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The Blockchain Could Change the Backbone of the Stock Market

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Where the Blockchain Meets the Stock Market

Modern technology enables stock markets to be faster and more complex than ever.

But while the speed of order executions are infinitely more impressive across the board, the conceptual backbone behind the stock market itself hasn’t changed much. In fact, the model we use today for settling trades and ensuring proper share ownership is still based on the one initially created in the 17th Century.

A Decentralization of Equities?

Today’s infographic comes to us from Equibit, and it envisions what a decentralized securities platform could look like.

In such a paradigm, the settlement of trades would not occur through centralized transfer agents, but instead through a blockchain with this feature “built in”.

The application of blockchain technology could take the modernization of the stock market one step further. Instead of technology being used simply to speed up more complex transactions, the blockchain could change how the plumbing behind the system works to mitigate current risks and problems.

But to understand how transformative this idea is, we need to look at the history behind the current model first.

The Roots of the Modern Market

The roots of the modern stock market can be traced back to Amsterdam in the year 1602, when the Dutch East India Company became the world’s first “publicly traded” company.

Trade missions to the West Indies were risky and expensive – so shares and bonds in the company were initially sold to a large pool of interested investors to spread the risk. In turn, backers of the company received a guarantee of some future share of profits.

As investors began speculating about the prospects of the Dutch East India Company, a secondary market quickly developed for these securities. People bought and sold stock in high volumes, and a central registrar tracked the transfer of shares between parties.

The Backbone of Today’s Market

Over 400 years later, the stock market is not that much different from the earliest exchange found in Amsterdam.

Modern computing and the internet have sped up transactions so they can be executed in milliseconds, but the conceptual backbone of the market hasn’t changed at all.

Stock Transfer Agents are the centralized registrars in the background that track share ownership for issuers and the stock market. They are a third party that will cancel the share certificate for the investor that sold the shares, and substitute the new owner’s name on the official master shareholder listing.

There are over 130 stock transfer agents in the USA and Canada, maintaining the records of more than 100 million shareholders on behalf of over 15,000 issuers.

New Technology, Old Model

While modern stock transfer agents use today’s technology, the same old model persists – and it creates multiple industry problems:

Centralized and expensive

  • Depositories and transfer agents are a single point of failure
  • Registration, transfer, distribution, scrutineering, courier fees
  • The more widely held, the higher the administration costs

Limited Transparency

  • Information asymmetry leads to market advantages
  • Forged securities still a concern
  • Counterparty risk is systemic

Furthermore, legal ownership rests with transfer agents in most jurisdictions. Investors actually do not have title.

At the same time, the industry is huge – just one company, The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC) is the highest financial value processor in the world with $1.6 quadrillion in transactions in 2016.

The Problem With Centralization

During the Financial Crisis, the problems of increased centralization and limited transparency reared their ugly head.

Companies like Lehman Brothers and MF Global self-destructed – and nobody knew what kind of assets they had off their balance sheets.

If an accurate [blockchain] record of all of Lehman’s transactions had been available in 2008, then Lehman’s prudential regulators could have used data mining tools, smart contracts and other analytical applications to recognize anomalies. Regulators could have reacted sooner to Lehman’s deteriorating creditworthiness.

– J. Christopher Giancarlo, Commodity Futures Trading Commission

This lack of clarity and risk helped drive hysteria, ultimately exacerbating the extent of the crisis. Because no one could quantify the risks, investors liquidated their assets. More selling meant even less liquidity.

Enter the Blockchain

Instead of putting all stock transactions through a centralized hub, the blockchain can be used to directly transfer share ownership between investors.

Here’s how a decentralized securities platform could work:

  1. Somebody decides to transfer a security.
  2. The transaction is broadcast to a P2P network consisting of computers known as nodes.
  3. The network of nodes validates the transaction and user’s status using known algorithms. A valid transaction will transfer the title of the security.
  4. Once verified, the transaction is combined with other transactions to create a new block of data for the ledger and thus completing the transaction.

In other words, stock exchanges could run using a blockchain under the hood, with no longer any need for a centralized settlement or transfer of share certificates.

This is cheaper, faster, reduces risks, and more secure. It also would be fully transparent.

Even better, such a platform could also serve as the base for other value adds – and fully transform the way we think about equity markets.

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Technology

Countries With the Highest Rates of Crypto Ownership

While the U.S. is a major market for cryptocurrencies, two countries surpass it in terms of their rates of crypto ownership.

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Countries With the Highest Rates of Crypto Ownership

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

This graphic ranks the top 10 countries by their rate of cryptocurrency ownership, which is the percentage of the population that owns crypto. These figures come from crypto payment gateway, Triple-A, and are as of 2023.

Data and Highlights

The table below lists the rates of crypto ownership in the top 10 countries, as well as the number of people this amounts to.

Country% of Population
Who Own Crypto
# of Crypto Owners
🇦🇪 United Arab Emirates30.43M
🇻🇳 Vietnam21.221M
🇺🇸 U.S.15.653M
🇮🇷 Iran13.512M
🇵🇭 Philippines13.416M
🇧🇷 Brazil1226M
🇸🇦 Saudi Arabia11.44M
🇸🇬 Singapore11.1665K
🇺🇦 Ukraine10.64M
🇻🇪 Venezuela10.33M

Note that if we were to rank countries based on their actual number of crypto owners, India would rank first at 93 million people, China would rank second at 59 million people, and the U.S. would rank third at 52 million people.

The UAE Takes the Top Spot

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) boasts the highest rates of crypto ownership globally. The country’s government is considered to be very crypto friendly, as described in Henley & Partners’ Crypto Wealth Report 2023:

In the UAE, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA-ADGM) was the first to provide rules and regulations regarding cryptocurrency purchasing and selling. The Emirates are generally very open to new technologies and have proposed zero taxes for crypto owners and businesses.

Vietnam leads Southeast Asia

According to the Crypto Council for Innovation, cryptocurrency holdings in Vietnam are also untaxed, making them an attractive asset.

Another reason for Vietnam’s high rates of ownership could be its large unbanked population (people without access to financial services). Cryptocurrencies may provide an alternative means of accessing these services without relying on traditional banks.

Learn More About Crypto From Visual Capitalist

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out The World’s Largest Corporate Holders of Bitcoin, which ranks the top 12 publicly traded companies by their Bitcoin holdings.

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