Ariel Ling, COO of BitMax.io (BTMX.com) Exchange, Shared Insights of Crypto Industry (Part IV)
Ariel Ling, as the co-founder and COO of BitMax.io (BTMX.com), was invited to the interview by Fred Schebesta, the CEO of Crypto Finder (Finder.com). Ariel has 18-year progressive executive experience in strategic planning, business development, budgeting and financial analysis risk management, regulatory program implementation, and process improvement for operational efficiency. She has an in-depth understanding of capital market products (stocks, fixed income, foreign exchange) in financial services and the development of international banking strategic trends (M&A, market structure, regulatory reforms and their impact). Her lustrous career on Wall Street made this interview a popular link on YouTube. (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBYK-w2uxWc) F: Do you believe this going to help bring more institutions into the space? A: I am not very familiar with TokenSoft. It really depends on who are the backers, institutional backers of this venture. If the institutional backers of this venture are well regarded, are reputable, absolutely. Because at the end of day if you look at the value chain, the exchanges they are doing trading, they are doing broker dealer, they are doing wallet management themselves, and they are doing custody themselves. It becomes very nebulous. So for TokenSoft, they understand security token, which means under my prediction, it’s completely regulated just like securities. For securities, you must have a custody, and you must have a clearing house. Those are inevitable. So for them, they want to take a step ahead, and I also think that’s a smart move. F: And we had T0 exchange launched just last week as well. Let’s get back to that question. From a broader base of adoption in the space, for 2019, Ariel, what’s your prediction in where those are going to be cleaned up? A: I can’t predict the regulatory progress because it really comes down to how each step the government takes; sometimes it takes longer, and sometimes it takes shorter. And when the lawmaking takes place, it always takes more time to get implemented. F: Yes. And we also talked about the digital asset, the tokenization of asset. A: Yeah, when I’m looking at it, there are people always saying there’s coin, and there’s token. So I like to use the word: digital asset. So there’s one aspect of currency coin. Those are typical like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and stable coins. So their functionality is actually getting interesting. The origin of Bitcoin is really a payment processing platform. So their development is kind of like FX. You can either hold it, hoping the value goes up, or use it to buy product and services. So they’re like foreign currencies. And there is the other aspect, securitized token. So the token itself would present, whether equity or debt, certain percentage of the underlying project or underlying venture. So for those, as long as they pass certain security test, they are treated as securities. From security trading perspective, if you look at how the Wall Street is structured, and how the US equity trading market is structured, it’s very simple. №1, You must have a broker dealer license in order to take the client order and to put on the risk; №2, all what exchanges do is order matching, and then providing liquidity to the market right? On the primary market it’s IPO, while on the secondary market it’s trading. And after the exchanges trade it, execute it, and then the clearing house comes in to make sure the books and records are verified. Money is moved from the banks to the brokerage accounts. And then the custody piece is that everybody can pick their own custody to hold the assets. So those are the components where I think for the US, the regulator has to make a very strong distinction between what will be subjected on CFCT, what is currency, or what is commodity, and then the rest of it falls under the SEC regime and what it takes — Is it the same as equity or slightly different? This I would think is similar to UK where the FCA has to think about as well. That leads to an interesting dynamic about utility token. This is where I don’t have a particular view, because utility token value is very diminished if you take the token outside of this particular platform. So it is designed to be used on a platform. So this is where I am actually interested in. I want to see how that gets developed from a regulatory perspective. And from a BitMax.io perspective, we put actually a bit more stringent requirement on ourselves. When we list a utility token and when we design it, we just follow the security markets. For example in US, that’s why you need a trusted custody structure just to support that. And in BitMax.io, it’s crypto to crypto; there is no fiat. So that aspect diminishes a little bit. And from a market trading manipulation surveillance perspective which is very heavy for equity, for example, if you trade anything, the regulator will get your report in real time, knowing every single step. So nobody could actually manipulate the market. We also take the same stand for our exchange. We monitor the volume, and we monitor trading behavior. If there’s someone abusing the market, meaning a robot or anything, we identify the account, we notify the account owners, saying whether it is wash trade or whether this is artificially to jag up the price and then dump it, and we give the time to