What Is TradFi

By Thasni Maya
Marcel Deer
Edited by Marcel Deer

Published April 3, 2022.

A businessman/stock broker touching a point on a stock market graph

TradFi, short for traditional finance, refers to the mainstream financial system that consists of retail banks, commercial banks, investment banks, other financial institutions, and fintech companies. A few popular examples of TradFi institutions are Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley,  Bank of America, PayPal, and Wise. They are mostly brick-and-mortar organizations that offer banking and financial services which have been around for years.

Although most TradFi providers have digitized their operations and services, they are characterized by a high degree of centralization, government regulations, compliance, KYC, and high barriers to entry.

As a new wave of non-traditional finance emerges, it’s important to define TradFi and understand how it stands apart. 

How Is TradFi Regulated? 

TradFi is regulated by the government and the central bank in most countries. TradFi institutions have to comply with the rules and regulations mandated by the authorities. Depending on the sector and scale of business, the tax requirements vary. It is also mandatory for TradFi institutions to submit audit reports annually. 

While the red tape is often too stringent for new players to enter, it is also efficient in nurturing the growth of the economy in the desired course. This is given that the policymakers know what they’re doing. For example, the government wants to empower women in rural areas. As a means, the central bank can ask banks to offer loans to rural women at low-interest rates. 

The regulations help curb money laundering, corruption, and terrorism, among other illicit activities.

How TradFi compares to other Finance 

DeFi vs. TradFi 

DeFi (decentralized finance) refers to the peer-to-peer financial infrastructure built on blockchains. DeFi uses a distributed ledger system to verify and authorize transactions, removing middlemen like banks and governments from the picture. 

Let’s take a quick look at the key differences between the two:

  • In DeFi, a blockchain protocol or a community issues money.  In TradFi, the central bank issues money.
  • In DeFi, smart contracts authorize the transaction of money between two parties. In TradFi, banks facilitate the transactions. 
  • Anybody can give/get DeFi loans as long as they fulfill the collateralization requirements. Banks offer traditional sources of finance after checking the applicant’s financial statements and credit score. 
  • You can start investing on DeFi platforms in a few steps. With digitization, TradFi investing has opened up to a large section of people as well. But it still requires KYC and documentation.

CeFi vs. TradFi

CeFi (centralized finance) merges the yield benefits of DeFi with the user experience and security of TradFi. It offers opportunities to invest in cryptocurrencies and digital assets using crypto-based accounts that are similar to traditional savings accounts. However, the APYs vary significantly. On CeFi platforms, you can borrow money against your crypto holdings, just like how you would avail a collateral-backed loan from a bank. Unlike TradFi, this requires little to no paperwork. 

While TradFi deposits are sometimes eligible for government-backed insurance, that is not the case with CeFi deposits. Being a relatively new sector, it is riskier. 

Traditional Finance vs. Behavioral Finance

Behavioral finance studies the psychological influences and biases behind the behavior of investors, financial practitioners, and other market participants.

Traditional Finance and Entrepreneurial Finance

Entrepreneurial finance consists of the resource allocation for new ventures, addressing some of the key challenges faced by entrepreneurs like fundraising and valuation.

What Role Does TradFi Have In Cryptocurrency?

Industries have to keep pace with the latest technology to prove themselves relevant in the long run. Blockchain and cryptocurrencies mark today’s biggest financial revolution. TradFi organizations and platforms, including banks, will have no choice but to adopt cryptocurrencies eventually, bringing them to the mainstream.

Since TradFi is under the watch of the government, this will pave the way for the positive regulation of the crypto industry. In key sectors like insurance and lending, they can work together, blending innovation, accountability, and speed. 

Benefits of TradFi

Only businesses with licenses and accreditation can provide TradFi services. In the event they lapse, customers can raise complaints and get compensation. The red tape makes it difficult for scammers and fraudulent participants to get in.

TradFi cooperates with the government to track illegal spending and investments. In DeFi, this will be hard as transactions are anonymous. Governments can implement developmental policies by joining hands with TradFi institutions. 

TradFi has its set of limitations. The excess regulations and government intervention hamper growth and innovation in the industry. It also prevents a large section of people from accessing financial services. In the coming years, TradFi, blockchain technology, and cryptocurrencies will hopefully find a common ground to build an advanced financial infrastructure feasible for all.