Bitcoin: The Perfect Collateral Asset

As the industry evolves, embracing Bitcoin as collateral provides an opportunity to reshape financial markets and establish a more transparent and trustworthy lending ecosystem.

Derek Jennison
July 14, 2023
Bitcoin: The Perfect Collateral Asset

In recent years, Bitcoin has emerged as a revolutionary digital asset that has captured the attention of investors, traders, and financial institutions worldwide. Beyond its role as a decentralized digital currency, Bitcoin's unique properties make it an ideal collateral for various financial instruments, particularly in the OTC derivatives and loans market. In this blog post, we will explore why Bitcoin surpasses traditional assets like gold in terms of collateral suitability, highlighting its blockchain-based verifiability and protection against rehypothecation - the practice of financial institutions using collateral posted by their clients to fund additional debts. We will also discuss the significance of Bitcoin collateral in light of recent events involving prominent lending platforms such as BlockFi and Celsius.

Immutability and Verifiability on the Blockchain:

One of the key advantages of Bitcoin as collateral is its verifiability on the blockchain. Every transaction involving Bitcoin is recorded on a public ledger, ensuring transparency and immutability. This verifiability reduces counterparty risk and provides a level of trust that traditional collateral assets struggle to match. By leveraging the blockchain, lenders and borrowers can easily validate the existence and ownership of Bitcoin collateral without relying on intermediaries or lengthy manual processes.

Predictable Scarcity and Market Liquidity:

Bitcoin's predictable scarcity and market liquidity make it an exceptional choice for collateral in the OTC derivatives and loans market. Unlike traditional assets like gold, Bitcoin's scarcity is governed by the halving protocol, which reduces the rate of new Bitcoin creation at regular intervals. This predictable supply reduction ensures an increasingly scarce asset over time, offering stability and long-term value to lenders and borrowers. In contrast, gold supply is subject to factors like mining production and discoveries, making its future availability uncertain.

The growing global adoption of Bitcoin, coupled with its predictable scarcity, contributes to its market liquidity. The expanding number of participants, including institutional investors and retail traders, has led to robust trading volumes and continuous market activity. This liquidity enables collateralized Bitcoin to be easily converted into cash or other assets, providing flexibility and mitigating liquidity concerns. Additionally, Bitcoin's transparent and predetermined inflation schedule distinguishes it from gold, where inflation is influenced by various factors. This predictability allows lenders and borrowers to plan and assess the long-term value and stability of Bitcoin collateral, reducing uncertainties associated with traditional collateral assets.

Security and Ownership Control:

Bitcoin's robust security features, built on cryptographic principles, make it highly resistant to hacking and fraud. One notable aspect of Bitcoin's security is the ability to employ a multi-signature scheme, which enhances control and protection for both borrowers and lenders.

In a multi-signature scheme, multiple private keys are required to authorize a transaction. For instance, a typical setup may involve three parties: the borrower, the lender, and an independent third-party custodian. Each party holds a unique private key, and a transaction can only be executed when a predetermined number of these keys are used together. This means that no single party has sole control over the funds without the involvement of the other parties.

This multi-signature arrangement significantly reduces counterparty risk. As a borrower, you can have confidence that your collateral is not at the mercy of a single custodian or lender who may face insolvency or act maliciously. Similarly, as a lender, you are assured that your collateral cannot be misappropriated or accessed without your consent.

By implementing a multi-signature scheme, Bitcoin collateral offers a higher level of protection against counterparty risk compared to traditional collateral assets. It creates a system where the borrower, lender, and custodian all play crucial roles in securing and managing the collateral, ensuring that no single party can unilaterally control the funds. This distributed control mechanism provides an additional layer of security and instills trust in the lending process.

Lightning Network's Efficiency of Collateral Settlement:

A novel approach to collateral settlement could potentially arise from the utilization of the Lightning Network. This methodology could significantly improve the efficiency of collateral settlement and the effectiveness of transactions. This approach relies on the strength of an established digital infrastructure, offering seamless interoperability among participants within the financial ecosystem. The global recognition and liquidity associated with such an asset ensure smooth integration and cooperation across an expansive network.

One of the striking benefits of this concept lies in its capacity for near-instantaneous collateral settlement. It vastly outpaces traditional settlement methods in terms of speed, significantly reducing time and counterparty risk.

In future blogs, we will explore how the Lightning Network could offer an efficient and secure solution for collateral settlement. With its swift settlement capabilities and reduced counterparty risk, this concept is set to impact the financial market.

The Value Proposition for OTC Derivatives Markets:

The use of Bitcoin and The Lightning Network for collateral management represents a potential step function improvement in risk management for the Bitcoin mining, lending, OTC derivatives, and traditional FX markets. With counterparty risk flattened continuously on a 24/7-365 basis, new trading relationships become possible. Miners and other participants in the OTC derivatives and lending markets can increase credit limits with existing trading desks and preferred counterparties. These limits can be raised without a corresponding increase in risk. New counterparties with lower credit scores may become acceptable trading counterparties, opening new avenues of liquidity. 

Furthermore, counterparty risk reductions of a statistically meaningful magnitude can have an impact on market practices. Continuous assessment of MTM profit combined with frictionless, threshold-driven collateral posting can reduce risk on a bilateral basis without the need for a central clearing house (third party trust). Alternatively, central clearing parties can utilize such an application to reduce their exposure to any single market participant, thereby lowering aggregate market risk. With trades more fully collateralized, any liquidations that might occur will pose less risk of amplifying broader market price movements. 

These benefits are only realized due to the unique attributes of Bitcoin and The Lightning Network today. By taking advantage of automated, reconciliation-free calculation of variation margin the OTC derivatives market will flourish by accepting Bitcoin as the preferred collateralized asset. These benefits will expand over time, however, as market participants  develop new capabilities to further leverage Bitcoin’s core functionality.  

Protection Against Rehypothecation:

Bitcoin's decentralized and transparent nature provides inherent protection against rehypothecation. Rehypothecation refers to the practice of using a borrower's assets as collateral for multiple loans, which can lead to systemic risk and potential insolvency issues. In the case of Bitcoin, its blockchain allows lenders and borrowers to verify the existence and unique ownership of the collateral, preventing unauthorized multiple claims and ensuring that it remains securely allocated to a specific loan.

The Importance of Bitcoin Collateral in Light of Recent Events:

The recent downfall of lending platforms like BlockFi and Celsius serves as a reminder of the importance of secure and transparent collateral in the financial ecosystem. These platforms faced challenges due to issues such as regulatory scrutiny and opaque collateral practices, which raised concerns about the reliability of the collateral backing their loans. By utilizing Bitcoin as collateral, such platforms can offer a more transparent and secure lending environment, mitigating risks and instilling confidence in their customers.


Bitcoin's distinct properties, including its verifiability on the blockchain, predictable scarcity, market liquidity, security features, and protection against rehypothecation, position it as the perfect collateral for the OTC derivatives and loans market. The ability to validate ownership, coupled with its inherent security and liquidity, makes Bitcoin an attractive choice for both lenders and borrowers. As the industry evolves, embracing Bitcoin as collateral provides an opportunity to reshape financial markets and establish a more transparent and trustworthy lending ecosystem.

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