correct. And if he/she doesn’t, we basically freeze the account. So the users can see that it is a fair market. We have probably applied this called market manipulation kind of rule. This is very classical for equity trading. Every single exchange must demonstrate the capability and behavior to do that. F: OK. Two last things. You have been through four crises as you said through, like the dot-com bubble, Sarbanes Oxley, Lehman Brother collapse and European financial crisis. From your experience seeing all the rise and bust, where do you think we’re at in the cryptocurrency market. A: I think this goes back to the trading aspect, depending on whether this is a V down or a U down or U curve. So the U curve is basically when the market collapses, it takes a longer time to find a bottom. It takes a longer time for the market to find the equilibrium. And once they find it, they rise up. Or, it’s like a quick collapse. It’s down very fast and reaches the bottom. And then, there’s some catalyst event, either catalyst from a market structure, or catalyst from the market expansion itself. Suddenly it gives a boost. And then it bounces right back up. So when I look at what is happening with digital asset or crypto trading, it’s a bubble to the extent, but it’s also a market correction. And I always compare this to the internet bubble to some extent, because I remember very vividly when I first started working in 1999 on the Wall Street, the Internet was so hot that you could get an IPO without even having a website. And Nasdaq peaked in basically 2000. But then, it collapsed. It took until 2015 for Nasdaq to reach back to the last peak. So you can see how many bubbles right about dot-com because people literally just forget about the economic valuation, the intrinsic business model that kind of aspects of it. So when you look at what happened in the crypto, the Bitcoin peaked at December of 2017. Around that period, there were many many projects that could raise money so easily. This is what we call air-projects. Do they really have fundamentals? Do they really have a viable business model? Do they really have a solid user base? If they do not have those three, then you would expect what would happen when people recognize the value of that token is not sustainable, going back to my finance view. When people see through that, with Bitcoin itself it’s going through a hard time, the rest of the altcoins are actually crushing a lot more dramatically than Bitcoin. So where do we see the balance, it is just my personal view that there are couple economic theories, and one of the theories is about cost. In the financial crisis, the worst, darkest day of banking crisis is the Lehman collapse. I was right in Lehman when they fell off the cliff. And then the domino went from Lehman to Morgan to every single bank. Every single bank felt the pressure. The bank stocks got depressed so hard. At that time one of the things from investors, especially those really smart traditional investors, was looking at the book value. So if the bank stock price, was lower than a quarter of book value, of course it was a value play. It’s below the cost, basically. So you go back to Bitcoin. Assuming it costs 3,000 dollars to mine a Bitcoin, maybe that’s where certain value investor will hold a view like from a valuation perspective that if the valuation is lower than what it takes to make it, it can be called a good value. So this is where it goes back to the market that from a trading perspective, the volatility you could see where there might be some breakthrough of different resistance levels. But at the end of day, it’s all about finding the equilibrium from a valuation perspective. When it hits there, then you will see the value investors come in. If it’s cheaper enough, there are more people who will probably look into it. So when it’s 20,000 for Bitcoin, do you know how many people can afford it? Maybe not, but what if it’s getting down 4000, 3000, and especially for certain countries are way more developed than certain countries, where people understand the liquidity and usage behind Bitcoin like you can use it, you can buy piece of coffee from Starbucks. Then it comes down to the value. So right now I think it really goes back to the fundamental from a finance perspective. It’s finding the valuation, the intrinsic value. Whether it’s currency token, or it’s an altcoin from a security type of token perspective. F: Alright Ariel. That was incredible. We asked everybody on the show that what the price they think is going to be of Bitcoin on New Year’s Eve 2019 the clock strikes 12:00. We had a whole series of predictions last year in US dollars. What’s your prediction for the price of Bitcoin? A: I think right now… hmm the Bitcoin right now is what? 35 hundred? F: We are trading at 3468 dollars. A: I don’t know. It’s crazy. I actually really like Bitcoin. I mean I like Bitcoin more now because it’s cheaper and I can buy it. But when you look at it before the crisis hit, I already hoped by the end of year if they could get back to 5000 I would be really happy, because it’s pretty much a psychologic level. F: Okay. A: Let’s hope for that. F: Awesome. Ariel, thank you again for coming on to the show, and your incredible insight into the Wall Street market right now. And do check out guys on BitMax.io! We’ve got margin trading and some derivatives coming up, some new improvements we can see on the platform. Thank you very much again Ariel! We will see you guys TOMORROW!
