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Introducing Ondo Global Markets - A New Paradigm for Securities Tokenization

From Ondo Finance by Nathan Allman

The biggest challenge in tokenizing real world assets (“RWAs”) is liquidity. 

For years, the RWA space was focused on tokenizing illiquid assets like newly originated private credit (e.g. uncollateralized loans to crypto market makers). While there may have been some value in providing direct access to these opportunities for stablecoin holders, the tokenization of the loans itself served little purpose. These assets are mostly buy-and-hold; they are too bespoke and hard-to-price for deep secondary markets to emerge, both on- and offchain. Given the lack of secondary market liquidity, these assets don’t make great collateral for onchain lending, derivatives, or other protocols. 

Approximately one year ago we launched OUSG, the world’s first tokenized US Treasuries product, which wrapped a BlackRock Treasuries ETF. We launched OUSG in part out of a belief that the RWA space should focus on tokenizing assets that have deep existing liquidity as those assets would make better collateral in DeFi. Around the same time, we developed Flux Finance, a lending protocol supporting OUSG collateral, to showcase some of this utility. Flux is effectively an implementation of US Treasury repo markets that is autonomous, global, transparent, and accessible to all stablecoin holders. OUSG and Flux have been an early success with over $200M in combined assets. We have since expanded to other forms of tokenized US Treasuries with slightly different target demographics and use cases, including OMMF, our tokenization of money market funds focused partly on institutional settlement, and USDY, our yield-bearing substitute for conventional stablecoins. 

So, what is next? BCG predicts $16 trillion in diverse financial assets coming onchain in the next decade. Many have been wondering which of those assets we will focus on beyond cash equivalents. In this post, we will unveil some of those plans. Our focus on securities beyond cash equivalents requires a reconceptualization of tokenization, as we don’t believe the tokenization model we have pioneered with OUSG is best-suited for bringing most other assets onchain. Specifically, rather than issuing tokens as distinct financial assets (e.g. OUSG, USDY), Ondo Global Markets will treat public blockchain tokens as a messaging system through which regulated broker-dealers and custodians will accept trade and settlement instructions.

The Problem with Status Quo Tokenization

For example, OUSG tokens represent ownership in a new fund we set up, Ondo I LP, which invests in the iShares Short Treasury Bond ETF (SHV). The problem with this approach is that it fragments liquidity. For example, while an OUSG holder can redeem on any given day, he cannot sell OUSG during market hours into bids on Nasdaq for SHV, since OUSG and SHV are distinct financial assets. This fragmentation is made worse by the slow settlement times in traditional finance. If an investor wants to redeem OUSG, ordinarily we have to sell SHV shares, wait two days for cash to settle, convert USD to USDC, then service the redemption. Of course, we work with market makers who are willing and able to buy OUSG 24/7 at some price, knowing they can turn around and redeem for cash. We also offer T+0 redemptions at up to $100M. Still, these solutions come at some cost as they require having extra cash sitting around. 

Cash Equivalents vs Everything Else

For cash equivalents like OUSG and USDY that seek to be substitutes for stablecoins, we think this cost is worth paying. Stablecoins have shown clear market demand to be able to transact 24/7. Additionally, creating USDY as a new financial asset allowed us to create it in a way where it could be held by investors who don’t have to directly onboard with Ondo, specifically by making it a bearer asset. This allows USDY to function as a yield-bearing substitute for conventional stablecoins.

However, there is little demonstrated demand to be able to trade or settle 24/7 for most financial assets, and there is material cost in recreating liquidity for tokenized assets that is largely duplicative with the liquidity for the assets that back them. We do not think that it would be advisable, for instance, to create a fund that invests in TSLA and then to tokenize ownership in that fund and then endeavor to create secondary market liquidity in those tokens with the help of arbitrageurs. We have a better solution.

Ultimately, for most financial assets other than cash equivalents, we believe that onchain investors and application developers simply want a way to submit trade and settlement instructions via smart contracts to traditional market intermediaries (e.g. broker dealers, who can then submit instructions to exchanges). We are excited to unveil Ondo Global Markets to help bring this solution to the onchain economy.

Introducing Ondo Global Markets

Ondo Global Markets (“Ondo GM”) will provide native access to traditional securities and associated exchange liquidity for onchain investors and protocol developers. 

Ondo GM is a platform that will include a broker-dealer with accounts at traditional trading, clearing, and settlement venues that will, in addition to accepting client orders via API and web app, also accept orders via smart contract call and/or token transfer. Permissioning for clients to be able to make those orders will be granted as blockchain tokens (analogous to API keys). 

Example Workflows

Let us illustrate with an example to better understand how Ondo GM will treat tokens. When a client purchases a security at Ondo GM, she will be given a token. For instance, consider Alice, a client of Ondo GM, who wishes to purchase TSLA (Tesla Inc) stock. Alice can fund her account with stablecoins or fiat and then instruct Ondo GM—via smart contract call, API, or web app—to purchase TSLA. Ondo GM will promptly purchase TSLA at Nasdaq and hold the shares in its broker-dealer’s account (ultimately at the DTC). In return, Alice will receive TSLA tokens (tTSLA) with transfer restrictions that limit transfer to addresses associated with other Ondo GM clients.

