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The Evolution of Synthetic Assets in DeFi: Opportunities and Risks

by Coinmetro Editorial Team


The decentralized finance (DeFi) market has seen explosive growth, surging from $1 billion in total value locked (TVL) in early 2020 to $100 billion in 2024 (with a peak at $175 billion in 2021). This rapid expansion highlights the significant role of several innovative financial instruments, like synthetic assets and others, in driving the DeFi ecosystem.

Synthetic assets are tokenized derivatives that mimic the value of real-world assets, such as stocks, commodities, or fiat currencies, without requiring physical ownership. They play a crucial role in DeFi by enabling broader access to various financial markets, providing liquidity, and facilitating hedging and exposure.

This blog will explore the evolution of synthetic assets in DeFi, line out the opportunities they present, and examine the risks associated with their use, covering the following points:

  • Understanding synthetic assets and how they work.
  • Opportunities provided by synthetic assets, including accessibility, diversification, and liquidity.
  • Risks associated with synthetic assets, such as market volatility, collateral risks, regulatory concerns, and smart contract vulnerabilities.
  • Examples of  notable platforms like Synthetix and Fireblocks.
  • Future trends and potential regulatory developments in the synthetic assets space.

Understanding synthetic assets


Synthetic assets in the context of decentralized finance (DeFi) are tokenized derivatives that replicate the value of real-world assets. These assets can represent anything from traditional financial instruments like stocks and commodities to currencies. They allow users to gain exposure to the price movements of these assets without needing to hold the physical asset itself.

How synthetic assets work

Synthetic assets work through a combination of tokenization and underlying collateral. Tokenization involves creating a digital token that represents a real-world asset. This tokenization is often backed by collateral, which can be other cryptocurrencies or stablecoins held in smart contracts. The value of synthetic assets may be maintained through decentralized oracles, which provide real-time price data.

When users want to create a synthetic asset, they generally lock a certain amount of collateral into a smart contract. This collateral ensures that the synthetic asset remains backed by real value, providing security and trust. For example, if someone wants to create a synthetic version of a stock, they would lock up cryptocurrency worth an equivalent value or use other collateralization mechanisms. The system constantly adjusts the value of the collateral to match the price movements of the real-world asset.


Synthetix (SNX): One popular platform for synthetic assets is Synthetix (SNX). Synthetix allows users to create and trade synthetic assets called Synths, which can represent a wide range of assets, including fiat currencies, commodities, and stocks. Users lock up SNX tokens as collateral to mint Synths.

Fireblocks: Fireblocks is a comprehensive tokenization platform, specializing in the secure creation, custody, and transfer of tokenized assets alongside smart contract management. It supports a variety of assets, including public and private securities, stablecoins, carbon credits, and central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). Its robust infrastructure ensures secure and efficient asset handling across different sectors.

These platforms and others highlight the versatility and potential of synthetic assets to democratize access to a wide range of financial markets, providing opportunities for trading, hedging, and investment that were previously inaccessible to many.

Opportunities offered by synthetic assets


Synthetic assets democratize access to financial markets by allowing anyone with an internet connection to participate. Traditional financial markets often require significant capital and have barriers to entry, such as geographic restrictions and regulatory hurdles. Synthetic assets eliminate these barriers by exposing users to assets like stocks, commodities, and fiat currencies through tokenized derivatives. This opens up investment opportunities to a global audience, regardless of their location or financial status.


Synthetic assets allow for portfolio diversification without owning the actual asset. By tokenizing various assets, synthetic platforms let investors gain exposure to various investments. This means users can hold a diversified portfolio of stocks, commodities, and currencies without dealing with the complexities and costs of owning the underlying assets. Diversification may help mitigate risk by spreading investments across different asset classes, reducing the impact of any single asset's poor performance on the overall portfolio.


Synthetic assets provide significant liquidity advantages in DeFi markets. Liquidity refers to how easily an asset can be bought or sold without affecting its price. In traditional markets, liquidity can be a challenge, especially for less popular assets. Synthetic assets, however, pool liquidity from various sources and make it accessible through decentralized platforms. This ensures that trades can potentially be executed quickly and efficiently, often with lower fees compared to traditional markets. Enhanced liquidity also reduces price volatility and improves market stability.

