Is lending crypto currency safe?

Excitingly it is now possible to lend out your Monero and other crypto currencies to other investors. Crypto currency lending is a bit like peer to peer lending for crypto, but the lending purpose is exclusively for other customers margin requirements (so not diversified). Lending crypto currency needs to be done via a crypto currency exchange where your currency is loaned to other exchange customers so that they can establish short or margin long crypto currency trading positions. This article chiefly considers lending out Monero (XMR), but the principal applies to any other crypto currency that allows exchange lending.

lending crypto currency

As an investor annual rates of return on any individual loan have ranged from 3% to over 100%. The rates on exchanges are typically quoted in daily returns, so a daily rate of 0.009% is approximately 3% – you can easily use any online calculators to convert any daily rate to an annual rate. An example annual to daily interest rate calculator is here (no affiliation).

We use Poloneix for lending, and find it gives good liquidity and relatively simple trading interface and order book. There are other platforms like Bitfinex but haven’t used them for lending.

As of October 2016 to our knowledge, no one has ever lost significant money lending Monero (or any crypto currency) on poloniex or other exchanges (so far). However before you go “all in” there are some significant risks to be aware of. The attractive returns are not just a free lunch. Here are some basic risks…

Margin risk

The main issue with exchange lending is it assumes that the exchanges algorithm for exiting customers out of their margined positions will not result in major loss. Essentially when lending on the exchange, your xmr is loaned to other exchange customers so that they can establish short or margin long positions. As usual for margin trading the exchange requires some capital level to be maintained in a customers exchange account, for the duration of their short or margin trade. If the crypto currency market moves against the customers positions and they no longer have the margin capital required to maintain their position, then the position will be exited by the exchange. This will likely be at a sizable customer loss. The theory is that the exchange has modeled the maximum likely amount capital required across ALL customers to meet an extreme move.

In theory the crazy moves should occur rarely and the exchange should be able to control any loses by forcing customers to liquidate their positions in real time. Basically they can take out multiple customers over their margin limit, but in theory not all customers at the same time should be affected (in theory!). However in practice these huge moves tend to happen more frequently than the statistics would predict. A good recent real life example is when the Swiss franc move meant several foreign exchange (FX) trading firms had to eat a few million of customer losses. This was in the FX currency market, but the principal could easily apply to crypto currency lending. Therefore you are depending on your exchange to have well executed customer margin requirements and forced trading position liquidation strategy.

Platform risk

Exchange lending and indeed storing any crypto currency on any exchange is subject to platform risk. That is the risk that the actual exchange platform fails and you lose some or all of your crypto currency balance. This could occur through hacking of poor exchange security or even an issue with the particular crypto protocol that can be exploited. Basically there is a slight possibility that your coin on an exchange just disappears overnight. You can obviously reduce hacking risk on your individual account by using website security features like two factor authentication. However that doesn’t guard against back door hacking exploits at the exchange level. You should probably keep no more than 20% of your entire stash with one website, and even possibly budget for 20% of it disappearing every 3 years! For example, storage solutions for monero are to maintain a cold storage (off exchange wallet) under your control. That requires significant technical know how to setup, but is likely worth it to maintain your stash securely.

If you don’t think that exchange default can happen look at the historical hacks on mtgox Bitcoin (March 2014) and bitfinex (August 2016).

Important takeaways highlight these two possibilities storing your coin on exchanges:
- total loss: many mtgox investors lost all their bitcoins
- partial loss: Bitfinex distributed the losses against all customer balances irrespective of cash or coin.

The Bitfinex partial loss example has an interesting piece of moral hazard. Note that even though only Bitcoins got hacked, ALL the OTHER coin balances on your reduced by 36% and were replaced with an exchange IOU! Essentially you were exposed to Bitcoin security flaws even if you had zero Bitcoin balance – which seems somewhat logically unfair. The point is that you could be exposed to balance loss for any coin on an exchange – even you did not think you were.

Is lending crypto currency safe?

The non bitcoin crypto lending market is typically less than 2 years old for most coins. Lending crypto currency on any exchange may mean that there may technology glitches (eg unable to liquidate as required) or lack of volume (eg not able to lend out all the currency you wish to, because there are not enough people to lend to). However we have tried this though and have been able to lend out several thousand XMR for about a week relatively easily. The % return is potentially good for the risk, typically earning about 5% to 15% annualised on average – even if you have some loans in the 15% to 100% range – typically it is hard to get an entire portfolio allocated at those interest rates.

This also all assumes a relatively low default rate which may not be true for people trading crypto currency on margin in the long term (only have a few months of real data to work from). It maybe long term profitable as well, but given that that there are no statistics yet on this market, it is hard to make accurate projections. However if using US equity lending as an example, most brokerages seem happy to lend to you at about 6%, so assuming the underwriting model for margin accounts is similar, then this could offer decent long term returns.

This approach is also somewhat similar to peer to peer lending (eg prosper and lendingclub), so could offer similar returns, but is probably a level up on the risk spectrum (above say junk bonds). Bear in mind that any defaults that occur could be long term expensive, because you lose out on the long term price appreciation potential of your currency of choice – it would be disappointing if you lost half your coin stash on lending, only to see your chosen coin price rise into the clouds in the following months.

