We are entering 2023 with tighter belts this year. However, we leave 2022 with unmatched blockchain experience, both good and bad. Will trends from 2022 roll into the new year? We look at how the financial system reacted to distributed ledger technology
(DLT) in 2022 and what that predicts about its direction in 2023.
Cutting a long story short, we should see 2023 as a a reset year. Financial institutions will pare down use cases, focus less on blue sky projects to focus on those that yield ROI, and bridge the trading and settlement worlds closer together.
This takes us to five predictions about what the next 12 months will bring for financial technology in regulated markets:
1. The top 2023 concern will be collateral management
The pressure for this built up throughout 2022 in both the DeFi and the traditional financial space. In DeFi, May’s Terra/Luna collapse made regulators and issuers both more focused on the importance of transparent collateralized backing of these instruments.
Murky data from even the most established stablecoins has convinced regulators that this is going to have to change, though what they will do is unclear.
Proof of reserves was one industry effort in this direction, but uptake has been spotty. This also reveals a tendency of some players in the market to pursue purely technical solutions to collateral management, while ignoring the political and social features
of the credibility challenge. One effort gaining ground is
segregated fund requirements for crypto exchanges which mirror the framework of futures markets. After FTX’s collapse, there is support for having client accounts segregated, and attaching civil and criminal penalties where they are not.
2. Regionally, the fastest moving in fintech will be the Middle East
It was one of the only geographies to experience continued growth through 2022 while much of the rest of the world was headed into recession. This region is a strong promoter of technological innovation and exporter of natural resources, which suggests that
Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) or trade are likely to be the focus sectors. Geopolitics including relations with China and the US may impact the direction of focus as China has pushed CBDC via the
multicurrency CBDC exchange project (mBridge), and the US is moving much more slowly on that topic.
Saudi Arabia is applying to be part of the BRICS, which signals its desire to head up the Global South and take more of a leadership role in the global economy.
3. We should prepare for more failures, as market volatility lingers
After the considerable economic volatility of 2022, we might hope for a more calm 2023, but this is unlikely. Financial institutions will continue to downsize workforces and pare back risky projects. In decentralized finance (DeFi), volatility will continue
due to the correlation between cryptocurrencies and among centralized exchanges and service providers. This also means that we can expect more losses and failures in the cryptocurrency space. The volatility is not limited to the public blockchain. Enterprise
blockchain also saw some big players exiting the market or
reducing their investment, and also had some
notable liquidations, which highlights the difficulty of building good governance and business models. For projects where
governance is carefully constructed, we can expect scale and diversification.
4. More focus on efficiency-improving investments, due to elevated interest rates
Interest rates are likely to level off but remain elevated in comparison to the low rates that characterized most of the past three decades. The resulting economic slowdown will increase interest in projects that offer operational efficiency over new revenue
streams. In the longer term as the world becomes used to higher interest rates, projects will need to highlight ROI for new revenue streams. In the short term, there will be lower overall investment in crypto assets.
Funding rounds are taking longer, so new projects on blockchain that engage startups are delayed. This exacerbates the post-FTX
decline in venture funding for crypto, a new hesitance that should level off in the second or third quarter. When capital is scarce, projects that improve existing offerings gain traction. One example of this is the
move to T+1 settlement for trades. Businesses should be wary however as too narrow a focus on process efficiency can come at the expense of resilience, as
supply chain managers found out the hard way.
5. More complications for the passage of new crypto regulations as global politics fractures
This is happening at both the global (as
war in Ukraine increases global disputes such as US vs China) level and at the domestic level in some major economies (US, UK). 2023 will be defined by these fractures, as legislation will inevitably become more difficult to pass. The crypto sector is not
protected from this. In the past we’ve seen issues with China vs ROW. Basel IV’s guidelines on crypto asset exposure went into effect January 1, though regulators
have until 2025 to implement it. Today, changing rules have led to banks holding crypto via sub-custodians, and may now contribute to their limited expansion of these programs. Regulatory guidance is key to the expansion of both blockchain technology (including
DLT) and the digital currencies that use it. 2022 saw many calls for regulation; we expect 2023 to yield the legislation. Given the environment, it’s likely to look fairly restrictive. As an example, the
SEC issued Staff Accounting Bulletin 121 earlier this year, which requires companies that custody crypto to list those assets
as liabilities on their balance sheet, an expensive guideline.
All in all, 2023 is set to make waves in the DLT and regulated market space, and only those with the ecosystem expertise will be able to navigate these stormy waters. If you wish to develop further knowledge on what’s to come, and how to deal with the year
ahead, please feel free to reach out to our experienced the team at R3. We’re here to help!