WILL ‘DECENTRALIZED FINANCE’ BE THE NEXT DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY? - Kanebridge News
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WILL ‘DECENTRALIZED FINANCE’ BE THE NEXT DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY?

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest Global Financial Stability Report highlights myriad risks for the global financial system.

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Fri, Jul 1, 2022 2:46pmGrey Clock 3 min

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) latest Global Financial Stability Report highlights myriad risks for the global financial system. They include the war in Ukraine, high debt, and soaring inflation.

But the report also warned about the impact of decentralized finance, or DeFi, an emerging set of financial services applications that are based on blockchain and other crypto technologies and don’t involve banks other traditional financial intermediaries

Citing possible systemic risk, the IMF wants governments to impose regulations because, the report says, DeFi results in the “buildup of leverage, and is particularly vulnerable to market, liquidity, and cyber risks.”

DeFi may not be a mainstream vehicle yet, but that doesn’t mean financial advisors don’t need to know about it.

What is DeFi?

It’s a kind of financial application that uses “smart contracts,” to operate on a blockchain platform, usually Ethereum. These software programs allow for fully automated, peer-to-peer financial transactions without intermediaries like banks or brokers, which generally means faster settlements of trades.

“With DeFi, users are able to perform most functions that a bank can,” says Jeremy Almond, founder and CEO of Paystand, a B2B payments platform. “This includes earning interest, borrowing, lending, buying insurance, trading derivatives, and trading assets.”

Supporters of DeFi say it offers the potential to democratize financial services for the unbanked. This is a key reason the Federal Reserve is looking at creating a digital currency.

The world currently has around 1.7 billion people who are unbanked, according to Yubo Ruan, founder and CEO of DeFi provider Parallel Finance. “Some of the reasons include a lack of government-issued IDs, problems with credit history, restrictive bank requirements, or a lack of banking infrastructure within a country.”

How easy is it to use?

It can actually be cumbersome. You need several applications to accomplish what may seem like routine transactions if done at a bank, and the jargon and concepts can get complicated.

“A combination of highly technical requirements, high fees, and confusing user interfaces are putting off potential users,” says Jackie Bona, CEO of Valora, a mobile crypto wallet. “This is making it difficult for people to get started in DeFi, scaring away those who need these apps the most.”

What are the risks?

According to Archie Ravishankar, CEO and founder of mobile banking app Cogni: “Regular consumers in this space lack the regulatory protections they’re accustomed to in traditional finance.” So if you lose money, you have no consumer protection, such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. True, you could bring a lawsuit, but the target DeFi organization may be an offshore entity.

Another issue is volatility. Just look at so-called stablecoins such as Luna. Within a week, its value plunged from $80 to virtually zero, tantamount to a run on the bank.

So should financial advisors suggest clients avoid these applications?

Generally, the answer is yes. DeFi is an emerging category of finance and it can be difficult to perform due diligence on new and decentralized technologies. Even those applications that are backed by venture capitalists have seen breaches.

When it comes to clients, DeFi is for those that have a high tolerance for risk. And if they are interested in investing, they should allocate a small part of their portfolio to it.

Can DeFi disrupt traditional financial services?

Even if it takes only a relatively small portion of the global market, the impact would be substantial.

“DeFi certainly has the potential to disrupt traditional finance across the board, and in some ways it already has—on a small scale so far,” says Liam Kelly, Europe news editor for Decrypt, a cryptocurrency news site. But he adds, “a lot of this hinges on breakthroughs in scalability and cutting reasonable lines between things like centralization and decentralization or opaqueness and transparency. Another possibility is that these technologies simply get absorbed by financial institutions to a point where to the consumer, nothing has changed at your brokerage account, except now on the back end it’s running on Ethereum or another blockchain network.”



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Milestone birthdays and anniversaries, weddings, and graduations are momentous life occasions that some like to mark with large and elaborate celebrations.

