seed holders can exchange the token for an individual company’s pre-sale token for a 20% discount.

The BlockTower Capital fund, will also launch this month with about $50 million, and uses a mix of strategies: Event trading; new coin listings; “activist” investing in smaller cryptocurrencies and helping them gain traction with developers and on exchanges; and invest in themes such as decentralized file storage.

Coinshares 1 LP is the 2nd fund that Masters’ Global Advisors launched in June with $5 mil. In AUM. It is a Jersey-based fund investing in protocol tokens like Ether, Tezos and EOS. Its first company investment will be in decentralized ticketing platform, Aventus.

Pollinate Capital is a new hedge fund with more than $100mil committed for actively trading digital assets with strategies similar to Long/Short quantitative trading of futures and commodities trading.

Pantera Capital is launching a new hedge fund, Pantera ICO fund, focused on investments solely in tokens that power public blockchain protocols. Pantera was the first US Bitcoin investment firm in 2013.

The founders of Koalah, a mobile app in which players can bet on the outcome of games using bitcoin, launched in July Grasshopper Capital an actively managed cryptofund with $25mil. They are using a mix of fundamentals, event-driven arbitrage trading and algorithmic trading. The fund has so far invested in Ether, Civic, Bitcoin, Singles and Storj.

Efi Pylarinou is a Fintech thought-leader, strategic consultant and investor. 

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.

The Big Hairy Audacious Goal of Numerai: network effects in Quant trading

It was Jordan Hauer, CEO of Amass Insights , who introduced Numerai to the Fintech Genome community, earlier this year in a conversation thread around AI in wealth Management.Screen Shot 2017-06-05 at 07.33.56

What is the mission of Numerai?

Numerai wants to crowdsource quant models from Data scientists that develop better ways of trading financial securities. Numerai is creating a meta-model from all the Machine Learning (ML) algorithms developed by “the crowd” with cryptographic data.

Numerai aims to offer a platform that generates alpha in a novel way. It wants to structure a rewarding mechanism for its traders that not only eliminates the typical competitive and adversarial behavior between them but actually, penalizes them.

How Numerai works?

Numerai hosted 12,000 data scientists earlier this year in a tournament. The data used for the predictive models, was encrypted. The participants were anonymous and the aim was to provide ML algorithms that improve Numerai’s investment calculations.

Numerai was initially compensating data scientists with Bitcoin, based on their contribution to the performance of the meta-model. They have now, changed their reward mechanism in order to create a collaborative reward mechanism. Their Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) is to be the first use case of creating network effects in finance.

Imagine a world in which proprietary data is not the secret weapon, profitable traders are not adversarial and competitive, and there is a financial incentive mechanism that makes traders collaborate to create an even better trading algorithm.

This the BHAG of Numerai: a blockchain world that can solve the classic prisoner’s dilemma by creating a cryptocurrency that is structured in a way that incentivizes “the prisoners” to keep each other out of jail.

This is exactly the aim of the new cryptocurrency that Numerai recently issued, the Numeraire token issued over the Ethereum blockchain. Each participating data scientist receives some Numeraire tokens based on their historical performance. At this point, the new world that Numerai is designing starts.

Numerai introduces a staking mechanism that is the heart of their BHAG!

The data scientist with send his Numeraires to the Ethereum smart contract along with a confidence prediction. Now the predictive model is live and the data scientist will be rewarded based on actual (not historical) performance and his/her confidence prediction. If the predictive power is poor, his/her Numeraire token is permanently destroyed by the smart contract.

As a result, data scientists can only gain by building models that perform well on live data, and stand to lose on models that overfit the past. Their compensation is denominated in Numeraire, which is linked to all the stake payouts which will increase over time.

How is Numerai different?

A data scientist who is getting compensated in Numeraire, has an incentive to invite another data scientist to participate in a tournament, who has the potential to improve the network. This is the collaborative mechanism at work, even though the process is anonymous and decentralized. This is Numerai’s BHAG part 1, which if successful it could become the first business model in finance with network effects.

Numerai’s BHAG part 2, is creating a mechanism of true alpha generation by crowdsourcing algorithms based on actual performance not back testing. Numerai’s target audience is data scientists who can master non-contextual data sets.

Numerai is unique also because they introduced their token, Numeraire, in their already existing platform, without launching an ICO! Numerai has control over the issuance of their tokens and has the right to introduce new features of the token. In their first tournament, Numerai paid out 1 million tokens; the maximum supply is 21 mil Numeraires.

Numerai is backed by Fred Ehrsam, Joey Krug, Juan Benet, Olaf Carlson-Wee and Union Square Ventures. Watch their intro video about their BHAG with Numerai investors Andy Weissman and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures; Joey Krug of Augur and Juan Benet of IPFS and Filecoin.

Efi Pylarinou is a Fintech thought-leader, consultant and investor. 

Get fresh daily insights from an amazing team of Fintech thought leaders around the world. Ride the Fintech wave by reading us daily in your email.

2017 Tech, Strategic, and Investment trends in WealthTech

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Watson helped me write this post. I fed him all Daily Fintech posts from last year and all the conversations on the Fintech Genome and gave him access to all my Tweets, Quote Tweets and Replies (he said he couldn’t access my Linkedin interactions; are they gated?).

Paolo Sironi and Susan Visser, would welcome such a use-case of Watson’s capabilities; but for now it is only in my dreams that this happened which I dare to share with you today since it is “Charles Dickens season”. I don’t qualify as poor in the conventional social understanding but I am poor in cognitive tech resources for my Fintech thought leadership.

