为什么Robinhood传奇预示着DeFi的发展前景良好?

Quantstamp Labs
February 22, 2021

The Situation

Diamond hands, short squeezes, bailouts—these terms became mainstream in January 2021 as the story of a grassroots Reddit community disrupting a powerful hedge fund went viral. However, going beyond the headlines, what happened with the Robinhood saga creates a very strong and compelling case for why Decentralized Finance—DeFi—offers solutions to problems that stem from a centralized, inefficient system that lacks transparency.

To understand the context that led to this pivotal moment, it’s important to know that hedge funds often use combinations of shorts & options—and some of them, most notably Melvin Capital—had been shorting a company called GameStop for years. The story began to unfold when some individuals from WallStreetBets—a loosely organized but high-spirited Reddit trading community—noticed excess shorting relative to the company's free float. Essentially, more shares of $GME were being lent to short sellers than were actually available. WSB traders started buying up $GME, massively driving up the stock price. As this happened, what may have begun as simply an opportunity for Reddit investors to make a profit turned into a more formal strategy to take down a hedge fund. 

With such a huge rise in stock price over a short period of time, institutional investors were rushing to cover their positions, further exacerbating the upward tick in $GME price and creating a short squeeze. Other stocks, such as movie theater chain AMC Entertainment, also became a target due to having a high amount of shorted stocks in comparison to its float. AMC shares could have been bought for $2 at the beginning of January 2021; by the end of the month, they had risen more than 10x.

Over the next few weeks, the price of these stocks saw a meteoric rise, leaving these hedge funds billions in debt. Melvin Capital, the biggest short seller, was close to liquidating their position when Citadel and Point72 infused close to $3 billion to help cover their position. Later on, sources would discover that Citadel Advisors LLC not only had a significant short position in $GME, but also stood to make money as the stock went up and down. Arguably, large hedge funds exploiting loopholes for financial gain wasn’t shocking news—but the events that unfolded over the following days would be.

On January 28, 2021, after GameStop stock had risen by more than 400%, several mainstream brokerage platforms—including Robinhood—shut down the ability to buy shares of GameStop and other trending stocks, “in light of recent volatility.” With this move, users only had the choice to liquidate or close positions. For an app with a mission to “democratize finance for all,” this did not sit well with users or do Robinhood any favors in terms of public sentiment. 


This controversial move did not go unnoticed, but in fact became a viral story. It captivated people around the world who hadn’t even heard of Robinhood, and incited anger among the retail investors closed off from buying stock that larger investment funds still had access to.


The Pivotal Moment

With Robinhood users barred from buying certain stocks, a social movement began to gain traction. While many people may have agreed that traditional finance is rigged in favor of the powerful, this fact became incredibly clear and impossible to ignore. However, after seeing the pitfalls of a centralized system in action, it presented the perfect opportunity for the rapidly-growing DeFi space to demonstrate its value proposition.

In the DeFi space, financial applications exist that allow users to trade without the need of a third party like Robinhood. When users trade assets on Uniswap, they maintain complete control of their assets the entire time, operating under a transparent ruleset that applies to everyone. On Uniswap and other DeFi applications, users can invest money without having to rely on a bank. It is also impossible for any company or third party to prevent a user from buying an asset.

Robinhood’s decision to halt the purchase of various stocks incited outrage in many people, but however you describe it—unethical, disingenuous or hypocritical—it was something that as a platform owner, they were able to do.


What is DeFi?

DeFi is Ethereum’s Decentralized Finance sector, describing a collective mix of non-custodial protocols and projects. With DeFi, users can access lending, borrowing, derivatives, and exchanges just like traditional finance. However, instead of centralized entities like Robinhood making decisions, self-enforceable and automated smart contracts run these decentralized apps (dapps). Because code is public and open-source, it offers true transparency—and, users can be confident that their assets can’t be frozen or their trades limited. 

DeFi isn’t perfect. It still needs to scale to achieve the volume of transactions that take place in traditional markets. And, with the ever-increasing amount of funds running through DeFi protocols, projects need to take security seriously. However, the fact remains that DeFi applications can be programmed to be open, permissionless, and operate 24/7 in a completely non-custodial fashion. In DeFi, users unequivocally maintain control of their own funds.


DeFi Advocates

In light of the Robinhood saga, numerous proponents of DeFi have vocalized their thoughts online. Mark Cuban, an American billionaire known for his show Shark Tank, did an AMA with the WallStreetBets community, talking about the largely untapped potential of DeFi and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). In February, Cuban also came onto The Defiant podcast, explaining why he’s bullish on DeFi and his thoughts on ETH as a store of value. Other Twitter influencers suggested people look into Ethereum and its decentralized financial system (and possibly make a lot of money in the process).