Ariel Ling, COO of BitMax.io (BTMX.com) Exchange, Shared Insights of Crypto Industry (Part III)
Ariel Ling, as the co-founder and COO of BitMax.io (BTMX.com), was invited to the interview by Fred Schebesta, the CEO of Crypto Finder (Finder.com). Ariel has 18-year progressive executive experience in strategic planning, business development, budgeting and financial analysis risk management, regulatory program implementation, and process improvement for operational efficiency. She has an in-depth understanding of capital market products (stocks, fixed income, foreign exchange) in financial services and the development of international banking strategic trends (M&A, market structure, regulatory reforms and their impact). Her lustrous career on Wall Street made this interview a popular link on YouTube. (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WBYK-w2uxWc) F: Okay. Let’s go back and talk about BitMax in terms of markets. What markets do you mainly trade with geographically? Because you have the sites in Korean, English and Chinese. Where is your focus from a market perspective? A: When you have those three languages, it almost tells those must be my top three. The reason why we have an office in Beijing is to gear towards the Asian, Pacific Asian type of market. So most people think our users are Chinese. Actually, no. If you look at our user base from a community of fan respective, within 4 month after launch, we’ve got 35,000 members and the number is growing every single day. But out of 35,000 community users, actually, 1/3, even more than 1/3 are from English channels. For example, the English telegram is one of the biggest. We also have WeChat channel. So when you ask where the trading volume comes from, I would say 40–50 percent predominantly from Chinese speaking countries, which means China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and some of our equity investors are based there. And then when you’re looking at the development of the neighbor countries, Japan and Korea, especially Korea, are very active. So when I look at the second tranches, depending on which month, it’s either Korea or sometimes the South East countries that are very active too. And for Korean, it’s very interesting because I’ve done several conferences there too. Korean market is quite mature, the same thing with Japanese market. If you look at the adoption of Bitcoin, there’s a tight regulation, but people are used to trading. And they even have Bitcoin ATM in Japan. F: When I was ordering the equivalent of Uber when I was in Korea, it was like Credit card, Cash, and Bitcoin. A: Oh my god yes! F: It’s awesome! A: Exactly. I actually met couple of projects that are trying to optimize the payment channels, e-payment channels, or this kind of payment channel that includes crypto. So it’s interesting that they are very mature in terms of adoption acceptance. And also from the understanding of trading, Korea also has very large transaction mining exchanges. So when you go to Coinmarketcap, looking at the reported volume, you will see Bithumb is like №1 in ranking, because they have a pretty significant transaction mining as well. And in last couple of days, if you went to Coinmarketcap, you would see us, BitMax.io, moving up to №2, sometimes №3, 5, 10. That was when the Korean market was very vibrant and they are used to trading. So that’s number two market for us. And the next you will be surprised. We actually have very substantial group of users coming from Europe. Because last month, speaking of the volume, when I looked up at a daily report of trading analytics, where a lot of decisions are based on, I found we actually had five percent of total volume from UK, Russian and France last. And right now, we are listing a very significant project from India. And suddenly we see a lot of India users trading. So it is very diversified. It is not what people thought that only Chinese users are trading on the platform. It’s almost like 1/3 or 2/5 from Chinese speaking countries, then 1/3 from other part of the Asian, and then there’s the big chunk from Europe. F: I guess that the Chinese government is relatively hostile to cryptocurrency or relatively. So what’s your approach as an exchange dealing with the Chinese market and particularly China itself and people in mainland China. A: First of all, I have to say this is only speaking on a personal view. When it comes down to government, what I look at or what my team look at, it is not by one particular government. I don’t particularly think hostile is the right word. It really comes down just like US — when the government takes a look at a new financial asset, their view is always about what it is, and how I can regulate it, as simple as that. So, each government is at a different stage in terms of defining the requirement, understanding what it is, and defining how to regulate. So, I would think that certain countries are way ahead of certain countries, like Japan, let’s just look at it. They’ve already made the rules , everything you have to register. You want to be the exchange, you have to go for license. Everything has to go through all the checklist. There are very stringent requirement but there is requirement. So, for other countries such as China, US is the same where we are still waiting for either SEC or CFCT to issue the final guidance in terms of what this is and how they are going to regulate. So I think a lot of perception are really coming from a lack of clarity. At the end of day, any financial institution must work with the government, because it’s intricacy in terms of global economy and a country economy, especially from financial institutional perspective. For digital asset, I like to use the word digital asset versus cryptocurrency, because digital