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The Meaning of DeFi

Apr 11, 2023
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Decentralized Finance, or DeFi for short, was built on Satoshi Nakamoto’s mission to revolutionize money and financial systems. It is a general term for financial applications built on public blockchains that allow users to transact digital assets while eliminating third parties or intermediaries. DeFi offers a decentralized financial system and a transparent ecosystem accessible to everybody. 

Despite these qualities that mirror the true goal of cryptocurrency, the crypto industry is fraught with centralized organizations and businesses.

Centralized Finance (CeFi) vs Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

Just as its name implies, centralized finance encompasses financial services and platforms that depend on a centralized authority or intermediary to function. These platforms can be exchanges, wallets, payment processors, and lending platforms. Popular CeFi exchanges include Binance and Coinbase. They govern the trading of cryptocurrencies, serve as middlemen between users and the crypto market, and charge fees for their services. 

With CeFi explained, here are some key differences that exist between CeFi and DeFi.

Key Differences Between CeFi and DeFi

It will be necessary to discuss these differences under four rubrics: autonomy, transparency, security and privacy, and innovation. 


Centralized platforms have total control and ownership and govern the operations of the financial system. In addition to processing transactions, they handle customer accounts and have the final say over certain investment or lending decisions.

DeFi, on the other hand, places autonomy in the hands of participants who use the blockchain. Every participant has equal access to the blockchain since there is no central authority that controls the system. All transactions are processed, verified, and recorded on the blockchain via smart contracts. Also, the responsibility of storing their assets lies with the users. 


While transparency is one of the core values of the overall cryptocurrency space, centralized financial systems tend to deviate from it. Since control lies within a central authority, there is a tendency for data to be manipulated. Users have to trust and rely on this central authority to ensure the accuracy of their financial records. However, it’s different in DeFi.

Data and transactions in decentralized finance are publicly available on the blockchain. Users can track, audit, and verify the authenticity of these transactions at any time. 

Security and Privacy

Centralized databases and servers are vulnerable to attacks and security breaches. They are usually prime targets for hackers and other malicious actors. Thus, users risk having their personal information and assets compromised, especially since they have limited control over their privacy and security. 

However, it is a different ball game for decentralized finance where users have access to the cryptographic provisions of blockchain technology, including multifactor authentication and smart contract audits. They have control over their private keys and assets. 


Because of the regulations and bureaucracies present in centralized finance, its products and services usually remain inflexible and standardized. In terms of innovation, there is a huge barrier to entry since innovations must fit the regulatory frameworks provided. 

Decentralized finance, on the other hand, is highly flexible, customizable, and innovative. DeFi usually provides a veritable platform for users to experiment with, create, and use smart contracts, protocols, and decentralized applications (dApps) to perform complex financial operations.





Ownership and control is centralized

Ownership and control are distributed to users 


Data is hidden and prone to manipulation

Data is available to the public

Security & Privacy

Less secure and private

Offers robust security and privacy


Stifled by bureaucracies

Allows expression of creativity and innovation

Decentralized Finance | How It Works

DeFi products rely on blockchain technology to store and manage digital assets that are used for different financial transactions, such as lending, borrowing, buying, and selling. By being on the blockchain, these assets are secure, transparent, and unalterable.

Smart contracts are a defining feature of decentralized finance. These are self-executing contracts built on a blockchain. They execute transactions automatically provided that the conditions programmed into them are met. Smart contracts are used for a myriad of financial services including buying, selling, staking, and lending. 

DeFi | Market Trends and Opportunities 

The DeFi market has seen tremendous growth in recent years and there is potential for more growth. DeFi's market capitalization grew from about $200 million in early 2019 to over $100 billion in August 2021. As at writing, the market cap of the DeFi market sits at $53.16 billion. 

Since 2019, there has been a widespread adoption of DeFi platforms and the investment opportunities they offer. Some of the trends that have accompanied decentralized finance include: 

  • Decentralized Exchanges (DEXs): These platforms allow the trading of cryptocurrencies without a central authority. Examples include Uniswap, SushiSwap, etc. 
  • Yield Farming: This is a financial service that allows users stake their cryptocurrency holdings in different projects and earn a return after. 
  • Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs): This is another area where decentralized finance has found application. NFTs represent the ownership of unique pieces of content such as art, music, and other assets. 
  • Decentralized Lending and Borrowing: DeFi platforms such as Aave, Compound, and Maker allow people to lend and borrow cryptocurrency without going through a bank or lending institution.
  • Decentralized Governance: This is a system of decision-making that distributes power to a network of individuals or stakeholders instead of concentrating it in the hands of a single authority. In decentralized finance, token holders have a say in the direction and future of a project, rather than leaving decisions to the developers or founders. 

The growing demand for decentralized finance opens a vista of exciting opportunities for crypto users, businesses, and entrepreneurs to explore more innovations within and beyond the ambit of these trends. 

The Risks and Limitations of Decentralized Finance

In crypto, there are no rewards without risks. So despite the attendant benefits of decentralized finance, it is not without risks and limitations.

Top on the list is the security threat decentralized networks face. Hackers and other cybercriminals constantly find and exploit loopholes in smart contracts. Smart contracts have been used to perpetrate token sale scams, phishing scams, honeypot scams, and scams involving fake decentralized applications (dApps). 

Another major limitation of DeFi is the lack of regulation. Since decentralized finance operates outside traditional financial institutions, it becomes difficult to regulate and enact legislation that can protect users from fraud and other crimes. 

Lastly, DeFi is a budding ecosystem. (In fact, the entire cryptocurrency space is still in its early stages.) This means that insufficient knowledge and experience abound in the space, thereby increasing the likelihood of errors and confusion.  

Examples of DeFi Platforms

Some of the most popular DeFi platforms include Uniswap, Compound Finance, and MakerDAO. 

Uniswap: One of the largest decentralized exchanges on the Ethereum network. Allows users to trade cryptocurrencies without intermediaries or a central authority. Enables easy, fast, and affordable transactions. Its notable feature is its liquidity pools, which provide users with better pricing and trading options.

Credit: Dreamstime

Compound Finance: Provides lending and borrowing services. Users earn interest on their cryptocurrency holdings or borrow cryptocurrency without financial intermediaries. Offers a functional governance system for token holders.


MakerDAO: Uses a stable coin called DAI, which is pegged to the value of the US dollar. Operates on the Ethereum network and allows users to borrow and lend DAI without intermediaries.

Credit: Global Crypto


The DeFi market is constantly presenting new investment opportunities and potential for innovation. It leverages blockchain technology and smart contracts to democratize finance and usher in a new era of decentralization.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's DeFi blockchain?

DeFi, or Decentralized Finance, is a blockchain-based financial system that operates on decentralized networks.

What is the benefit of using DeFi over traditional finance? 

DeFi can offer several benefits over traditional finance, including lower fees, faster transactions, greater transparency, and greater accessibility. 

Is DeFi the future of finance?

DeFi has the potential to disrupt traditional finance and make financial services more accessible, transparent, and decentralized.