And the deep-pocketed set are still in catch-up mode after a party-throwing standstill during the pandemic that went on for many months during the height of the lockdowns and social distancing. Bashes since then have become ever more extravagant and experiential—mere get-togethers, they’re not.

Hosts are also seeking any excuse to throw an event and having parties with the same “wow” factor for far less significant reasons, or for micro-occasions as they’re called, and even “just because,” according to luxury event planners who work with this elite set.

Colin Cowie, a planner based in New York and Miami who regularly orchestrates multimillion-dollar gatherings and was behind Jennifer Lopez’s and Ben Affleck’s wedding, calls it the “event revolution.”

“Large-scale events have become the norm,” Cowie says. “The wealthy, who are used to celebrating their life moments in a big way couldn’t do anything during the pandemic and are now going all out for anything they host.”

His company, Colin Cowie Lifestyle, plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid and has a lineup booked for the next two years. An example includes an upcoming million-dollar dinner party in the Hamptons simply to socialise with friends. It’s an affair with free-flowing Dom Perignon, centre-cut filet mignons, and unlimited caviar.

Colin Cowie Lifestyle plans 30% more events today than pre-Covid
Calen Rose

Other high-end planners also attribute the rise of over-the-top celebrations to a “live life to the fullest” attitude that’s become prevalent in the last few years. But they say that these parties aren’t necessarily about spending more than before—rather, they’re increasingly creative, thoughtful, and, with respect to weddings, longer.

Lynn Easton, a Charleston-based planner, says that her typical wedding used to span two days and entailed a rehearsal dinner plus the wedding itself. “Now, it’s a five-day bonanza with events like a groomsman lunch,” Easton says.

Easton also plans glitzy milestone birthdays such as one for a 60th where the host flew 60 friends and family to a private island. Dinners were multi-hour affairs in various locations around the isle with the showpiece being a five-course meal where the food was presented on dishes that were hand-carved in ice.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, based in New York and Miami, says that, in a new precedent, the weddings she’s tapped to design kick off with striking welcome meals. She recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden. Elements included potted herbs, lemon trees, vintage olive oil cans, ceramic plates, and table cards presented with palm leaves in limoncello cans.

Another planner, Victoria Dubin, recently planned an al fresco rehearsal dinner at the Brooklyn pizzeria Roberta’s that recreated a Tuscan garden.
Aletiza Photo

Pashmina shawls hung from chairs to keep guests warm, and freshly baked pizzas and Aperol spritzes were in ready supply throughout the evening.

Stacy Teckin, the groom’s mother, hosted the party with her husband, Ian, and says she sought to pull off a dinner that made an impression on their guests. “The wedding was delayed because of Covid, and now that we had the chance to celebrate, we wanted to go all out,” Teckin says. “I’m not sure we would have done that before.”

In another example, acclaimed planner Norma Cohen threw a wild safari-themed bar mitzvah for a client.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon
Norma Cohen Productions

The memorable occasion transpired at Spring Studios in downtown Manhattan and saw 400 guests be transported to the African plains: Details included mammoth replicas of wildlife such as giraffes and elephants, servers in safari themed attire, and entertainment dressed like giraffes. The event was one of several over-the-top parties Cohen’s arranged recently.

A four-day wedding in Paris where the ceremony was in a historic chateau and the host paid for guests to stay at Hotel Crillon, one of the city’s most luxurious properties, also ranks high in Cohen’s memory.

Then there’s a destination party in London that Cohen planned for a client who was turning 40. It as a six-day affair with dinners at swanky spots such as Cipriani, the Arts Club, and Cecconi’s at Soho House. The finale was Lancaster House, a mansion in St. James, where guests were entertained by cabaret dancers from the famed Ibiza club Lio Ibiza and feasted on prime rib and lamb chops and imbibed on Krug champagne.

“People today don’t want to host events,” Cohen says. “They want experiences that take you away to a different place and make you forget that the real world exists.”