Gold has long been known as a store of value to help investors weather turbulent financial markets. Below, Shaun Djie, Co-Founder and COO of Digix, explains why digital gold is a forward moving solution for everyone.
In recent years, it has also become far easier for the average individual to buy and sell gold. There are online bullion dealers and high-street shops selling gold, as well as exchange-traded funds for gold, which are effectively investment funds that track the price of gold.
However, while it’s now easier to purchase, the spread between what individuals pay for this asset and what dealers sell it for can be very big. This is especially true for small denominations of gold. Exchange traded funds overcome many of the associated complications of investing in gold but they tend to be more expensive than physical gold because of the inclusion of brokerage and management fees.
But for those interested in investing in gold and getting a better deal for it, the good news is an alternative to owning physical gold and relying on ETFs is emerging – thanks to blockchain technology.
Understanding blockchain’s potential
Blockchains are shared digital ledgers that record every transaction ever made on them. So physical assets like gold can be divided and represented by tokens, and blockchain technology can keep track of the ownership of those tokens.
Gold has become one of the first real-world assets to be tokenised and freely traded on the blockchain. With this comes a level of divisibility that hasn’t been seen before. Emerging gold ownership and trading protocols can ensure that tokens are minted on a proportional basis – so, for example, one token is equivalent to one gram of a physical gold held in a secure vault.
In some systems, the delivered gold is subject to verifications at the point of deposit into the vault, as well as at quarterly reviews by independent auditors. Hence, there should never be more tokens created than the total weight of physical gold bullion backing them.
Simplicity and liquidity
In this way, gold-backed tokens not only bring divisibility but also an easy, reliable and secure way to own and trade gold. Liquidity would increase, which would be good news for current gold investors and any prospective investors who may have been put off by an inability to access small denominations or by the fees that ETFs charge.
For existing investors, more profits from gold can end up in their pocket too. Buying a gram of gold through leading smart asset companies on the Ethereum blockchain costs under US$40, where as the retail price for a 1g bar hovers around the US$77 mark.
That’s because, by removing the physical and administrative costs of creating 1g gold bars, tokenised gold can get as close to the the spot price of gold than any method – regardless of the size of purchase.
Stability that investors can rely on
While these benefits will sound appealing to many investors, some may point to the historical volatility of cryptocurrencies as a sign that they won’t appeal to gold investors’ needs. It’s certainly true that the huge speculative bubble in virtual currencies has led to immense volatility.
However, gold-backed tokens are totally different to existing cryptocurrencies because of the bridge they have to the real world asset. To build confidence in crypto markets, gold-backed tokens are needed. They can also diversify portfolios and be used as collateral for lending and other financial products.
For existing investors, gold forming a central part of the crypto economy would be beneficial, pushing up the demand for the metal even further. These investors have always been able to see the value of their investment in this asset. However, through the tokenisation of physical gold, they can benefit from the liquidity, divisibility and security of these digital assets just as much as entirely new investors can.