CFDs are complex instruments. 74% of retail client accounts lose money when trading CFDs, with this investment provider. You can lose your money rapidly due to leverage. Please ensure you understand how this product works and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing money. CFDs are complex instruments. 74% of retail client accounts lose money when trading CFDs, with this investment provider. You can lose your money rapidly due to leverage. Please ensure you understand how this product works and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing money.

What is DeFi and how does it work?

Decentralised finance, or DeFi, is fast becoming an important part of the financial services system run in the blockchain network. However, it shouldn’t be mistaken for crypto. Discover what is DeFi and how it works.

What is DeFi?

Decentralised finance, commonly known as ‘DeFi’, is the term used to describe a blockchain-based financial services system that removes the need for transactions to be approved by government agencies. In simpler terms, the DeFi is like a blockchain financial institution or banking system where you can trade digital assets or cryptocurrencies without transaction costs from institutions like the central banks.

The Defi is also a free, open-source digital marketplace that enables users who code to innovate and develop their own decentralised apps (dApps). Defi platforms offer payment services, trades and investments, loans, insurance and asset management.1 While DeFi may seem appealing and beneficial to the user, there are some associated risks.

How does DeFi work?

DeFi uses a technology-led blockchain ecosystem to bypass the traditional financial services management systems and processes, or ‘middle man’. It achieves this by using digital wallets, smart contracts or digital agreements and oracles.

As a decentralised system, DeFi has a financial infrastructure that’s run on multiple computer networks serving as public ledgers that stores digital copies of the transactions. It uses cryptos and smart contracts or digital agreements on the Ethereum network, the second largest crypto marketplace to Bitcoin.

The DeFi concept is a game changer and is also being adapted to mortgages, loans and other banking products.2

This emerging fintech uses dApps, which are made up of hardware, software and stablecoins. These enable users to lend, borrow and trade cryptos without receiving approval from the central banks or other government agencies.

The DeFi boom has seen US based company Coinbase adapt this concept and build a decentralised crypto stock exchange, known as a Global Digital Asset Exchange (GDAX).

What are benefits and risks of DeFi?

There are a number of risks and rewards associated with using the DeFi. These are unpacked below.

The benefits of DeFi1

  • Transact in real-time and with increased transparency. DeFi interest rates are updated several times per minute
  • Increase the transaction transparency with accounts activity that can be listed publicly and verified by other users within the network
  • Saving on transaction fees and other traditional financial services costs and charges
  • Gaining higher interest rates faster than over a month as done by traditional financial institutions like banks
  • Storing of peer smart contracts between parties on a public database on the blockchain that’s only closed when the outlined conditions of the digital agreement are met
  • Programmed smart contracts ensure the automatic execution of terms of agreements. For instance, the agreement can be programmed to automatically release the collateral once the terms of a smart contract have been met
  • Build your applications on DeFi since it’s open source. This means users seeking to view and make edits to the source code don't need special permissions

The risks of DeFi1

  • Fearing the loss or sealing of funds from the system
  • Hacking is a serious threat as sophisticated hackers can detect the vulnerabilities and break into system
  • Malfunctioning of the system may occur if there are bugs or error codes in the programming of the blockchain
  • Securing your account requires unique codes as private keys, which if lost might mean losing access to your funds
  • Declining value of crypto assets used as collateral may result in a position being liquidated2

DeFi vs crypto: what’s the difference?

While cryptocurrency is decentralised, it’s not a DeFi, and vice versa. There are some differences between DeFi and cryptos. The value of cryptos such as bitcoin, is stored within its own blockchain. The DeFi, on the other hand, is a conceptual marketplace that offers various cryptocurrencies on the Ethereum network.

With the DeFi, those holding cryptocurrencies can lend their digital coins and earn interest on them. Alternatively, they can borrow against the cryptos they hold in their digital wallets.

How the DeFi Coin works

You could invest in DeFi crypto using the DeFi coin (DEFC), which is the digital token that represents the website and DeFi Swap exchange.3 The exchange enables buyers and sellers to directly swap values with other market participants without going through a centralised third party. And this is achieved through the protocol’s digital token – the DEFC.

