Silvergate Bank’s crisis: A wake-up call for risk management in crypto banking

Silvergate Bank’s crisis: A wake-up call for risk management in crypto banking

The cryptocurrency market has recently been shaken by a significant crisis at Silvergate Bank, a financial institution that specialises in digital assets. The effects of this crisis have been widespread and have caused a great deal of concern among investors. Shares of Silvergate Bank have experienced a sharp drop, hitting an all-time low of $4.86 on Friday, representing a decline of nearly 98% since the institution’s record high close in November 2021. As a result, the market capitalisation of Silvergate Bank has suffered a total loss of over $7 billion. The impact of this crisis has not been limited to Silvergate Bank alone. The wider crypto industry has also been affected, with major players such as Coinbase Global and Ebang International experiencing a noticeable drop of around 1% each. Additionally, even the popular cryptocurrencies Bitcoin and Ethereum have both taken a hit, experiencing a decline of roughly 4.8% over the past week.

The crisis at Silvergate Bank started when the bank delayed filing its annual report. The delay sparked a sell-off of Silvergate’s shares, triggering a domino effect across the crypto market. The situation worsened when Silvergate Bank announced that it had made a risk-based decision to discontinue the Silvergate Exchange Network, it’s crypto payments network. This caused Silvergate’s shares to tumble by nearly 50% on Thursday’s New York stock exchange. The fall in crypto stocks is a reminder that the crypto market is still highly volatile and susceptible to sudden shifts. The fact that one bank’s crisis can greatly impact the entire market is concerning. However, it is worth noting that this crisis does not necessarily indicate a fundamental flaw in the crypto market. Instead, it may be an indication that some players in the market, such as Silvergate Bank, were not adequately prepared for the risks associated with the market.

The Silvergate Bank incident highlighted some significant issues with the bank’s risk management and financial reporting approach. One of the key revelations from the crisis is that Silvergate’s bad debts were not its assets but its deposits. In simple terms, this means that Silvergate had been using its customers’ deposits to invest in risky assets rather than holding those deposits in more secure and stable investments. This is a major red flag for any bank, and it particularly concerns the context of a bank that focuses on digital assets and cryptocurrencies.

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It has become evident that Silvergate, a financial institution dealing with digital assets, was not adequately prepared to handle the volatile market. As a result, their customers and investors have suffered significant losses. To avoid such situations, managing risk is critical to dealing with digital assets and cryptocurrencies. Banks must remain vigilant in identifying, assessing, and mitigating potential risks. There are several key areas that banks should consider in their risk management approach.

Firstly, banks should identify various risks of digital assets and cryptocurrencies, including market risks (such as price volatility), operational risks (such as security breaches), legal and regulatory risks (such as compliance with AML and KYC regulations), and reputational risks (such as negative publicity). Once risks have been identified, banks should assess the potential impact and likelihood of each risk. This approach will enable banks to prioritise risks and allocate resources accordingly. Banks should take steps to mitigate risks by implementing robust security measures, conducting due diligence on clients and counterparties, and diversifying their digital asset portfolios. Banks must monitor risks continually and adjust their risk management strategies accordingly. This may involve using risk metrics, conducting stress tests, and staying up-to-date on industry developments.

Alongside risk management, banks should also consider how to report their books when dealing with digital assets and cryptocurrencies. Banks need to accurately report their holdings and transactions in real time because the value of these assets can change rapidly. This may require specialised accounting software and the development of internal processes for tracking and reporting digital asset transactions. Moreover, banks may need to adapt their reporting practices to reflect the unique characteristics of digital assets and cryptocurrencies. For example, banks may need to report on the specific digital assets they hold and the particular risks associated with those assets. Banks may also need to provide more detailed disclosures about their digital asset holdings and transactions to ensure transparency with clients and regulators. Risk management and reporting practices are vital for banks that deal with digital assets and cryptocurrencies. Banks must proactively identify, assess, and mitigate risks while developing robust reporting practices that accurately reflect their digital asset holdings and transactions.

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Ultimately, the Silvergate Bank crisis serves as a cautionary tale for banks and investors alike. It highlights the need for proper risk management, financial reporting, and diversification, particularly in the context of digital assets and cryptocurrencies. While the market for cryptocurrencies and digital assets remains volatile and unpredictable, those prepared to take the necessary precautions and invest wisely may still be able to succeed and grow in this exciting and rapidly-evolving industry.

In times of crisis, it is essential to remember the importance of diversification. Investors who have diversified their portfolios may be better able to weather the storm caused by the fall in crypto stocks. Emphasising this again, it is also worth noting that the fall of crypto stocks does not necessarily mean that cryptocurrencies themselves are inherently risky investments. While the crypto market can be volatile, it has also seen significant growth in recent years and is expected to continue expanding in the coming years. As such, investors interested in investing in the crypto market may want to consider doing so through a diversified portfolio that includes a range of different assets.

It is also important for investors to conduct thorough due diligence when selecting investments in the crypto market. This includes researching the background and track record of the companies and individuals behind the investments and analysing market trends and potential risks. By taking a careful and informed approach to investing in the crypto market, investors can better protect themselves from sudden market shifts and crises like the one experienced by Silvergate Bank and the broader crypto industry.

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Anndy Lian is an early blockchain adopter and experienced serial entrepreneur who is known for his work in the government sector. He is a best selling book author- “NFT: From Zero to Hero” and “Blockchain Revolution 2030”.

Currently, he is appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. Prior to his current appointments, he was the Chairman of BigONE Exchange, a global top 30 ranked crypto spot exchange and was also the Advisory Board Member for Hyundai DAC, the blockchain arm of South Korea’s largest car manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group. Lian played a pivotal role as the Blockchain Advisor for Asian Productivity Organisation (APO), an intergovernmental organization committed to improving productivity in the Asia-Pacific region.

An avid supporter of incubating start-ups, Anndy has also been a private investor for the past eight years. With a growth investment mindset, Anndy strategically demonstrates this in the companies he chooses to be involved with. He believes that what he is doing through blockchain technology currently will revolutionise and redefine traditional businesses. He also believes that the blockchain industry has to be “redecentralised”.

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