asset, whether its Bitcoin or ERC 20, should be really reviewed as asset class — how you define it? what is the boundary? And how does the government feel comfortable that 1) from an investor perspective, people hold it as asset to increase value; 2), from trading perspective, whether there is proper guidance or proper protection against any manipulation. This is what we all have to wait for each part of the government. And I do know for example, UK FCA, is also contemplating what is the regulation, what is the requirement. I think that they’re trying to come out soon. And Singapore has something similar. So every single country is at the different path to get to defining what it is. F: And you see that coming from China as well? A: Like I said, I don’t really have any detail. Like I said, I am just from an outside view knowing how long it took them to open their financial market. When I was working for American banks, it was also a journey to get the foreign bank established in the mainland China. That is the journey I think the government is working through in terms of what is critical for them. F: Let’s talk about broader-based adoption in terms of the evolution of the crypto market. Obviously Wall Street has its view on crypto. What do you think would be the big steps for crypto to take to evolve to be more mainstream and institutional friendly. A: I think I have answered part of your question. When you look at it as part of my business planning for this venture, for any business plan, you need to look at the current state. So for the current state of digital asset, the premise is that right now the digital asset as an industry is tiny. The entire trading volume for cryptocurrency is 20 to 30 billion a day. You know how much it trades in US equity cash market? It’s 400–600 billion. The difference is because of institutional investors exactly as you said. What prevents institutional investors coming to this industry? It’s fragmented. Everything is pretty much on its own. You’ve got exchanges taking on different roles. They are brokers; they are the wallet management; they are the custodian. They are doing everything. And there are very different shapes of exchanges. You’ve got blockchain people, and you’ve got the banks. It’s very fragmented. Nobody knows what is really the transparency. And all the institutional players, they are looking at what is the government’s view on this, what is my biggest risk to get into this. So a lot of them is really about transparency. But the word, crypto, is a bit more connotation from a not so positive perspective. Institutional investors, they don’t see transparency from a market structure perspective. F: Right. A: My team and I, we came from a very much Wall Street background. When you look at the Wall Street, they were not pretty in 1980s, like the Wolf of Wall Street. But over the last 20–30 years, with all the different regulations and market structures reforms, you will see it becomes very structured. So typically, there are three different roles. First, the broker dealer, which basically handles the client relationship: there’s retail, there’s financial institution, and there’s blockchain. And second, what does the exchange do? The exchange does really just trading, order matching and listing. And third, there’s another component in equity world, I mean, in every single country there’s clearing house. What the clearing house does is when you buy a stock, they verify for you. It’s the same; they are very independent. When you guy the bitcoin, there is an address. It’s transparent. But the clearing house is making sure that here’s your money, here’s your digital asset; you make the trade, you settle the trade. Clean and clear. And these three components are basically how every single security market operates in every single country. And then when you look at what is the ancillary support structure, you’ve got the KYC — to addresses all the AML risk — All the governments are also worried about AML, terrorist funding and stuff like that. So the second part is the custody. Who holds the asset? If the exchange holds the asset, how do you make sure they don’t have any fungibility moving around. So the custody component for regulatory market is very important. F: I think a big news right now is Fidelity has come out and launched their own custodian service. They are a fairly large institution. A: Exactly, they are the largest money managers in the world. F: How do you think that will help clarify this custody piece? Do you think this is a good thing? A: I think this is actually good development for the market when you look at the structure just like I pointed out. You have to have a custody for digital asset trading to prove the value of the asset in an independent and control location. Another huge custody institution in US as you know is State Street. They have to have proper books and records, a proper control mechanism to demonstrate. This is actually a very healthy development, meaning the market is getting matured. And each of their utility functions is actually having strong support from someone so successful as Fidelity. I think this is a very healthy development, because from regulatogovernment perspective, you need those utility check-and- balances making sure the market is transparent, the trading is fair; asset is protected, and investors are protected. That’s what it is about. F: And TokenSoft as well has just launched a custody service for security tokens. It has a cold storage custody platform for security tokens, and I think this is part of your wallet management. A: Yep.
DEX is short for decentralised exchange. It is essentially a platform where people can trade cryptocurrencies without an intermediary managing the ledger or controlling user funds.