There are various crypto coins and tokens that can be traded on the DeFi exchange that include the likes of Uniswap, Chainlink and tens of others. The DEFC operates on the Binance Smart Chain and can be exchanged by users through digital wallets.3

The DeFi coin promotes the following features:3

Earn dividends through the static rewards system. To discourage users holding DEFC tokens from day trading, the protocol charges a 10% transaction tax rate. It’s believed this will encourage users to hold the token over a long-term. The rewards system operates similar to conventional dividend payments

Addressing liquidity challenges in decentralised exchanges. The protocol enables users to earn a fixed interest rate by placing their digital currency into liquidity pools using smart contract technology. Unlike a conventional cryptocurrency exchange or broker that uses centralised order books, the DEFC automatic liquidity pools don’t require another participant at the other end of the trade

Burning strategy is employed. Burning a cryptocurrency token works similar to share buyback programs. This reduces the tokens’ overall supply and increases its market value

While the protocol is still relatively new, the whitepaper indicated that there are various other features this system will integrate in the future that are similar to traditional centralised finance.3

How to trade on DeFi

  1. Learn how the crypto market works
  2. Open an account or practise on a demo
  3. Select your opportunity
  4. Set your position size and manage your risk
  5. Place your deal

With us, you can use CFDs to trade on the price fluctuations of 11 major cryptocurrencies, two crypto crosses and a crypto index – an index tracking the price of the top ten cryptocurrencies, weighted by market capitalisation.4

Open a CFD trading account with us. The selection of cryptos you can get exposure to include:

  • Bitcoin
  • Ether
  • Bitcoin Cash
  • Litecoin
  • EOS
  • Stellar
  • Bitcoin Cash/Bitcoin
  • Ether/Bitcoin
  • Crypto 10 index
  • Cardano
  • Chainlink
  • Polkadot
  • Dogecoin
  • Uniswap

When trading with CFDs, you’ll open your position on margin – an initial deposit that’s only a fraction of your total market exposure.

CFDs are leveraged derivatives, which means you can trade on cryptocurrency price movements without taking ownership of any underlying coins.

When trading on leverage, you’ll need to pay an initial deposit called margin to open a position and increase your exposure to your crypto of choice. While leverage can magnify your profits, it will amplify your losses, ensure you manage your risk carefully.

Alternatively, you could invest in cryptocurrency coins by buying them through a crypto broker. This’ll enable you to take ownership of crypto tokens and hold them in your digital wallet until they appreciate, then sell them at a profit. Note that we don’t offer this.

Trading exchange traded funds (ETFs) provides an alternative to investing in thousands of individual cryptocurrencies available on the market. With us, you can trade ETFs and increase your exposure to a basket of cryptocurrency coins and the underlying blockchain technology.

Learn more about what is cryptocurrency trading?

DeFi summed-up

  • DeFi is a blockchain-based financial services system that bypasses government agencies and associated costs that are currently within traditional banking and or investment institutions
  • Cryptocurrencies differ from DeFi in that most crypto values are within the individual blockchain, while the DeFi is a crypto marketplace where various cryptocurrencies and altcoins can be traded
  • DeFi is open source, meaning you can view and make additions to the code and develop your own DeFi applications
  • Transacting on DeFi is in real-time and also has increased transparency as every activity is logged on a public ledger


1 Vistra, 2022
2 CNBC, 2021

This information has been prepared by IG, a trading name of IG Markets Limited. In addition to the disclaimer below, the material on this page does not contain a record of our trading prices, or an offer of, or solicitation for, a transaction in any financial instrument. IG accepts no responsibility for any use that may be made of these comments and for any consequences that result. No representation or warranty is given as to the accuracy or completeness of this information. Consequently any person acting on it does so entirely at their own risk. Any research provided does not have regard to the specific investment objectives, financial situation and needs of any specific person who may receive it. It has not been prepared in accordance with legal requirements designed to promote the independence of investment research and as such is considered to be a marketing communication. Although we are not specifically constrained from dealing ahead of our recommendations we do not seek to take advantage of them before they are provided to our clients.

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