What are Stablecoins?
- Stablecoins are a type of cryptocurrency that are pegged to a stable asset, such as fiat currency or a commodity, to maintain a stable price, which makes them more attractive to investors and traders due to reduced volatility.
- There are four categories of stablecoins: fiat-pegged, commodity-pegged, crypto-pegged, and algorithmic.
- Stablecoins have the advantages of stability, reduced volatility, global accessibility, and decentralization.
- They also have disadvantages such as centralization, regulatory risks, and counterparty risks.
Stablecoins are a type of cryptocurrency that is pegged to a more stable asset, such as a fiat currency (like the US Dollar) or a commodity (like gold), in order to achieve a stable price. They have emerged as a popular cryptocurrency alternative for people and organizations wishing to decrease the volatility that is most often associated with regular cryptocurrencies. Stablecoins provide markets with greater trust in their pricing by being backed by more traditional investments, making them a go-to alternative for financial decisions from both institutional and retail users of cryptocurrencies. Stablecoins provide a sense of stability in the crypto space while reducing the dangers associated with price swings.
CATEGORIES OF STABLECOINS AND EXAMPLES OF EACH
There are basically four categories that the numerous stablecoins we have fall under:
FIAT-PEGGED STABLECOINS: These stablecoins are the most commonly encountered types in everyday crypto transactions. They are usually pegged to a 1:1 ratio with a fiat currency, like USD, EUR, or GBP. Fiat-backed stablecoins are collateralized with real fiat currencies, meaning that there is a corresponding fiat currency held in reserve to back up each stablecoin. This type of stablecoin is the most centralized, as a central entity acts as the fiat reserve custodian and manages the issuance and receipt of new fiat-backed tokens. The aim is to create a stablecoin with a fixed price and real fiat currency held in a real bank account or treasury.
Examples of fiat-pegged stablecoins include BUSD, USDC, USDT, GBPT (Great Britain Pound), BiLira (Turkish Lira), etc.
COMMODITY-PEGGED STABLECOINS: Typically, real-world assets and commodities, like gold, silver, and platinum, are used to back these stablecoins. These stablecoins are not as well-known as fiat-pegged stablecoins because of the sort of commodities they are backed by. However, they are still considered safer than other stablecoin varieties since they continue to hold their value even during times of economic inflation.
Examples of commodity-pegged stablecoins include Pax Gold (PAXG), DigixDao Gold (DGX), Tether Gold (XAUt), etc.
CRYPTO-PEGGED STABLECOINS: These stablecoins are backed by other cryptocurrencies as reserve assets. The most popular crypto-pegged stablecoin, DAI, is tied to the USD but is backed by cryptocurrencies, such as ETH and wrapped BTC. The volatility of these cryptocurrencies calls for “over-collateralization” in order to sustain the system. Crypto-backed stablecoins are backed by cryptocurrencies but are frequently over-collateralized (meaning there is enough of these to compensate for the high chance of price swings, known as a “security commitment” and do not employ a 1:1 peg like fiat-backed stablecoins.
Examples of crypto-pegged stablecoins include DAI, USDX, sUSD (Synthetic USD), and mUSD (mStable USD).
ALGORITHMIC STABLECOINS: This particular stablecoin is quite different from all other stablecoins we’ve talked about in this article. Algorithmic stablecoin uses an algorithm to maintain the value of the stablecoin. It is not pegged to or backed by the value of a real-world asset, like fiat currency. This presents a decentralized model for a stablecoin, without a need to ensure that enough reserves exist in the system at all times to support the stablecoin in circulation. The main problem with this, however, is the risk of collapse if users lose confidence in the effectiveness of the algorithms maintaining the price.
Examples of algorithmic stablecoins include MIM (magic internet money), FRAX (frax) and AMPL (Ampleforth)
ADVANTAGES OF STABLECOINS
Stability: Stablecoins are intended to maintain their value over time, as their name indicates. By being anchored to a more reliable asset, like fiat money, commodities, or other cryptocurrencies, they are able to maintain their stability.
Reduced volatility: Stablecoins are less volatile than other cryptocurrencies, which can fluctuate in value rapidly. This makes them more attractive to investors and traders who want to avoid the risk of sudden price movements.
Global accessibility: Stablecoins can be used by anyone, anywhere in the world, as long as they have access to the internet. This makes them ideal for cross-border transactions and international commerce.
Decentralization: Although this is not the case for fiat-pegged and commodity-pegged stablecoins, many stablecoins are decentralized. This means that they are not controlled by any central authority or government. This can be an advantage for people who want to avoid government interference or censorship.
DISADVANTAGES OF STABLECOINS
Centralization: Some stablecoins, like the fiat-pegged and commodity-pegged stablecoins, are centralized, meaning they are controlled by a central authority or organization. This goes against the decentralized nature of cryptocurrencies and can potentially lead to issues, such as censorship and lack of transparency.
Regulatory risks: Stablecoins may be the focus of closer regulatory examination, especially if they are intended to act like conventional financial products. For stablecoin issuers, this can result in legal issues and administrative barriers. A recent example of this is when Paxos stopped minting BUSD because of regulatory reasons
Counterparty risk: Depending on how a stablecoin is designed, there may be counterparty risks associated with its use. For example, if a stablecoin is collateralized by a single entity or asset, there is a risk that if that entity or asset fails, the stablecoin value could also be affected. This usually applies to crypto-pegged stablecoins, when the crypto assets in the reserve are hugely affected.
Technical risks: Stablecoins are built on blockchain technology, which can be prone to technical issues, such as bugs or security vulnerabilities. This can potentially put the stability of the stablecoin at risk, especially algorithmic stablecoins, as they do not have a reserve to fall back to. A very popular example of this is the fall of Terra's stablecoin UST that happened May 16th 2022.
Limited adoption: Despite their advantages, stablecoins have not yet achieved widespread adoption. This could limit their usefulness and potential impact, particularly in certain markets or industries.
In conclusion, stablecoins are a necessary development in the Web3 world that offer a much-needed solution to the issue of price volatility. They offer stability and reliability, making them an attractive option for investors and businesses looking to enter the space. While they have some potential drawbacks, such as regulatory and technical risks, the benefits of stablecoins are clear. As the global payment landscape continues to evolve, stablecoins are poised to play a significant role in shaping the future of finance. Therefore, for those who are interested in the crypto space but hesitant about its volatility, exploring stablecoins is worth considering for identifying new avenues in this rapidly growing sector.