Citi Says Decentralized Crypto Exchanges Are Winning Market Share From Centralized Peers

Decentralized cryptocurrency exchanges (DEXs) have grown faster than centralized exchanges (CEXs) over the past two years, Citi (C) said in a research report Thursday. The gap is likely to widen as users move away from centralized platforms to avoid their more onerous know-your-customer procedures.

DEXs are blockchain-based apps that coordinate large-scale trading of digital assets between many users. They do this using automated algorithms, instead of the traditional approach of acting as a financial intermediary between buyers and sellers.

DEXs offer distributed revenues, like dividends, to token holders and the ability to self-custody funds, the report said. Once the trading rewards are included, these exchanges have comparatively lower fees than platforms such as Coinbase Pro, it added.

One of the main differences between DEXs and CEXs is the custody of funds, the bank said, as there is a risk in storing assets with CEXs. The bank highlighted the collapse of lending platform Celsius Networks and broker Voyager Digital as examples.

One potential driver for DEX volumes in the near term is an increase in regulation, the note said. As crypto regulation develops more broadly, with expanded reporting requirements, users could begin to migrate to DEXs from “KYC heavy CEXs,” it said, referring to “know-your-customer” requirements. The regulatory landscape is expected to become more “onerous,” and more users are likely to switch to decentralized exchanges from centralized ones, the note added.

Citi says DEXs are responsible for 18.2% of spot-trading volume, noting that volumes have remained resilient at over $50 billion a month, with total revenues of $3.6 billion in the last year. Uniswap continues to dominate, accounting for around 70% of total DEX volume, and could distribute up to $250 million to token holders if a recent governance proposal is passed. “This could mark a key pivot for a foundational DEX within the DeFi space,” the bank said.

DeFi is an umbrella term used for lending, trading and other financial activities carried out on a blockchain without the use of traditional intermediaries.

Read more: Centralized Exchange (CEX) vs. Decentralized Exchange (DEX): What’s the Difference?