The crypto winter of 2023 was a devastating time for cryptocurrency traders as the value of digital assets plummeted by 75%, wiping around $2.3tn from the market. Many believed that this marked the end of the cryptocurrency craze, especially with the delay in the development of central bank digital currencies and the lack of compelling commercial use cases for distributed ledger technology.
Speculative interest quickly turned to the next big thing: artificial intelligence (AI). However, amidst the aftermath of the crypto crash and a challenging economic landscape characterized by slow growth, inflation, and high interest rates, an emerging digital asset infrastructure focused on wholesale financial services activities has quietly been taking shape.
This digital asset infrastructure revolves around the exchange and custodianship of digitized versions of traditional financial instruments. The primary goals are to increase speed and efficiency, reduce costs, and enhance security. This field is primarily targeted at wholesale financial institutions and high-net-worth individuals rather than mass retail customers. It operates behind the scenes, developing and deploying sophisticated financial architectures that have the potential to strengthen the stability of global financial activities. However, these architectures also pose new and complex challenges for regulators and supervisors.
Simultaneously, the crypto ecosystem is going through a period of reflection and regrouping. With the meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies over, the focus is now shifting towards real, commercially valuable use cases, rather than speculative investment.
Recent debacles involving FTX and Terra/Luna have soured attitudes towards cryptocurrency and put the industry squarely in the crosshairs of regulators. Global policy-makers and legislators are now deliberating on how these instruments should be treated and regulated. Although a global regulatory consensus is still far from being achieved, discussions at the national level are progressing rapidly, and international bodies like the Financial Action Task Force and International Organization of Securities Commissions are laying the groundwork for a coordinated approach.
As regulatory consensus emerges alongside the development of institutional-grade infrastructure, regulated institutions may become more enthusiastic about engaging with cryptoassets and increasing their volumes of involvement.
For many wholesale financial activities, including exchanges and custody, the strategic focus is now on developing a synthesis between digital and tokenized assets. This approach aims to avoid the need for parallel architectures and allows investment managers to interact with crypto and tokenized instruments using the same systems they use for managing traditional portfolios. The future belongs to those who can effectively integrate token and distributed ledger technology-based systems with existing ones.
The latest OMFIF study on the digital assets market arrives at an intriguing time in its evolution. This second edition report explores regulatory developments, addresses major concerns, and offers forecasts and opinions. The report acknowledges the contributions of sponsors, contributors, and research participants and hopes to provide stimulating and compelling analysis for readers.
In conclusion, despite the setbacks of the crypto winter, the digital asset ecosystem is adapting and evolving. While the focus shifts towards real use cases and regulatory consensus begins to emerge, the wholesale financial services sector is developing an infrastructure that offers increased speed, efficiency, security, and reduced costs. The integration of token and distributed ledger technology-based systems with existing financial architectures will be key to the future success of the digital asset market.