How is a DEX different from a CEX?
The vast majority of cryptocurrency trading currently still takes place on centralised exchanges (CEXs). On these platforms traders are serviced by central intermediaries. Whereas CEXs such as Coinbase or Kraken require a great deal of personal information and manage your accounts, making your funds vulnerable to theft, DEXs allow for direct, hassle-free trading, with users responsible for their own funds’ safe-keeping.
Why are DEXs important?
DEXs fulfil the ideological purpose of crypto-economics which is to increase financial freedom by decreasing dependency through decentralisation. Also, with approximately one in sixteen Bitcoins having been stolen and an estimated third of millennials invested in cryptocurrencies, decentralising the way we trade is incredibly important to optimise safety.
What are the core features of a DEX?
In general terms, crypto exchanges have three essential functions: fund management, order books, crypto transactions. For an exchange to be truly decentralised, each of these functions must operate in a decentralised manner:
Users’ funds are not entrusted to a third party. Users are their funds’ custodians and therefore keep their assets in their own hot and cold wallets.
Orders must be broadcasted directly from one trader to another, with their apps compiling an order book, without any dependence on some kind of central order book service.
With users’ apps communicating to set up the trading process, orders are matched directly between traders which are then broadcasted over the inter-chain network and settled directly, peer-to-peer.
What are some of the main benefits of DEXs?
Apart from improving safety by keeping users in control of their own funds and being much less vulnerable to hacks, DEXs offer a high degree of anonymity requiring much less personal information than CEXs. In addition, on DEXs there is no single point of failure. Any rollouts or updates occur on a node-by-node basis, meaning that even if individual nodes go down due to maintenance or for other reasons, the remaining nodes keep the DEX live.
What are some of the drawbacks of DEXs?
As DEXs are more complicated than CEXs, relatively new and slower to develop, there are some drawbacks that still need to be resolved. Not all DEXs are equally user-friendly. While creating an account on a CEX is relatively straightforward, DEXs often require connecting to a dApp or installing a standalone DEX client. Also, while CEXs generally offer advanced tools such as margin trading, for now most DEXs are restricted to buying and selling only. Because DEXs represent only a tiny portion of the total crypto-market’s trading volume, liquidity is generally too low for high-volume trading. Currently, DEXs are better suited for low-volume trading of popular coins.
Which cryptocurrencies can be traded on a DEX?
It is helpful to bear in mind that there are over 1500 different cryptocurrencies on the market and different DEXs make different selections as to which cryptocurrencies can be traded. This selection is not determined, but definitely influenced by the specific blockchain upon which the DEX is built. For example, EtherDelta enables trade of over 240 coins, all of which are compliant with Ethereum token standard (ERC20). BitShares, besides enabling trade in Bitcoin or Ethereum, focusses on trading BitAssets, which are stablecoins pegged to a real-life assets such as BitUSD, BitEUR, BitGold, etc.
How best to optimise security when trading on a DEX?
When it comes to cryptocurrencies it is good to consider three layers where security is at stake: coins and tokens, exchanges, and wallets. When selecting coins to trade with, make sure that they are in no way centralised and their protocol does not allow any authority to compromise distributed consensus. DEXs are safer than CEXs but bear in mind that every exchange is situated on a spectrum with some DEXs more decentralised than others. When trading on a DEX, be advised to keep a limited amount (20%) in hot wallets and the rest secured in cold wallets. Also, be sure to change passwords frequently, preferably using a two-factor authentication method (2FA). Extra measures include dedicating a device, such as a smartphone or PC, to the sole use of trading cryptocurrencies; avoiding public WI-FI while trading; and having devices encrypted (VeraCrypt, FileCrypt). As a rule of thumb: at each layer, go with the principle of decentralisation.
What are some of the most promising up-and-coming DEXs?
DEXs are a relatively new phenomenon compared to their centralised counterparts. The market for DEXs is developing and growing at a rapid pace. Some up-and-coming DEXs include 0xProject, which is actually a platform for DEXs such as Radar Relay and EthFinex; EtherDelta, one of the most popular DEXs around; Kyber Network; Waves; and our very own SparkDex, which is purpose built for pegged cryptocurrencies. For more a more in-depth discussion about these up-and-coming DEXs read our dedicated article here.
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