Similar to traditional security, a security token performs the same function except that it confirms ownership through blockchain transactions and also make fractional ownership possible. Federal laws that govern securities also apply to Security tokens with the intention of protecting investors on some levels. Security tokens are programmable. Tokenizing securities, in theory, remove the need of a third party by using smart contracts. For example, a loan “tokenized” on a blockchain could automatically make payments without the use of a traditional middleman like a bank. A detailed article on STO was written by Moonwhale Ventures that discussed deeper on the various regulatory requirements around security tokens.
Let’s take a look at three commonly known types of security tokens:
- Equity Token
- Debt Token
- Real Assets Token
Equity tokens represent the value of shares issued by a company on the blockchain. The difference between an equity token and a traditional stock lies in its method of recording ownership. A traditional stock is logged into a database and the records are then represented by a paper certificate. For an equity token, however, it is recorded on an immutable blockchain essentially digitizing the traditional means of recording. Owning an equity token entitles the investor a portion of the company’s profits and a right to vote. It is important to note that these tokens are not limited to only the early stages of funding though it is more common to find companies offering its tokens during seed round. There are three benefits to this system:
- Enables investors to invest in blockchain companies while staying in compliance with securities law
- New fundraising model for early startups
- Framework for regulators to evaluate the project’s fundraising
ICOs provided an opportunity for early startups to seek funding through utility tokens. However, it came under major scrutiny by authorities as utility tokens do not represent ownership to the company. An STO ensures their fundraising efforts are compliant with securities law. One example of an equity token offering is Documo. They will be launching one of the world’s first equity token offerings to fund its business initiative to drive the mass adoption of paperless document technologies. Their tokens DCMO represents actual equity ownership in Documo.
Debt-based security tokens represent debt instruments such as real estate mortgages and corporate bonds. The prices of these tokens are dictated by two factors: Risk and Dividend. A medium risk of default in a real estate mortgage cannot be priced the same way as a bond of a pre-IPO company. Therefore, modeling the price of a security token after risk and dividend is key. In blockchain terms, the smart contract representing a debt security token should include operations such as repayment terms that dictate the dividend model but also incorporate the different risk factors of the underlying debt.
The benefits of tokenizing debt include:
Fractionalizing debt vehicles brings new opportunities to a larger scope of investors
Tokenizing futures contracts and derivatives could open up a whole world of new opportunities. As a result, they can bring massive liquidity into the tokenized market, thanks to its highly leveraged nature. It also provides a great way of hedging portfolios.
- Market Size
The current public market that includes bond and debt security is worth $100 trillion dollars. Should tokenization be the next evolutionary step for financial instruments, the potential for debt-based tokens can be massive.
The difference between dividends from equity and from debt is its regularity. Dividends from bonds are typically more frequent than equity because dividends from equity heavily depend on the underlying companies’ performance.
Real Asset Tokens
This type of token represents ownership to a certain asset such as real estate or commodities. Commodity-backed tokens address issues of trust, their inefficiencies and the complexity of transactions, which typically involve multiple parties. Blockchain technology allows a transparent record of complicated transactions, track goods, and reduce fraud, which seems to make it a natural fit for the commodity business.
Tokens can be used as virtual currencies, which have the same characteristics as any commodity (like gold) that can be traded with profit-making intentions. Commodity-backed cryptocurrencies included tokens linked to gold, silver, and oil . And each of those commodity has its own advantage and disadvantage.
Commodity-backed stable coins are one of the most exciting developments in the crypto world. Commodities such as gold or diamonds giving the tokens stability and value.
- Bananas — a cryptocurrency backed by bananas.
- Cannabium — backed by liquid cannabis extracts from legal sources
- PowerLedger —backed by renewable energy of the sun.
- “El Petro” — Oil-backed. Venezuela’s economy has been plummeting.
- Diamonds are an easy-to-redeem commodity with a good potential of a soon-to-be unlocked market. Among commodities, diamonds are one of the most stable in value. While gold, silver, and other commodities are exposed to financial markets and speculators’ whims, diamonds have remained steady for over three decades (enjoying a positive appreciation).
The STO Market Today
With regards to these three types of security tokens, the majority of projects that offer the token is lacking in quality. There are several great examples of real asset tokens such as the project led by Inveniam Capital Partners to tokenize $260 million worth in real estate and debt transactions. However, buyers have to hold at least $10 million in Crypto to participate and purchase a minimum of $500,000 worth. It is clear that the world of security tokens are fundamentally geared more towards institutions.
It will take a considerable amount of time to incorporate the true beauty of initial coin offerings into security tokens. Initial coin offerings democratize the fundraising process which was only open to larger institutions and accredited investor. Imagine a world where a student living in Argentina being able to own equities to a company based in Russia simply from their phones. But for now, the Argentinian student has to wait and proceed with the current ways to invest in security tokens. The STO market is definitely one to watch for in the next coming years as we attempt to revolutionize the financial markets.