Real-world assets: 2024 is the breakthrough year for tokenization | Opinion

As a crypto investor with a background in law and extensive experience working with blockchain and fintech firms, I’m excited about the growing trend of tokenized real-world assets (RWAs). In my opinion, 2024 is going to be an important year for this sector as we see more widespread adoption of existing instruments, especially tokenized Treasuries, and breed competition and innovation in areas like Sukuk, fiat-backed stablecoins, and gold-backed stablecoins.

Transitioning real-world assets into the blockchain sphere is no longer a new concept. Renowned institutions such as Euroclear and Goldman Sachs have explored tokenization as a means to cut down transaction fees, shorten execution time, and minimize database management costs. Additionally, this approach simplifies tedious procedures related to provenance and proof-of-ownership.

In the year 2023, theory gave way to practical application. The private credit market, which had been decimated by the aftershocks of the Terra-Luna crash in 2022, rebounded by 60%. A significant shift occurred within this sector, with crypto-finance firms no longer being its primary beneficiaries. Instead, the automotive industry claimed a 42% share of tokenized private credit. However, what truly revolutionized the industry was the introduction of a groundbreaking new financial product—tokenized treasuries.

The tech leap forward

As a crypto investor, I’ve witnessed some remarkable advancements in blockchain technology over the past few years. These innovations have primarily focused on enhancing transaction efficiency, security, and scalability. For instance, the emergence of layer-2 solutions such as zero-knowledge proofs and optimistic rollups has significantly boosted the capabilities of primary blockchains. By increasing their throughput, decreasing transaction execution time, and stabilizing gas fees, these solutions have made blockchain networks more accessible and cost-effective for users like myself.

I have observed that initiatives like L2 have expanded the functionalities of standalone blockchains. Meanwhile, cross-chain communication projects have been instrumental in generating additional value for networks by facilitating seamless interaction between them. By improving interoperability’s ease and security, we have significantly enhanced the usability of the entire web3 ecosystem.

Among these advancements, innovative services emerged, enhancing the effectiveness of RWA tokenization. Notable entities like Maple, Centrifuge, Backed, and others built upon well-established DeFi principles such as liquidity pools and collateralized lending, extending their reach to conventional finance. Consequently, investors gained the opportunity to purchase real-world corporate bonds from various jurisdictions, participate in private credit markets, and engage in tokenized borrowing with esteemed financial institutions.

In the first quarter of 2023, Ondo Finance introduced the Ondo Short-Term US Government Bond Fund (OUSG), granting investors exposure to a tokenized form of BlackRock’s iShares Short Treasury Bond ETF (NASDAQ: SHV). Despite gathering only around $110 million in total value, this marked the emergence of an under-the-radar trend—the surge of tokenized US Treasury securities.

Tokenized treasuries in 2023: the backbone of growth

Based on the Fed’s findings and data from DeFi Llama, the proportion of real-world assets in decentralized finance (DeFi) has more than doubled within the past year. This growth can be partly attributed to the introduction of institutional infrastructure such as Goldman Sachs’ Digital Asset Platform (GS DAP) and JPMorgan’s Tokenized Collateral Network. However, these developments do not fully account for the explosive growth observed in the market. Instead, a closer look is required at the issuance of tokenized US government short-term debt.

As a crypto investor, I’ve noticed that the ongoing Federal Funds Rate hikes have drawn some investors towards short-term riskless debt. This market dynamic is a natural response to rising interest rates. However, there’s another factor at play: abnormal yields across the crypto landscape have collapsed.

The future of RWAs on blockchain

In 2023, tokenized asset markets have made strides towards maturity, yet several open-ended issues persist, hindering the clear advancement of the Real World Asset (RWA) sector. Among these challenges is regulation: until a definitive regulatory framework or a precedent-setting bankruptcy case emerges in one of the major legal systems, it remains uncertain if tokenized assets provide identical rights to the underlying asset from a legal standpoint. Additionally, the infrastructure development path remains uncertain, with no clear consensus on how it will unfold to facilitate seamless access to tokenized asset markets.

Despite the ongoing growth in the usage of RWA in 2024, tokenized treasuries are poised for significant expansion, benefiting the most from renewed interest. I believe this asset class caters perfectly to risk-averse DeFi investors: unlike stablecoins, tokenized treasuries remain unaffected by confidence swings and are entirely secure as long as their underlying smart contracts undergo thorough audits. Moreover, they offer returns. The trend is already evident, with the investment in tokenized US Treasuries reaching over $1.09 billion by April 2024 – a massive increase from the initial $114 million at the start of 2023.

In simpler terms, the significant interest we’ve received warrants broadening the scope beyond the immediate solution, as tokenized Treasuries don’t fit all situations. The Islamic Finance market, worth almost a trillion dollars and growing at a 19.1% annual rate, will soon see Sukuk joining the on-chain movement. Sukuk is similar to bonds but complies with Islamic Law, which prohibits interest-bearing investments. By offering fractional ownership and a share of cash flows, Sukuk provides Muslims an opportunity for safe, transnational investment in line with their religious beliefs. With the increasing popularity of regional crypto markets in MENA and ongoing infrastructure investments, I believe that tokenized Sukuk has a promising target demographic.

Looking ahead, the rise of digital bonds doesn’t signal the end for stablecoins. On the contrary, the market could see competition and diversification come 2024. Controversial projects like USDe and established players with trusted models such as Ripple‘s stablecoin are shaking up a previously monopolized sector dominated by Tether and Circle. Gold-backed stablecoins, in particular, deserve attention given gold’s recent price surge. While not a new concept, previous attempts fell short on technical prowess, liquidity, and timing. With the current gold rush, it seems only a matter of time before this promising idea receives an overhaul.

Real-world assets: 2024 is the breakthrough year for tokenization | Opinion

Alex Malkov

Alex Malkov serves as a co-founder at HAQQ, a blockchain company prioritizing ethics and real-world assets. Leveraging his extensive background in legal consulting from major blockchain and fintech firms like AAVE, Bequant, Scalable Solutions, and Nebula, Alex ensures HAQQ adheres to broader legal frameworks. With over 10 years of legal experience under his belt, the last seven dedicated to web3 projects, his expertise is invaluable for maneuvering through the intricate legal landscape of blockchain technology.

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2024-05-26 16:14