There are many facets to the notion of liquidity. Liquidity may be defined as the ability to convert an asset into cash readily on demand. If this definition seems myopic, you can see it as an asset that can be sold or bought at its fair price. Therefore, liquidity signifies that there are no premiums or discounts attached to an asset when selling or buying it. This makes it easy to enter and exit the asset at will.
For any tradable asset, liquidity is paramount. Liquid markets are smoother and deeper when compared to illiquid markets, which can put traders in a place from which it may be difficult to navigate out. For instance, Bitcoin has experienced significant growth within nine years of its existence. In 2009, there were only 50 Bitcoins but today, there are over 13,000,000 bitcoins in circulation. Virtual currencies or cryptocurrencies have witnessed waves of illiquidity. What are the factors that influence liquidity?
- Exchanges: The increasing number of cryptocurrency exchanges has provided opportunities for more individuals to trade in cryptocurrency. The increase in volume and frequency of trading has contributed to enhancing liquidity.
- Acceptance: The acceptance of cryptocurrencies at online shops, brick and mortar stores, bookings, etc. has contributed to its usability while reducing its volatility. Coins become more liquid when frequently used as a means of payment.
- Regulations: Both direct and indirect regulations have played a crucial role. The position of cryptocurrency in each country is different – banned in certain areas, allowed in others, while in dispute elsewhere. Because of the increasing presence of cryptocurrency in the form of exchanges, ATMs, casinos, transactions in shops, financings, etc. these clarified regulations will continue to influence liquidity.
- Awareness: Many people are practically unaware of what cryptocurrency is all about and how it works. In the midst of these are prospective investors, buyers, and traders of digital coins. Lack of clear guidelines by relevant authorities and limited knowledge has limited engagement to devotees to this moment, but as this changes, so will liquidity via increased volume and acceptance.
Then, How can one technically solve the issue of liquidity facing cryptocurrency? Below we will explore a solution provided by Bancor for addressing the challenges of liquidity faced by cryptocurrencies, conventional tokens, and community currencies. According to Bancor, the issue of liquidity can be addressed through the use of Smart Tokens, by programming tokens to be autonomously convertible for other tokens within the same network. This is achieved through the use of Connectors, which are modules in a token’s smart contract that hold balances of other tokens they are connected to.
What is the Bancor Protocol Smart Token all about?
Let’s begin with the Bancor Protocol which is the standard for what Bancor calls Smart Tokens. The method is as follows: A Smart Token is programmed with one or more connectors, which are modules in their smart contracts. Each connector holds a balance of another connected, the connected token, which can be deposited by the Smart Token creator. These balances are used by the Bancor Formula to calculate the exact price of a Smart Token in any of its connected tokens. The Smart Token can be bought and sold by depositing or withdrawing the calculated amount from its connector balances. For example, if a Smart Token has one connector which holds a balance of Ethereum, that Smart Token can be bought by sending Ethereum to the Smart Token’s contract, or sold by sending Smart Tokens back to the contract and receiving the corresponding amount of Ethereum in return.
If you haven’t heard of smart contracts, these are computer programs which run on the blockchain, meaning they are unchangeable as long as the underlying blockchain is operational. In the case of tokens, smart contracts allow for the programming of certain features, issuing policies and other attributes, directly into the token’s governing software. Bancor uses this ability to program Smart Tokens to buy and sell themselves from users, in exchange for any of their connected tokens, at an algorithmically calculated rate according to the open-source Bancor Formula. This allows Smart Tokens to be plugged into a network architecture, and continuously liquid to every other token in the network, according to a mathematical price which balances buy and sell volumes in the network (more on the formula below.)
The Bancor Protocol recommends a new solution to the issue of liquidity for cryptocurrencies by using an asynchronous price-discovery model, which is enabled by these balances holding Smart Tokens. The most unique characteristic of this solution is the fact that you can buy or sell Smart Tokens anytime, directly through their smart contracts (Bancor also offers a simple Web App user interface) without the need for an exchange or even matching buyers and sellers, as has been the case for decades. Does this sound like crypto magic to you? Let’s explain how it works.
- Firstly it’s important to understand that Smart Tokens are money that themselves hold money, in their connector balances. What this means is that the smart contract that operates the Smart Token owns a minimum of one other token balance. This is the Smart Token’s initial liquidity “plug in” to the network, and from where the Smart Token can withdraw other tokens to sellers, and collect other tokens from buyers.
- Secondly, the supply of a Smart Token can be dynamic, and handled by its smart contract directly. When a Smart Token is purchased by sending one of its connected tokens to the smart contract, these tokens are added to the connector balance and new Smart Token units are created and sent to the buyer. This means that a Smart Token’s supply is growing as demand for it is growing. Thankfully, so is its connector balance, so as you’ll see below, its price is also increasing. This means that increased supply does not mean inflation or dilution for Smart Token holders, since price is a factor of demand, not constrained by a traditional fixed supply. Similarly, when a Smart Token is sold, it is simply sent back to its smart contract, which withdraws the corresponding amount of connected tokens from the connector balance and returns them to the seller, and the sold Smart Token units are destroyed and removed from circulation. Price however, is still decreasing, thanks to the Bancor Formula which takes this decreased connector balance into account. You can liken this mechanism to when tokens are issued by initial coin offering smart contracts in exchange for other tokens like Ether.