One thing is certain: DeFi has continued to experience incredible growth. At the beginning of February 2020, DeFi users celebrated reaching the milestone of $1B total value locked (TVL). Fast forward 12 months, and there is now over $40B TVL. Now, $1B TVL is required for a dapp to even make it into the DeFi Pulse Top 10.


As of February 17, 2021, there is over 40.3B USD locked in DeFi.


While growth in the DeFi space is thought to be driven predominantly by retail investors, an increasing number of institutional clients have taken positions and begun exploring the DeFi space. On February 8, 2021, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) launched a futures contract on Ether, three years after Bitcoin futures went live. This move marks an interesting milestone and seems to signal increasing interest from the institutional crowd. 

While there are certainly challenges the DeFi sector faces—user experience, volatility, scalability, and more—it also has the potential to completely transform the world of finance.

Let the People Trade
Have Control and Ownership of Their Money

Staff Writer Derek Thompson recently wrote in The Atlantic, "Waging war against Big Finance by becoming a day trader is like waging war against the casino industry by becoming a gambling addict. Even if you’re winning, you’re still participating in a broader casino economy—buying drinks, eating dinner, throwing chips to dealers, filling out tables—that, over time, guarantees that the house keeps winning." 

While the story of the WallStreetBets community banding together to disrupt powerful hedge funds may be inspiring, it doesn’t solve the problem: any centralized system with intermediaries takes away control from the user.  

Vlad Tenev, Robinhood’s CEO, still maintains the move was done in good faith—"We absolutely did not do this at the direction of any market maker or hedge fund or anyone we route to or other market participants.” But whether his claim is true or not, traditional finance has forever been exposed for its worse traits: being siloed, non-transparent, permissioned, and built to benefit the powerful. While any new technology comes with challenges to overcome, DeFi’s potential has never been more clear: it’s public, global, open, and offers an entirely new world that gives power back to the people. 




Quantstamp 实验室
2021年2月22日

状况

钻石手、空头挤压、救助--这些术语在2021年1月成为主流,因为一个草根Reddit社区扰乱一个强大的对冲基金的故事被传播开来。然而,除了头条新闻之外,Robinhood传奇所发生的事情创造了一个非常强大和令人信服的案例,说明为什么去中心化金融-DeFi-可以解决源于缺乏透明度的中心化、低效率系统的问题。

要了解导致这一关键时刻的背景,重要的是要知道对冲基金经常使用空头与期权的组合--其中一些基金,最著名的是Melvin Capital--多年来一直在做空一家名为GameStop的公司。当WallStreetBets--一个组织松散但热情高涨的Reddit交易社区--的一些人注意到相对于该公司的自由流通股而言,有过多的做空行为时,故事就开始展开了。从本质上讲,借给卖空者的GME股票比实际可用的多。WSB交易员开始买入$GME,大幅推高了股价。随着这种情况的发生,最初可能只是Reddit投资者获利的机会,但后来却变成了一个更正式的策略,即击垮一个对冲基金。 

由于股价在短时间内出现如此巨大的涨幅,机构投资者纷纷补仓,进一步加剧了GME价格的上涨行情,并形成了空头挤压。其他股票,如电影院线连锁AMC娱乐公司,也因为与它的浮动股相比有较多的空头而成为目标。在2021年1月初,AMC的股价可以以2美元的价格买入;到了月底,AMC的股价已经上涨了10多倍。

在接下来的几周里,这些股票的价格出现了暴涨,让这些对冲基金负债数十亿。最大的卖空者梅尔文资本(Melvin Capital)在接近清仓时,Citadel和Point72注入了近30亿美元来帮助他们补仓。后来,消息人士会发现,Citadel Advisors LLC不仅持有大量的GME空头头寸,而且随着股价的上涨和下跌,他们还能赚到钱。可以说,大型对冲基金利用漏洞谋取经济利益并不是什么令人震惊的新闻--但随后几天发生的事件却令人震惊。

2021年1月28日,在GameStop股价上涨超过400%后,多家主流券商平台--包括Robinhood--关闭了买入GameStop和其他趋势股的功能,"鉴于近期的波动"。此举一出,用户只能选择清仓或平仓。对于一个以"全民金融民主化"为使命的应用来说,这并不能让用户满意,也不利于Robinhood的公众情绪。


这一有争议的举动并没有被忽视,事实上却成了一个病毒式的故事。它吸引了世界各地甚至没有听说过Robinhood的人,并煽动了被封闭的散户投资者的愤怒,使他们无法购买大型投资基金仍能获得的股票。


