Whether dissecting crypto or fiat currencies, the foundations remain the same: the currency must serve as a store of value and function as a medium of exchange for goods and services. While both these currency options tick those boxes, cryptocurrencies tend to also be followed by a dark cloud of volatility in the financial sector.
Market volatility is a natural byproduct of a developing market, however, it can also cause many losses if not managed correctly. When the crypto markets go through high levels of market volatility they tend to get discredited with being a viable payment option. After paying withness to the Bitcoin market swings, several individuals recognised this flaw in the digital currency space and created a solution, "the stablecoin".
In this article we establish what is a stablecoin is, how it fits into the financial landscape and explore the pros and cons of these digital currencies.
Stablecoins are digital currencies that harness the benefits of being a decentralized, blockchain-operated currency without volatility. Backed by any currency or commodity, stablecoins are pegged to the value of their underlying asset and managed and secured by their relevant platforms. For instance, Tether is pegged to the US dollar while Tether Gold is pegged to the price of gold and Tether EURt is backed by the Euro.
These currencies operate like any other cryptocurrency, using blockchain technology to maintain and operate the network, but do not fluctuate in value based on supply and demand. Rather the price remains consistent with the asset it is pegged to, providing a better tool for digital payment transactions.
While we've established that stablecoins are pegged to a commodity and reflect that price, let's cover how exactly that is achieved. Using fiat-backed stablecoins as examples, the companies behind these coins are required to hold a US dollar equivalent for each coin in circulation (or Euro if the stablecoin is pegged to it).
These funds, also referred to as reserves, are either held in bank accounts or can be a combination of cash and short-term U.S. Treasury bonds. Most of the companies issuing stablecoins conduct third-party audits to prove that their reserves are at the correct levels and release this information to assure users that their coins are always worth $1 (or the currency-backed equivalent).
The first stablecoin to enter the market was Tether in 2014, pegged to the US dollar. Tether is currently the third-largest cryptocurrency based on market capitalization, illustrating its vast popularity. The second biggest stablecoin currently on the market is USD Coin, also backed by the US dollar, which sits in the top 5 biggest cryptocurrencies with an equally impressive trade volume. Both these coins have provided valuable talking points within the industry as their market caps and adoption increase and they climb the ranks of the biggest cryptocurrencies.
Due to their resistance towards volatility, stablecoins have increased in popularity and are more widely used for conducting business around the world and executing cross border payments.
Stablecoins are popular options for both businesses and individuals conducting business across borders. Below we outline the top benefits that stablecoins present to the market:
The obvious first benefit of stablecoins is that they are maintained by blockchain technology and able to conduct international transactions in a much shorter time frame and for less cost than fiat currencies. The fast settlement times make these currencies an excellent, cross-border medium of exchange. They are also easy to use as they operate from wallets in similar ways to traditional cryptocurrencies.
Due to the nature of stablecoins being pegged to a fiat currency or commodity, they typically experience little to no high volatility trading periods resulting in a more reliable currency with the benefits of blockchain technology. Pertinent to increasing its adoption.
Stablecoins have become increasingly popular for traders to hedge against other cryptocurrencies when markets experience a decline in price. Stablecoins allow traders to quickly liquidate their digital assets and easily reenter the market when the price stabilizes.
While blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies celebrate the notion of being decentralised, stablecoins do bring in a nature of centralisation, particularly when it comes to the backing of the assets. Ensuring that each coin in circulation is backed by an equal reserve value requires a team that leans the operation more toward a centralized structure.
Several stablecoins have been called out publicly for not being transparent with their reserves. Tether, for example, has seen much public outcry concerning whether the company has the correct amount of reserves, leading to fines and regulations imposed by the US government. They have since released a report on the current reserve holdings of the company.
Many traders have incorporated stablecoins into their portfolios, to have as a hedge against falling crypto markets or falling fiat markets. These digital assets are also used by businesses around the world to conduct payments with the benefits of digital currencies and without the risk of volatility. Through the Tap app, users can now access and purchase USD Coin (USDC) as well as Tether (USDT). The sleek design of the app interface makes it easy for users who want to buy or sell cryptocurrencies with fiat currency through their phones in a click.
When it comes to choosing a stablecoin, consider the projects behind it, the liquidity and the ease of use in terms of wallet compatibility.