- Thirdly, is the realization that Smart Tokens calculate their own prices vis-a-vis other tokens they are connected to. This is according to the Bancor Formula which holds the ratio constant between a Smart Token’s total market cap, and its connector balance. As buys and sells add and subtract tokens from the connector balances, the price of a Smart Token will fluctuate to keep this ratio, configured by a Smart Token’s creator (and called the weight), constant. This ensures that buy and sell volumes strive for equilibrium, as a Smart Token’s price is rising when it is being bought, and falling when it is beind sold. Just as you’d expect with supply and demand principles, only here the supply can adapt to the demand, and price is calculated as a mathematical function between the Smart Token and its real-time connector balances. .
One may be thinking if all of this functionality is required, given the fact that price discovery and liquidity is already obtained via trading activity in traditional exchanges. Is there a reason for a different solution? The answer to this question is yes. This is because exchanges can be seen as “matchmakers” between individuals or parties with different wants. A particular trade comprises of two opposing transactions, one where each party is selling what the other party wants to buy. The situation where a particular party needs to find another party with opposite wants is the sole reason why currencies and other assets face liquidity risk. With this constraint, it is impossible for smaller scale currencies, such as loyalty points, community currencies, and other relevant credits, as examples, to become consistently liquid.
Additionally, people who provide liquidity such as market makers and traders are logically looking for ways to take full advantage of profits. This connotes that liquidity comes at a price or cost with the current exchange solution, allocating value to middlemen. This is why BancorSmart Tokens are unique, allowing currencies to enjoy automated and continuous liquidity, and with no added fees. The contribution or partaking of market makers and traders in their convertability isn’t compulsory, but optional for both parties. In fact, Smart Tokens may be regarded as a token with a built-in not-for-profit automated market maker for itself, being operated by its open-source smart contract.
A Bit About the Bancor Token Generation
This decentralized liquidity network Blockchain project raised approximately $153 million in Ether within three hours. Bancor was one of the most successful token launches of 2017. The token generation event took place on June 12, 2017, attracting more than 390,000 contributions in Ether, a world record in the market at the time.
Bancor’s BNT is the Bancor Network Token. According to the company, in the next two years, there will be a host of new features available to Smart Tokens, including security upgrades such as delegated account recovery, the ability to purchase them with a credit card, enabling communities without a token to easily create one without technical knowledge, and moving to a fully decentralized backend and front-end architecture, as well as taking the liquidity network completely cross-blockchain. Finally, we will see the launch of Bancor Grants, helping local communities build capacity towards launching and maintaining a local Smart Token for their economy or network, and subsidizing the BNT needed for qualifying communities to connect to the Bancor Network (via their Smart Token’s connector balance, which will be held in BNT.) Since launch, Bancor has activated their token, launched and activated Relay Tokens for over 20 ERC20 tokens which are now convertible via the Bancor Network, launched their Web App on desktop and mobile, and deployed a portable widget to enable users to convert Smart Token’s from anywhere on the Internet. This attribute alone safeguards users and enables them to convert their tokens remotely and in a decentralized fashion.
BNT holds Ether (ETH) as its connected token, making it possible to convert any token within the Bancor Network into ETH, instantaneously and without the need for matching buyers and sellers. This is groundbreaking in the blockchain world, with Bancor pioneering an autonomous technology that a technical solution for instant liquidity and eventually also the instant creation of intrinsically liquid cryptocurrencies.
What are the Benefits of Bancor Smart Tokens?
Smart Tokens bring about several benefits when compared to the traditional token model, which include:
- No Extra Fees: Unlike the traditional token and exchange models, the only compulsory fee that is paid for converting Smart Tokens is the blockchain platform fee, which in the case of Ethereum is known as gas.
- Continuous Liquidity: Because selling and buying are carried out through smart contracts, you can always convert Smart Tokens from/to their connected tokens, regardless of the volume of trading done.
- Foreseeable Price Changes: The Bancor Smart Token allows for the pre-calculation of price changes according to transaction size, since each transaction itself will result in a change to the current price by adding to or subtracting from connector balances. This price predictability leads to relatively more stable prices.
- No Spread: The same price is calculated for buying and selling Smart Tokens since the calculation of these prices is done formulaically by the non-profit smart contract, not by other buyer and seller offers, traditionally known as an order book.
Bancor has discovered a way out of the historic challenge of liquidity without needing a counterparty to buy or sell a token. This is attainable through a smart contract, currently on the Ethereum network, which keeps a balance in another connected token at all times, and uses a simple formula to continuously recalculate the exact rate at which a Smart Token is convertible for any of its connected tokens, and as such, for any other token in the network. This innovation replaces traditional labor-based solutions, in the form of market makers and exchanges, both for-profit actors, with a technical solution, in the form of a non-profit smart contract that will always buy and sell Smart Tokens thanks to their built-in liquidity mechanism. This autonomous solution could offer a step-function improvement in efficiency, decentralization, accessibility, transparency, and stability for the emerging cryptocurrency economy – if Bancor can pull it off