In summary, it is worth a look as an idea, but there is significant “very bad event” risk for any crypto currency exchange platform that is hard to quantify. It would almost definitely not be prudent lending out your entire monero stash, in case in does not perform as expected. However investing about 5% to 25% of your monero stash in margin lending can give you “pseudo dividend” on an investment which otherwise doesn’t yield anything – but you might wish to spread your lending over multiple exchanges.

Monero XMR – Trading Update – 26-Aug-2016

Monero XMR – Trading Update needs to be given this week, specifically because the market has recently moved massively upwards since the latest trading update in March 2016.

Please note that due to market volatility it is quite hard to capture consistent pricing for screenshots – so any prices given or calculations done using those price are only indicative (but they should still be approximately correct).

Monero XMR – Trading Update – Overview

As of Aug 22nd 2016 there are currently available approximately 12.8 million Monero XMR. With a current Monero XMR price of $4.20 USD, that gives a marketcap of approximately $53.6 million (in USD). This size compares it with a small penny stock, so it still has significantly size to grow if it is even slightly adopted for any mainstream uses. The following screenshot from coinmarketcap.com gives a quick overview:
XMR Aug 2016 Market Capitalisation - 20160826

Since most people probably have not heard of it this is a quick overview – Monero is an alternative currency (sometimes referred to as “coins”) with the most well-known being Bitcoin. In the last 2 years there have been many such coins created for a diversity of purposes. These new “coins” are the brave new world for cryptographic currency (“cryptocurrency”, or even “crypto”), but are still in the early adoption phase. One of the main selling points of Monero is that it can mathematically provable as truly anonymous, unlike Bitcoin with can be traced via the Block Chain. It is one of the foremost alternative crypto currencies that has actually survived long enough to potentially become a replacement for the well known Bitcoin (BTC). For some more background you can review our original investment from last year.

Monero XMR price since inception

The following chart shows the price swings for Monero since inception, priced in Bitcoin BTC. This highlights the mini price bubbles on inception, in Mar 2015, Mar 2016 and most recently in Aug 2016. You can track the real time Monero XMR to Bitcoin BTC price here.
Monero XMR Trading Update Monero Historical Price Chart Since Inception 20160826

Monero XMR Trading Update – Year to date 2016

This price move appears to be a significant move on large volume, therefore worthy of a trading update. Monero XMR is going up because of fundamentally wider adaption in other market places, which means that it will get used as currency of choice by more people who want crypto currency. Specifically this move has been driven by news that leading dark net market will start supporting Monero. The assumption is it will win the war to be adopted as the primary crypto currency, potentially ultimately replacing bitcoin (but that is several years out). Don’t know if move is sustainable in short term, but it’s based somewhat on fundamentals, not just a speculative pump (with no reason) which sometimes happens with these coins.

The following chart zooms in to show the significant volume move year to date up to August 2016. From a low of 0.00105 BTC to a high of 0.00938 BTC, with a current trading price of about 0.00735 BTC on 22nd August 2016. In the last week Monero has traded approximately 65,000 BTC on poloniex. Assumming the average Bitcoin price of $576, that is approximately $37.4 million USD.
Monero Historical Price Chart YTD 2016 20160826

Valuing Monero in US dollars

Importantly all the Monero charts shown above are valued in Bitcoin BTC. The Monero Bitcoin XMR BTC exchange rate is more reliant on the value of bitcoin itself. So if you liquidate any Monero using the XMR BTC price you then obviously end up holding Bitcoin, which can obviously have it’s own price volatility (and is a competitor for Monero). For example if positive Bitcoin related news caused the Bitcoin price to rise faster, the XMR BTC will go down even though nothing may have fundamentally changed with Monero.

Therefore looking at the Monero XMR exchange to USD dollar can be a better independent value indicator because it doesn’t depend on value of bitcoin.

There is a USDT coin that literally stands for “US Dollar Tether” which is a coin representation of USD cash. As the following chart shows Monero XMR to USDT (USD dollar) price is at all time highs in USD, similar to Monero XMR Bitcoin BTC price. However Monero has always mostly trended upwards in USDT (US dollars), without the Bitcoin related swings.

Monero USDT Historical Price Chart YTD 2016 20160826

Liquidating Monero XMR into USDT means you are attempting to replicate “cash”, but importantly without having to convert back to physical US dollars. That is if you hold USDT it attempts to represent the equivalent in USD cash in your local bank account, but actually as a coin so you can trade to buy other coin. This is useful because there are increasing regulations about adding usd to coin related investment, and if you are already in the coin eco system this is a good way to “go to cash” with out actually exiting into real US dollars.

