As VC Investors Shift Their Sites From CeFi To DeFi – Here Are The Compliance Implications

April 11, 2023
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In recent years, DeFi sector has experienced unprecedented growth, capturing the attention of both retail and institutional investors alike. As a result, venture capitalists (VCs) are rapidly redirecting their investments towards this burgeoning industry, seeking to capitalize on innovative projects that have the potential to revolutionize traditional financial systems. However, that doesn’t mean this sector is free from risk, in fact, as you’ll discover, there can be more exposure, especially for retail investors. 

DeFi, which stands for “decentralized finance,” encompasses financial services offered on public blockchains, with Ethereum being the primary platform. DeFi enables users to perform various banking functions – such as earning interest, borrowing, lending, purchasing insurance, trading derivatives, and exchanging assets – more quickly and without the need for paperwork or intermediaries. Similar to cryptocurrency in general, DeFi operates on a worldwide, peer-to-peer basis (allowing direct transactions between individuals without a centralized system), providing pseudonymous transactions and accessibility to all.

Critical to the Future of Finance

DeFi is important as it promotes financial inclusion by offering accessible services to individuals who may not have access to traditional banking systems, while also reducing fees and processing times through automation and smart contracts. By leveraging the security and transparency of blockchain technology, DeFi platforms minimize the risk of fraud and hidden fees. Furthermore, DeFi encourages innovation and competition in the financial sector by providing non-custodial services that allow users to maintain full control over their assets, thus fostering the development of new products and services that benefit consumers.

A Mile-High Crypto Event

In February, BitAML Founder Joe Ciccolo, attended EthDenver, one of the largest Ethereum events in the world. As a mentor volunteer for BUIDLWeek, Joe immersed himself in the world of decentralized finance (DeFi) and observed firsthand the growing interest in this innovative financial ecosystem. In this post our aim is to explore the differences between centralized finance (CeFi) and decentralized finance (DeFi), discuss the challenges each system presents, and highlight the importance of compliance in the rapidly evolving DeFi landscape.

“As the world of Web3 and digital assets continues to grow and evolve, so too have financial crimes and the illicit actors perpetrating them. It’s critical that compliance professionals, regulators, and law enforcement adapt to new financial crime typologies, investigative techniques, and tools of the trade. It’s exciting to see the energy, enthusiasm, and desire for knowledge among our fellow financial crime professionals.” — Joe Ciccolo, BitAML Founder & President

CeFi vs. DeFi: Defining the Differences

CeFi to DeFi

As DeFi continues to evolve and gain traction within the financial landscape, it presents a unique set of challenges for compliance. Unlike CeFi platforms, which are subject to well-established regulatory frameworks, DeFi operates in a more nebulous regulatory environment. This can make it difficult for projects and users to navigate the complex web of compliance requirements.

Centralized finance, or CeFi, refers to traditional cryptocurrency systems where a central authority or intermediary, such as an exchange, controls the transactions and assets. Examples of CeFi platforms include Coinbase, Binance, and Kraken. While CeFi platforms offer a more familiar and regulated environment for users, they also come with inherent challenges, such as vulnerability to hacking, reliance on third-party trust, and potential regulatory scrutiny.

Decentralized finance, or DeFi, is a rapidly growing ecosystem of financial applications built on blockchain technology that aims to remove intermediaries and decentralize control. DeFi platforms, such as Uniswap, Aave, and Compound, allow users to access financial services like lending, borrowing, and trading directly through smart contracts. This eliminates the need for intermediaries and enables greater financial freedom, accessibility, and innovation. However, DeFi also presents its own unique set of challenges, including regulatory uncertainty, technical complexities, and potential risks associated with smart contract vulnerabilities.

Challenges in Compliance

Moreover, the decentralized nature of DeFi systems means that compliance measures must be built directly into the platforms, rather than being enforced by a centralized authority. This requires a deep understanding of the underlying technology and the ability to adapt and innovate as new challenges arise.

The DeFi space, in contrast to traditional finance, operates without clear regulations, often in a gray area that makes compliance difficult for both regulators and participants. The higher degree of anonymity and privacy in DeFi transactions poses challenges in monitoring and identifying potential illicit activities. Furthermore, the decentralized nature of these platforms means there is often no central authority responsible for ensuring compliance, complicating the enforcement of existing rules and accountability measures.

Key Takeaway: Compliance is Crucial in the DeFi Ecosystem

Despite the challenges, DeFi is here to stay and continues to evolve at a rapid pace. With new innovations emerging daily, it’s crucial for projects and users to prioritize compliance and ensure that they adhere to the necessary regulations. This not only protects the integrity of the DeFi ecosystem but also fosters trust and stability among its users.

Whether you’re involved in DeFi projects or decentralized exchanges, BitAML can provide the expertise and guidance needed to navigate the complex world of compliance. With a deep understanding of both CeFi and DeFi systems, our team is well-equipped to help you stay ahead of the curve and ensure that your project remains compliant and secure. Contact us today to learn more about how BitAML can support your compliance efforts in the rapidly evolving DeFi landscape. Discover how BitAML can help unblock innovators. 


Joe Ciccolo’s recent presentation at the Association of Certified Financial Crime Specialists (ACFCS) conference on the topic of “Future of FinCrime Skills: Investigations in a Web3 World – Building Your Toolkit for Investigating Crypto, NFTs, and More,” highlights the importance of staying up-to-date with the latest developments in the DeFi space and being prepared for the regulatory challenges ahead.

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