LeoGlossary: Impermanent Loss

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a year ago - 3 minutes read

Liquidity pools allow anyone to essentially become a market maker. This can be a profitable venture for investors. This does not mean it is not without risk. People can lose when providing liquidity to these pools. One such mechanism is impermanent loss.

This is a temporary loss that is incurred when being a provide to a liquidity pool due to volatility of the trading pair. If the price of the assets in the pool come down, the investor will suffer a loss. This is considered temporary since it is not locked in. If the price of the coins or tokens reverses course, the loss can be eliminated.

It is a situation that needs to be counter balanced against the return that one is receiving. The incentive to provide liquidity comes in the form of a payout, usually from transaction fees. Here we can see how it can offset some of the impermanent loss.

By removing the assets from the pool, the loss becomes permanent from this perspective. The individual will still hold the coins/tokens so if they jump in value, that will be captured.

One way to reduce the volatility is to have one of the pairs be a stablecoin. When entering a liquidity pool, the investment has to be split evenly among both sides of the pair. For example, a Bitcoin and Ethereum pool would require the contribution of an even amount of both coins, in USD terms.

Since stablecoins has the least volatility in cryptocurrency, removing the volatility from one pair will help to reduce the impermanent loss even though it does not eliminate it.

Decentralized Finance (DeFi)

Liquidity pools are am important part of decentralized finance (DeFi). Many protocols such as Uniswap, Sushiswap, or Pancakeswap have seen an increase in usage. Unlike centralized exchanges (CEX), these DEX are not custodians. People are not putting their assets on the exchange to trade. This means that DEX have to operate from a different perspective.

One of the challenges is where to get liquidity. DEX utilize various methods to solve this issue. One is to access liquidity pools. Thus, they are a vital feature of DeFi.

Also, since impermanent loss is a component of liquidity pools, there is no way to overlook this.

Investors can look to minimize their exposure to impermanent loss by focusing upon the assets themselves. If the underlying coin or token is very volatile, then we can expect that repeated in the liquidity pool. Couple two of these assets together and you can have LPs that have wild swings.

Cryptocurrency is a volatile asset class overall. Bubbles are commonplace. The bear markets that follow the bulls are renowned. Investors need to understand this.

Returns are also affected by the volume. One of the risk with open source software is anyone can fork it. This means the same DEX could open up as something else. This could be an issue if users migrate to the newer application and it is tied to another liquidity pool. That could siphon the transaction volume, and hence the return, away.

With DeFi, there are many different variables to consider, something the traditional financial, TradFi doesn't concern itself with.

This is all part of the process in moving towards decentralization.


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