Dazzled by some insanely high APYs?

Have you noticed that a significant number of DeFi projects are offering insanely high annual percentage yields (APY), which, of course, look very attractive to investors, especially retail investors, who are those most at risk.

There are DeFi protocols that have been built using the proof-of-stake (PoS) consensus protocol offering eye-watering returns to their investors in return for them staking their native tokens. But, as most of us know, sometimes by getting burnt ourselves, if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

The issue is that some projects are nothing more than cash grab schemes. Shiraz Jagati at Cointelegraph gives the example of YieldZard, a project positioning itself as a DeFi innovation-focused company with an auto-staking protocol, which claims to offer a fixed APY of 918,757% to its clients. Who finds that believable? All you would need to invest is $1000 to gain a return of $9,187,570! And YieldZard isn’t the only project offering fast and high payouts.

Assessing an APY

How can you as an investor assess the sustainability of projects like this? Here is some advice from Kia Mosayeri, product manager at Balancer Labs — a DeFi automated market-making protocol. “Sophisticated investors will want to look for the source of the yield, its sustainability and capacity. A yield that is driven from sound economical value, such as interest paid for borrowing capital or percentage fees paid for trading, would be rather more sustainable and scalable than yield that comes from arbitrary token emissions.”

Ran Hammer, vice president of business development for public blockchain infrastructure at Orbs, pointed to the fact that DeFi offers a another major innovation to the crypto ecosystem: the ability to earn yield on what is more or less passive holding. But as he says, not all yields are equal by design because some yields are rooted in “real” revenue, while others are the result of high emissions based on Ponzi-like tokenomics.

Understand the source of the ‘yield’

Ultimately, it is very important for investors to understand where the yield is coming from. For example, transaction fees in exchange for computing power, trading fees on liquidity, a premium for options or insurance and interest on loans are all “real yields.” Whereas those that are based on token inflation may turn out to be less sustainable, as there is no real economic value funding these rewards. 

So, if you see a dazzling APY offered, you should consider all of the above, as well as the fact that most returns are paid in cryptocurrencies, and since most cryptocurrencies are volatile, (just look at the market this week!) the assets lent to earn such unrealistic APYs can decrease in value over time, leading to major losses. 

Ethereum fights off its ‘killers’

Ethereum has hit another all time high (ATH), even though the gas fees associated with using some complex DeFi protocols has increased above $1,000. This makes many decentralized finance protocols unusable for casual investors, with average Ethereum transaction fees now at a record $17.67, according to Cointelegraph. However, Bitcoin’s gas fees are not much lower.

But this is not deterring DeFi developers, who appear to be abandoning the so-called ‘Ethereum killers’, such as EOS, and sticking with the old guard. According to a Blockchain Development Trends report by venture capital firm Outlier Ventures, reported by Cointelegraph, “Ethereum remains the most actively developed blockchain protocol, followed by Cardano and Bitcoin.” The report adds, “while some new platforms such as Polkadot, Cosmos, and Avalanche are seeing an increase in developer activity, many of the traditional Ethereum competitors are seeing a decline in core development.”

You can read the Outlier Ventures Full Report here.

DeFi strength supports Ethereum

Certainly in 2020, the majority of DeFi platforms were Ethereum based, and even now “Ethereum still remains the king overall though, with 14% more developer activity than its closest rival, Cardano, and almost double that of Bitcoin in terms of commits,” Outlier Ventures says.

“Ethereum miners have been the key beneficiaries of the fee spike. The industry earned some $830 million in ether last month with 40% attributed from fees alone,” Coindesk reports, also noting that the increase in fees correlates with ETH’s current bullish price run, which also reflects the high demand for ERC-20-based tokens for stablecoin and DeFi projects.

It would also appear that Ethereum’s new ATH is bringing DeFi tokens along with it. Coindesk says: “According to research firm Messari, after ether went on a tear several DeFi tokens including chainlink (LINK), sushiswap (SUSHI) and aave (AAVE) followed the bullish trend, logging historic high prices Wednesday.”

Hunain Naseer, senior content editor at crypto exchange OKEX’s research unit, OKEx Insights said: “Ether made a significant push [since Tuesday] and that is causing projects linked to the DeFi space – as well as DOT, which is seen as a potential ‘Ethereum killer’ – to appreciate and aim for new all-time highs.”

Ethereum also got a big push from Grayscale, which added approximately 24,800 ETH on Tuesday, then worth more than $37.8 million, and it reopened its Ethereum Trust (OTCQX: ETHE) for accredited investors. This had been closed in late December, but as of 29th January 2021, the Grayscale Ethereum Trust had more than $4 billion in assets under management.

What is causing this price drive? It is thought that more investors are starting to see value in the projects behind these DeFi tokens, so market excitement is building. And with so many on the Ethereum blockchain, it seems the Ethereum killers may have more of a fight on their hands than they realised.