George Harrap is CEO and co-founder of Hong Kong based Bitspark, a bankless money transfer ecosystem focused on Asia and Africa.
This essay is presented as a part of No Closing Bell, a series leading up to Invest: Asia 2019 focused on how the Asian crypto markets are interacting with and impacting global investors. To keep the conversation going in person, register for Invest: Asia 2019 coming up in Singapore on Sept. 11-12.
Stablecoins are prevalent at all levels of crypto transactions these days, from the largest spot markets on exchanges like Binance to the trading pair of choice by many Hong Kong and mainland China OTC desks. The reason for the demand is simple: stablecoins provide a bridge between the fiat and crypto worlds.
However, not all stablecoins are the same. From currency peg to counterparty risk, there are two competing models duking it out at the moment: trusted and trustless stablecoins, with each referring to different levels of counterparty collateral risk.
We prefer trustless stablecoins as that model eliminates the counterparty risk of needing to trust a company, auditor, bank and humans in general.
The top 5 stablecoins in the market are all pegged to the US dollar and while USD is a reserve currency, that market is quite saturated already. In contrast, the opportunity in the other 180 fiat national currencies used by the majority of the world has barely been realised. That’s where the next frontier for stablecoins is.
In operating Bitspark in many emerging markets we have heard first hand from individuals, NGOs and companies how bank collapses are somewhat common and trust in government and banking is rock bottom. Access to digital cash that’s publicly visible and under the ownership of the individual would eliminate these problems and this is what Bitspark has been pioneering with PHP, IDR, VND pegged stablecoins for our remote money exchange agents.
Unique trading opportunities
There are interesting trading opportunities here too. Exotic currencies around the world almost always depreciate against the US dollar with recent examples found in Venezuela, Argentina, Turkey, Zimbabwe and Iran.
A good trade here would be to short those currencies via placing a dollar stablecoin as collateral to back the issuance of these currencies and then selling them for dollars. Bitcoin traders, merchants, and individuals need to use these currencies everyday anyway, so there is a market of buyers to which issuers can sell to.
Over time as the issued currency depreciates, the collateral value backing it becomes more valuable relative to the issued currency, enabling the issuer to withdraw or exchange excess collateral. Having already sold their issued coins on Day 1, they have effectively shorted the exotic currency without having to deal with any questionable local custodian - that’s almost impossible to do within traditional financial services
At Bitspark, we are creating trustless stablecoins for every currency in the world having recently launched an exciting product with Stable.PHP, a stablecoin pegged to the Philippine Peso backed by BitUSD (the first and oldest stablecoin in existence) using the Bitshares protocol.
I will be discussing more about some of the trading opportunities in taking short positions on Stable.PHP at this year’s Invest.Asia conference in Singapore. For example, when your collateral is BitUSD and you are issuing an exotic currency like Stable.PHP, you can take a leveraged position long or short.
Our set of exotic stablecoins will only be expanding through the year enabling more people to access a digital financial system in their local currency.
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