Last year in December we issued a Warning (just before the traditional year-end predictions)

The truncated message from the myth of Icarus, is that it is dangerous to fly high; but the forgotten message is more important for Wealth management: “It is equally dangerous to fly low”.

It is Not Safe anymore to continue “business as usual”. This is a Warning.

The warning is still very valid and the only clarification I’d like to add is that when we talk about “Wealth Management” don’t just think we are referring to services offered to mid to higher end clientele. This category extends to any level of “wealth creation” that can be derived from small amounts of conventional currency savings, or a low digital credit score. It also encompasses the Capital Markets infrastructure and the regulatory environment which sets the rules of the game of wealth creation at a wholesale level.

End-users continue to push the transformation boundaries. Fintech startups, incumbent institutions in financial services, Financial software vendors, Telcos, and Cloud service providers, are responding to this unstoppable trend. The old adage “If it aint broke, don’t fix it” isn’t anymore valid. The Icarus warning “It is equally dangerous to fly low” encapsulates the reality of our era that is breathing down our neck “Danger to become obsolete”.

For our smartphone readers, I am confining myself to an outline of themes in Wealth Management and Capital Markets for 2017:

The 2017 technology-led trends

  • AI and ML will be the technology that will be “a must have” shifting from “nice to have” and “transactional only”. AL and ML will be leading the movement towards Invisible and Contextual wealth management services. For those that have been investing in AI for many years and have yet to be compensated for being early; 2017 will provide them with great signs of relief. This era will be the AI& ML Walk and Talk starting 2017.
  • The macro environment will continue to be challenging and will result in a genuine shift in wealth creation. For years, it has been Buffet vs. Soros (fundamental vs. macro) and passive vs. active. 2017 will be the year that we will increasingly entrust wealth creation to AI & ML guided processes (mostly actively managing passive financial products (like ETFs) and customization towards goal-base investing).
  • 2017 will be the year that it becomes clear that an API offering will leapfrog a White Label offering. For those that have both and are agile, it will be work out very well.
  • 2017 will be the year that the ISDA agreements in the Swap market give way to Smart contracts.
  • There will be more digital wallets opened in 2017, than any other adaptation of a Fintech service (payment service, digital bank account, robo-advisor etc). Looking at new financial assets for 2017, there are two possibilities to consider. The P2P loans as part of our fixed income allocation and cryptocurrencies as part of either our FX exposure or to include in the commodities allocation or the inflation protection risk buckets. Both have significant regulatory hurdles to face, however, the rate of adaptation of these new assets (not yet recognized as such) will favor significantly cryptocurrencies. P2P loans as an new asset class will not gain significant traction in 2017.

The 2017 strategic trends

  • We will be seeing more of the “Sell-side empowers the Buy-side” shifts mainly out of the US.
  • We will be seeing more cross-selling innovations in wealth creation launched by the incumbents and partnerships of Fitnechs; the US and China will lead.
  • The Transparency movement in wealth management will pick up speed. 2017 will be about Transparency rather than Disintermediation, which became “out of vogue” already in 2016 with more collaboration between startups and incumbents than genuine disruptive moves.
  • 2017 will be the year that IBM, Microsoft, Amazon etc, the Big cloud computing providers will no longer be the Gorillas on the Fintech stage that go unnoticed.
  • 2017 will be the year that Asset managers wake-up and shift from asset-gathering mode and the traditional way of managing the entire investment cycle process. From all parts of the ecosystem they have been by far the laggards. Brokers have been the leaders on the transformation highway.
  • 2017 will also be the year that private bankers and independent Financial advisors are brought further up to speed. The incumbents for which private bankers work for and the affiliated incumbents that the IFAs collaborate with (for custody or execution etc) will empower them.
  • European regulators will continue to lead. PSD2 will influence all other continent regulatory thinking. The FCA will focus more on international collaborations. The Global Innovate Finance summit will become more of a genuine global summit.

The 2017 investment trends

In this part, I share my predictions and also pose a few questions (I don’t have the answers on their timing) because they are important considerations to keep in mind.

  • Alternative wealth creation in 2017 will only refer to what Secco bank is aiming at (i.e. create wealth from digital assets like reputation and monetizing our own data) and cryptocurrency investing.
  • In 2017 I will be writing more about emerging cryptocurrencies investment managers rather than Vanguard, Betterment, and Fidelity and their investment performance. In 2016, we only watched cryptocurrency exchanges and brokers.
  • The cash piles that are sitting around the world wont be reduced significantly in 2017, simply because those chasing them (from Fintechs to incumbents) are in their second phase of innovation and users (like myself) still have to consider three dozen apps to cover all financial needs from Fintechs.
  • The ICO unstoppable trend will continue but will remain predominantly for blockchain related ventures. In 2016, the first steps in shedding light in the very opaque private markets were taken (Title III in the US, ICOs, Stock exchange innovations for private companies to prepare their IPO). This trend will be slow in penetration but will continue with the East joining.
  • Will 2017 be the year for the huge market opportunity of Chinese robo-advisors to create and offer an investment portfolio that can truly match the risk profile and goals of the Asian end-users; rather than being constrained from the very limited local investment pallet?
  • Will 2017 be the year that we all start considering investments in the Goldmans’ or the Alibabas’ because of their strides in Fintech innovation? This I foresee, is two years down the road.

Have a great holiday, for all our readers taking a digital break starting this week.

Daily Fintech Advisers provides strategic consulting to organizations with business and investment interests in Fintech & operates the Fintech Genome P2P Knowledge Network. Efi Pylarinou is a Digital Wealth Management thought leader.