Risks associated with synthetic assets

Market volatility

Market fluctuations can significantly impact the value of synthetic assets. While these assets aim to replicate the price movements of real-world assets, they do not always achieve perfect correlation. Discrepancies can arise due to latency in price feeds or inefficiencies in the collateral mechanism. Sudden price changes in the underlying assets can create ripples in value shifts in synthetic assets. This volatility requires users to stay vigilant and manage their positions carefully. Proper risk management strategies, such as setting stop-loss orders and maintaining adequate collateral, are essential to mitigate these risks

Collateral risks

Depending on the specific collateralization method, the collateral backing synthetic assets poses its risks. If the value of the collateral drops significantly, more may be needed to cover the value of the synthetic assets. This could lead to a situation where the synthetic asset becomes under-collateralized, risking its stability and the trust of investors. Proper management and over-collateralization are essential to mitigate these risks.

Regulatory concerns

Synthetic assets face potential regulatory challenges and legal uncertainties. Governments and regulatory bodies are still figuring out how to classify and regulate the landscape. This uncertainty can lead to abrupt changes in the legal status of synthetic assets, affecting their availability and the platforms that offer them. Staying informed about regulatory developments is crucial for both developers and investors.

Smart contract vulnerabilities

Synthetic assets rely on smart contracts, which are not immune to bugs and exploits. Technical flaws in smart contracts can be exploited by malicious actors, leading to significant financial losses. Ensuring the security of smart contracts through open-source code, rigorous audits, and testing is vital. Developers and users must know the technical risks and take steps to secure their assets.

Future outlook of synthetic assets

Innovation trends

The future of synthetic assets in DeFi is positioned for continued innovation. One emerging trend is integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of synthetic asset protocols. These technologies can improve price oracles, optimize collateral management, and predict market movements, making synthetic assets more robust and reliable.

Another trend is the development of cross-chain synthetic assets. Currently, most synthetic assets are confined to single blockchain ecosystems. Cross-chain solutions, enabled by interoperability protocols like Polkadot, Cosmos, and Chainlink, can potentially allow synthetic assets to operate across multiple blockchains, increasing utility and adoption.

Additionally, there is growing interest in creating synthetic assets for non-financial applications. Synthetic data can be used to train AI models, while synthetic real estate is already enabling fractional property ownership, making these markets more accessible.

Market adoption

The potential for wider adoption of synthetic assets in mainstream finance is substantial. As traditional financial institutions recognize the benefits of DeFi, synthetic assets could become integral to their offerings. These assets provide exposure to a wide range of financial instruments without the need for physical ownership, reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

Moreover, synthetic assets can democratize access to financial markets. Retail investors who previously faced barriers to entry, such as high capital requirements or geographic restrictions, can now participate in global markets. This inclusivity could drive significant growth in the adoption of synthetic assets.

Financial products like ETFs and mutual funds are expected to incorporate synthetic assets to diversify their portfolios and offer better returns. As these assets gain credibility and regulatory clarity, their adoption by institutional investors is likely to increase.

Regulatory developments

Regulation will play a critical role in the future of synthetic assets. Currently, the regulatory environment is uncertain, but it is expected to evolve to accommodate these innovative financial instruments. Governments and regulatory bodies are likely to develop frameworks that ensure the safe and transparent operation of synthetic asset platforms and user protection.

Regulatory developments may include stricter guidelines on collateralization, transparency requirements for synthetic asset issuers, and standardized auditing procedures. These measures will help mitigate risks and protect investors, fostering a more secure and trustworthy ecosystem.

Furthermore, global regulatory cooperation could lead to harmonized rules across jurisdictions, making it easier for synthetic asset platforms to operate internationally. This would enhance liquidity and accessibility, driving further adoption.

Final thoughts on synthetic assets

This blog has explored the evolution of synthetic assets in the decentralized finance (DeFi) space. Synthetic assets are tokenized derivatives that replicate the value of real-world assets without requiring physical ownership. These assets play a crucial role in DeFi by providing broader access to various financial markets, enhancing liquidity, and enabling hedging and exposure.

The mechanics behind synthetic assets involve tokenization and collateralization mechanisms. Examples like Synthetix (SNX) and Fireblocks showcase their applications, demonstrating how synthetic assets can democratize financial market access, enable portfolio diversification, and provide significant liquidity advantages. Additionally, synthetic assets offer yield farming and staking opportunities, allowing users to earn passive income.

However, synthetic assets come with market volatility, collateral risks, regulatory concerns, and smart contract vulnerabilities. Understanding these risks is essential for investors and developers to navigate the synthetic asset landscape effectively.

Looking ahead, several trends are expected to shape the development of synthetic assets. These include the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning to enhance the accuracy and efficiency of synthetic asset protocols, developing cross-chain synthetic assets, and the growing interest in creating synthetic assets for non-financial applications. The potential for wider adoption in mainstream finance is substantial, as synthetic assets could become integral to traditional financial institutions' offerings. Regulatory frameworks are also expected to evolve to accommodate these innovative financial instruments, ensuring safe and transparent operations.

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