Ripple Rips Me Apart

By Juan M. Villaverde on March 02, 2018

When we built our cryptocurrency ratings model, we did so with one fundamental goal in mind: To help crypto investors make more money with less risk, and do so objectively!

That’s why Weiss Ratings never accepts any compensation or favors whatsoever from the sponsors or issuers of the investments it rates. Once, a company we rate sent everyone on staff a free bag lunch. We sent it back. On another occasion, they wanted to cover our travel expenses. No way!

That’s also why our cryptocurrency ratings are based purely and exclusively on data! We built our model from the ground up to make sure that it sweeps away our own personal preference and intellectual biases as well.

I can find no coin to better illustrate these kinds of contradictions than Ripple. So I am dedicating a three-part series to show exactly what our model says … what I think … and how it all can impact Ripple investors in the future. This is Part 1 of that series.

Ripple gets a good grade in our model. But I personally don’t like Ripple very much. If I didn’t have the discipline of the model I built, I’d probably never give it a good grade.

Because it defies my fundamental vision of what defines a true cryptocurrency — decentralization.

That’s not Ripple! Ripple is centralized, controlled by a fintech company.

Here’s the key: Whether I happen to like it or not, Ripple is making — and could continue to make — good money for investors.

Ripple is one of the fastest blockchains in existence. And the company behind is actively working to improve it, including a way to foster decentralization.

Ripple also allows for the tokenization and trade of real-world assets like fiat currencies and metals.

It is one of the most actively used crypto networks today. Usage and adoption grow every day as the company adds more partnerships.

In some sense, it’s among the least-speculative investments among cryptocurrencies. (Although there are some related caveats I will discuss later in this series.)

So, add it all up and guess what! The model is picking up on all these strengths and overriding my prejudices. In effect, Ripple is ripping me apart.

The Big Idea

In today’s so-called “modern” world of banking, the technology for moving money around is actually arcane. It’s relatively slow, costly and inefficient.

The big idea behind Ripple is to jump into that space. They want their token, XRP, to be the “coin of banks” — the cryptocurrency for financial institutions.

And because Ripple is based on blockchain technology, it has the obvious technological advantages of any cryptocurrency. Transactions are peer-to-peer, bypassing arcane interbank payment systems. They are nearly instantaneous. Their cost can be tiny.

Let’s say bank A wants to send money to bank B. Ideally, here’s how the Ripple payment system would work:

Bank A buys the XRP token.

It sends the token to an address controlled by Bank B.

Bank B turns the XRP into the currency of its choice.

Done.

Their mission: XRP emerges as a standard for interbank transactions across the globe.

And through RippleNet, the company aims to create a more decentralized payment and settlement system for financial institutions worldwide.

The technology allows the tokenization of fiat money, like dollars, euros, or even real assets like gold or silver. This allows the tokenized assets to be sent instantly across the globe, using the Ripple protocol.

“Beam me up, Scotty!” In other words, transform matter (in this case money or gold) into energy, beam it, and then transform it back into matter.

The use of XRP?

There are a number of liquidity providers and market makers participating in Ripple’s distributed exchange. When an institution is sending a payment to another institution, a series of intermediate transactions take place.

The XRP token is what ensures there will always be a market for turning asset A into asset B at the other side of the transactions.

This isn’t revolutionary per se. As a matter of fact this is more or less how the legacy financial system works today. The difference is, by using a very fast blockchain protocol, RippleNet has less friction and fewer intermediaries, thus helping to dramatically drive down the costs of sending payments through the financial system.

The Bigger Idea

Ripple’s XRP dreams of becoming THE standard and a widely used store of value. Some folks hope it will even take on characteristics of a global reserve currency.

That’s where I step back in and say: “Hold your horses!” Before leaping into dreamland, take note of the challenges by asking some basic questions:

  • Who controls the global financial system?
  • Who are the key players?
  • What are their vested interests?

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that, if XRP were to become the standard for interbank settlements, it could pose a threat to anyone or anything that’s tied to the U.S. dollar, euro, yen, pound or renminbi as the world’s dominant currencies.

Nor do you have to think deep to realize that each currency is the core instrument whereby the world’s more powerful nations exert their power and influence. As Bitcoin advocate Andreas Antonopoulos puts it, “Currency is an instrument of control.”

Getting your currency into the elite club of global reserve currencies is an even more elusive goal. Saudi Arabia and some of the richest oil countries of the world learned that lesson the hard way many years ago. China, with the tremendous weight it can throw around, is actively working toward establishing its renminbi as a valid alternative to the dollar, yet adoption hasn’t materialized yet.

Beyond the U.S. dollar, the only currency that can claim some secondary reserve status is the euro. And that’s only with 28 countries voluntarily giving up their autonomy, letting others take control of their monetary policy.

So if the folks behind Ripple want to get in on the game of competing for reserve currency status, they need to take a number and go to the back of the line — behind the U.S., the E.U., China and many others.

Just ask Bernanke, Yellen, Draghi and other central bankers what they think. From their perspective, currencies are the weapon of choice to combat financial crisis.

They’ll tell you that the reason 2008 didn’t cause a global meltdown was because of their “adept deployment of the centrally managed U.S dollar.”

They’ll insist that the reason the entire E.U. didn’t get buried alive by highly indebted members was because of how they leveraged the power of the euro to buy up worthless bonds that no one else would touch with a 10-foot pole.

They’ll point to Japan, which has been pulling off similar stunts for nearly three decades and counting.

Are we to believe a Ripple is a serious competitor in this space? I certainly don’t.

“There you go again, Juan,” Ripple folks will say. “Letting your personal bias get the best of you.”

Yeah, maybe. Still, a global reserve currency? No. I just don’t see that in the cards.

Best,
Juan

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