关键时刻

随着Robinhood的用户被禁止购买某些股票,一场社会运动开始得到了牵引。虽然很多人可能已经同意传统金融业是被操纵的,有利于权贵,但这个事实变得无比清晰,无法忽视。然而,在看到中心化系统的隐患之后,它为快速发展的DeFi领域提供了一个展示其价值主张的绝佳机会。

在DeFi领域,存在一些金融应用,允许用户在不需要Robinhood这样的第三方的情况下进行交易。当用户在Uniswap上交易资产时,他们全程保持对资产的完全控制,在一个适用于所有人的透明规则下操作。在Uniswap和其他DeFi应用上,用户无需依赖银行就可以进行投资理财。任何公司或第三方也不可能阻止用户购买资产。

Robinhood停止购买各种股票的决定激起了很多人的愤怒,但无论你怎么描述--不道德、不诚实或虚伪--这都是作为一个平台所有者,他们能够做的事情。


什么是DeFi?

DeFi是Ethereum的去中心化金融部门,描述了一个非托管协议和项目的集体组合。通过DeFi,用户可以像传统金融一样获得借贷、借款、衍生品和交易所。然而,不是像Robinhood这样的中心化实体做出决策,而是由可自我执行和自动化的智能合约运行这些去中心化的应用程序(dapp)。因为代码是公开的、开源的,所以它提供了真正的透明度--而且,用户可以放心,他们的资产不会被冻结,也不会被限制交易。 

DeFi并不完美。它仍然需要扩大规模,以达到传统市场中的交易量。而且,随着越来越多的资金通过DeFi协议运行,项目需要认真对待安全问题。然而,事实上,DeFi应用可以被编程为开放的、无权限的,并以完全非托管的方式全天候运行。在DeFi中,用户明确地保持对自己资金的控制。


DeFi倡导者

鉴于Robinhood的传奇,众多DeFi的支持者在网上发表了他们的想法。美国亿万富翁马克-库班(Mark Cuban)以其节目《鲨鱼坦克》(Shark Tank)而闻名,他与WallStreetBets社区做了一次AMA,谈论了DeFi和非可变代币(NFT)很大程度上尚未开发的潜力。2月,Cuban还来到The Defiant播客,解释了他为什么看好DeFi,以及他对ETH作为价值存储的看法。其他推特影响者建议人们研究Ethereum及其去中心化的金融系统(并可能在这个过程中赚到很多钱)。

有一件事是肯定的。DeFi持续经历着不可思议的增长。2020年2月初,DeFi用户庆祝达到了锁定总价值(TVL)10亿美元的里程碑。快进12个月,现在已经有超过400亿美元的TVL。现在,一个dapp要想进入DeFi Pulse前十名,甚至需要10亿美元的TVL。


截至2021年2月17日,有超过403亿美元锁定在DeFi。


虽然DeFi领域的增长被认为主要由散户投资者推动,但越来越多的机构客户已经持仓并开始探索DeFi领域。2021年2月8日,芝加哥商业交易所(CME)推出了以太坊期货合约,这距离比特币期货上线已经过去了三年。此举是一个有趣的里程碑,似乎意味着机构人群的兴趣越来越大。

DeFi领域固然面临着挑战--用户体验、波动性、可扩展性等,但它也有可能彻底改变金融世界。

让人民交易
控制和拥有自己的资金

工作人员作家德里克-汤普森(Derek Thompson)最近在《大西洋》(The Atlantic)杂志上写道:"通过成为日间交易员向大金融业开战,就像通过成为赌徒向赌场业开战一样。即使你赢了,你仍然参与了更广泛的赌场经济--买饮料、吃晚餐、向发牌员投掷筹码、填满赌桌--随着时间的推移,保证了赌场不断赢钱。"

虽然WallStreetBets社区联合起来颠覆强大的对冲基金的故事可能是鼓舞人心的,但它并不能解决问题:任何有中介机构的中心化系统都会剥夺用户的控制权。  

Robinhood的首席执行官弗拉德-特涅夫(Vlad Tenev)仍然坚持认为此举是出于善意--"我们绝对没有在任何做市商或对冲基金或我们路由的任何人或其他市场参与者的指示下这样做。"但无论他的说法是否属实,传统金融业永远暴露出其更糟糕的特质:孤立、不透明、被允许、为权贵利益而建立。虽然任何新技术都有需要克服的挑战,但DeFi的潜力从未如此清晰:它是公开的、全球性的、开放的,提供了一个全新的世界,将权力还给人民。 




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