Haven’t done enough research to understand USDT long term stability – and its definitely NOT FDIC insured like a bank account! However presumably it is safe enough for a few weeks while you plot your next investment move (or move it to physical USD). However be careful with USDT liquidity if moving from XMR on poloniex, the order book (scroll down search for “Sell orders” section) may only support a few hundred XMR at a time so don’t try and liquidate a huge position without small test orders first.

eBook including our disclosure

In the spirit of full disclosure, our current position is approximately 0.1% of all outstanding Monero so we are definitely “long”. However that has been held from more than a year. The aim is for a buy and hold investment though and we very rarely trade the core position (for example, have made no sales for more than a year). We could exit or scale back significantly if something materially affected the Monero marketplace, however we are more likely to add on weakness not sell. The cost basis of the investment is relatively low, so we are not actively trading day to day. Typically the price drifts along, but then takes off faster than you can react, as per this recent month’s rally – so our investment option is that the ability to time trades around the position is not as important to actually have a position. We have no plans to sell any Monero yet, but if the price went exponentially higher we would sell to cover our original cost basis. However if you are a true believer in cryptocurrency for a long term medium of exchange you’d never sell any this cheap anyway.

If you are interested in learning more we have written an eBook Better than Bitcoin – A Beginners Guide to investing in Monero.

Monero XMR – Trading Update – 02-Mar-2016

This is a Monero XMR trading update because the market has recently moved significantly in Feb 2016. Since most people probably have not heard of it this is a quick overview – Monero is an alternative currency (sometimes referred to as “coins”) with the most well-known being Bitcoin. In the last 2 years there have been many such coins created for a diversity of purposes. These new “coins” are the brave new world for cryptographic currency (“cryptocurrency”, or even “crypto”), but are still in the early adoption phase. One of the main selling points of Monero is that it can mathematically provable as truly anonymous, unlike Bitcoin with can be traced via the Block Chain. It is one of the foremost alternative crypto currencies that has actually survived long enough to potentially become a replacement for the well known Bitcoin (BTC). For some more background you can review our original investment from last year.

Latest Monero XMR price move in context

The following chart shows the price swings for Monero since inception, highlighting the recent move up in Feb 2016. You can track the real time price here.
Monero XMR Historical Price Chart Since Inception 20160302

Feb 2016 Monero XMR price move

The following chart zooms in to show the significant volume move in Feb 2016 only. From a low of 0.0012 BTC to a high of 0.00246 BTC, with a current trading price of about 0.00194 BTC on 2nd March 2016.
Monero XMR Historical Price Chart Feb 2016 20160302

Please note the Monero XMR market is relatively illiquid and can be easily manipulated by people who already have sigificant XMR stash and wish to “paint the tape” showing large up or down price swings. However this price move appears to be a significant move on large volume, therefore worthy of a trading update.

If you are interested in learning more we have written an eBook Better than Bitcoin – A Beginners Guide to investing in Monero.

Investing in Monero Crypto Currency

Alternative currencies known as “coins” have received a lot of attention in the last few years, with the most well-known being Bitcoin. In the last 2 years there have been many such coins created for a diversity of purposes. Usability as a medium of exchange is one of the distinctive characteristics they have in common. These new coins are the brave new world for cryptographic currency (“cryptocurrency”, or even “crypto”), but are still in the early adoption phase.

Adoption is both a critical measure and a crucial means of success for a medium of exchange. Confidence in the liquidity and fungibility of a currency is a crucial factor enabling adoption. The US dollar, for example, has wide spread adoption. Many worldwide markets transact with it. Consequently, governments and banks around the world keep US dollar reserves. Since World War II it has taken the place of the dominant global reserve currency. The US dollar has popular confidence, because the US government promises never to default on their debts. This promise is respected in part because it is easy to keep, as the US government can always issue more currency to pay those debts, since the dollar has not been backed by gold (a commodity with stable and finite supply) since 1971. The US Dollar is also seen as a store of value, and typically maintains relative price stability compared to other currencies.

The example of the US Dollar illustrates what people what to see in a stable currency. This guide looks into one particular new crypto currency from this list of coins, and gives the investment case for investing in Monero (coin ticker symbol: XMR). We will consider how it may gain adoption, widespread confidence and become a store of value, potentially ultimately overtaking Bitcoin.

Please note the terms “Monero” (the coin name) and “XMR” (the coin ticker) are used interchangeably to refer to the coin.

A Brief History of Monero
Monero is one of the foremost alternative crypto currencies that has actually survived long enough to potentially become a replacement for the well known Bitcoin (BTC). Monero has been in continuous operation since 16 April 2014. Initial miners began to offer it for sale on the bitcointalk.org forum directly thereafter. As many as 10000 XMR traded for 1 BTC in those earliest days. Because of the differences between Bitcoin and Monero protocols and programming interfaces, exchange platforms designed for Bitcoin clones would not work for Monero without extensive modification. When poloniex.com offered a market denominated (as is typical) in Bitcoin, it became easy for Bitcoin holders to buy Monero, and that created an initial price bubble.

The following chart shows the price swings for Monero in its first 15 months of trading, from a high of approximately 0.011 BTC to a low of approximately 0.0009 BTC, rebounding to the current price in Aug 2015 of approximately 0.0023 BTC:
Monero Historical Price Chart Since Inception 20150810

One of the main selling points of Monero is that it can mathematically provable truly anonymous, unlike Bitcoin with can be traced via the Block Chain.

If you are interested in learning more we have written an Amazon Kindle eBook Better than Bitcoin – A Beginners Guide to investing in Monero.