Alice could send her tTSLA tokens to someone else who is also a client of Ondo GM, and Ondo GM would observe that token transfer and treat it as authoritative settlement instructions to initiate an intra-broker-dealer transfer of shares (i.e. within the authoritative books and record of Ondo GM’s broker-dealer). 

This practice of using the blockchain as a messaging system for otherwise centralized and regulated businesses is not dissimilar to how Silvergate and Signature treated blockchain messages on SEN and Signet, respectively, as authoritative instructions to initiate balance transfers between different users with accounts at the same bank. In the context of Ondo GM, the assets that can be moved are public securities rather than bank deposit balances. Additionally, Ondo GM will use tokens on public blockchain networks with transfer restrictions (whereas SEN and Signet were permissioned), and token holders will be able to use smart contracts for automation and other purposes.

As a practical example of how smart contracts could be used, imagine that Alice pledges her tTSLA as collateral in a smart contract that facilitates lending agreements. If Alice fails to repay a loan mediated by the smart contract, the contract could automatically trigger a burning of the tTSLA, which Ondo GM would observe and treat as authoritative instructions to sell TSLA and remit stablecoin to the smart contract, allowing the lender to be repaid.* This sale of TSLA would be treated no differently than one submitted via API or web app and would ultimately be routed to a conventional exchange (e.g. Nasdaq) then later cleared and settled on conventional infrastructure (e.g. NSCC, DTC).

Importantly, tTSLA would not represent a distinct financial asset with distinct liquidity needs from TSLA shares at Ondo GM. Rather, tTSLA would represent rights to TSLA as held at Ondo GM’s broker-dealer and the ability to direct the broker-dealer to trade, settlement, or other instructions. We call this “Directive Tokenization”. 

*Note: Protocol developers could also build liquidations to happen via a purchase of the TSLA tokens by a third-party, similar to how liquidations currently work on Compound or Flux, but we generally think having a smart contract simply initiate a sale is more efficient.

Traditional Asset TokenizationOndo GM’s Directive Tokenization
Tokens Represent:Ownership in a distinct financial assetReceipt of securities held at Ondo GM’s broker-dealer, and rights to submit orders related to those assets (e.g. buy, sell, transfer)
Liquidity:Very challenging to create liquidity, reliant largely on DEXes and centralized security token ATSsImmediate, full liquidity across all publicly traded securities, sourced via traditional exchanges
Asset Types Best Suited For:Cash and cash equivalents where fastAlmost every other financial asset (e.g. publicly traded equities, fixed income)

Example Use Cases

The ability to execute buy, sell, and transfer orders in public securities using public market liquidity via smart contract calls and token transfers unlocks a new world of use cases and will represent a dramatic acceleration towards bridging the composability, transparency, and efficiency of public blockchains with the traditional financial system.

As a couple of examples, consider:

  • Prime brokerage for crypto plus securities: Prime brokerage includes the ability to get leverage on assets held at a variety of different custodians. This is generally inaccessible to retail users today, whose only option is margin leverage from a single brokerage who holds their securities. Ondo GM would make it possible for third-parties to provide lending arrangements that could easily collateralize loans by securities at a variety of different custodians. You can imagine similar financial products like derivatives (e.g. perps) cross-collateralized by crypto and securities held at different custodians.
  • Tokenized funds backed by token-powered securities: If you are an asset manager creating funds – similar to OUSG, or even an actively managed basket of securities – and you want to be able to accept subscription and redemption requests with stablecoins, we can make that easier for you. Ondo GM can be funded directly with stablecoins and redemption requests can be authoritatively requested via contract calls. This is infrastructure we created to connect OUSG to traditional brokerages that doesn’t need to be re-created for every new fund manager with onchain investors.  

Comparisons

Ondo GM will combine the asset and liquidity access and institutional-grade investor protections of traditional brokerages with the onchain interoperability, composability, and low friction settlement of public blockchains. We highlight below the various facets of Ondo GM’s value proposition versus conventional brokerages and existing tokenized securities on public blockchains.

Ondo GM vs Traditional Brokerages (e.g. Goldman, Robinhood, Apex Clearing):

  • Compatibility with smart contracts (and thus onchain lending, trading, derivative, etc. protocols)
  • Distribution and settlement on same rails as crypto assets (appeals to crypto-native businesses like exchanges and users)
  • 24/7 settlement when needed

Ondo GM vs Existing Tokenized Securities (e.g. OUSG):

  • Access to public securities and traditional liquidity venues (e.g. NYSE)
  • No requirement or cost to create new onchain liquidity, custody, etc. for tokenized securities
  • Scales to thousands of liquid public securities

In order to realize the promise of blockchains to create a more fair, open, and transparent financial system, it is paramount that we create infrastructure that is compatible and interoperable with both public blockchain networks and protocols as well as traditional trading, clearing, and settlement systems for regulated markets. We are creating Ondo GM to achieve this mission and unlock access to and liquidity from public regulated securities for onchain builders and investors. 

Get Involved

Please reach out to us at [email protected] if you are a:

  • User interested in learning more and onboarding directly to Ondo GM
  • Protocol developer or if you support an L1 or L2 blockchain and would like to explore bringing Ondo GM Tokens to your ecosystem
  • Fintech, crypto exchange, or other CeFi infrastructure provider interested in offering Ondo GM Tokens to your clients
  • Broker dealer interested in offering something similar to Ondo GM to your clients
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