Digital Assets; Web3; Distributed Ledger Technology, DLT

Digital Assets

Digital Assets are innovative alternatives to traditional financial instruments – and have the potential to revolutionize the entire capital market infrastructure


What are Digital Assets?

Digital Assets are digital representations of assets that are not issued or guaranteed by a central bank or a public authority. Even though they do not have legal tender status in most countries, they can be accepted as a medium of exchange or payment. Digital Assets thus describe a new asset class, which consists of cryptocurrencies (such as Bitcoin or Ether), other tokenized assets and – specific to German law – crypto-securities. Enhanced regulatory initiatives for Digital Assets strengthen consumer and investor protection and are expected to even increase the use of Digital Assets as investment vehicles. As a result, Digital Assets are becoming more attractive not only for private but also for institutional investors.

Don’t miss our BankingHub article Digital Assets – what is it all about? Definition and development of a market that will be worth billions

“Digital Assets are undergoing a dynamic development that will permanently change the existing business and operating models of market participants.”

Wolfgang Schlaffer, Partner, zeb

How are Digital Assets different from traditional securities?

Digital Assets exist on the blockchain of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT). With the exception of crypto-securities, they are not held in custody accounts but in so-called wallets (“digital safe-deposit boxes”), which store the unique access keys to move these assets (rather than the underlying assets). This key is referred to as a private key. Whoever has access to a private key has control and power of disposition over the digital asset. Due to their very specific requirements, financial institutions need to have a deep understanding of Digital Assets and gain practical experience in DLT-based operations.

What use cases do Digital Assets offer for established financial institutions?

Use cases for this new asset class can be found along the entire financial services value chain. Capital market participants active in the primary market may consider building their own tokenization platform or using tokenization to make real-world assets more accessible. In return, players active in the secondary market may consider setting up a custody or brokerage business for Digital Assets, while asset managers may consider integrating Digital Assets into their investment strategies.

Assessment of the Digital Assets market development in Europe, Germany and Switzerland

The market for Digital Assets consists of cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin and Ether, as well as tokenized assets. The latter include new asset classes, such as NFTs, and a growing number of traditional securities issued on a DLT basis. These include, for example, registered securities in Switzerland and crypto-securities in Germany.

The market volume of Digital Assets in Europe (including Switzerland) is expected to grow to nearly EUR 660 billion in 2024. A significant share of the European market for cryptocurrencies and security tokens is held by Germany and Switzerland, whose combined market share stands at around 30%. The total market for all Digital Assets including crypto securities is expected to triple to EUR 180 billion in Germany between 2022 and 2024.

The introduction of the Electronic Securities Act (eWpG) in May 2021 and the Regulation on crypto fund shares (KryptoFAV) in June 2022 will be followed by the creation of a new market infrastructure to enable the tradability of crypto-securities in Germany. As a result, this form of digital asset is estimated to reach a market value of EUR 35 billion by 2024.

In Switzerland, the Digital Asset market is expected to develop dynamically over the next few years and to reach nearly EUR 40 billion by 2024. These developments are based on progressive and innovation-friendly regulation through the Swiss DLT Act, a global hub of the Digital Asset industry in Zug and a growing number of more mature use cases (e.g. investments in tokenized real estate assets).

“Financial services providers should take advantage of the existing window of opportunity and offer their customers innovative services in the context of Digital Assets.”

Julian Schmeing, Senior Manager, zeb

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