- BlockFi: A Quick Summary
- BlockFi and SEC Fines: Latest Update
- The BlockFi Team
- How Much Money has BlockFi Raised?
- How Does BlockFi Make Money?
- Is BlockFi Safe? Is Your Money Safe on BlockFi?
- How do I apply for a BlockFi Account?
- How do I get in contact with BlockFi Customer Service?
- Is BlockFi insured?
- What's Next for BlockFi
BlockFi is a cryptocurrency-focused wealth generation platform offering a suite of products and services, including the BlockFi credit card and a BlockFi wallet.
The company initially launched with a cryptocurrency interest account product, offering around 4.5% APY on BTC and up to 9.5% on stablecoins. This offering, however, was put on ice in February 2022; in addition to paying $100 million in fines to the SEC and 32 states, BlockFi ceased all BlockFi Interest Account offers to bring its business within the provisions of the Investment Company Act of 1940.
The following BlockFi review contains an exclusive interview with the BlockFi team. It focuses on BlockFi as a company rather than a specific product.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated in April 2022 to reflect new developments in BlockFi’s progress with the SEC and regulatory authorities, as well as removing unclear language as to the BlockFi Interest Accounts availability. .
BlockFi: A Quick Summary
BlockFi is a privately held New Jersey-based lending platform founded in 2017.
BlockFi’s flagship product was the BlockFi Interest Account (BIA), which allowed users to earn compound interest on cryptocurrencies such as BTC, ETH, LTC, USDC, USDT, GUSD, and PAXG.
During the BIA’s operation from 2017 to 2022, halted by the above-mentioned agreement with the SEC, BlockFi kept cryptocurrency deposits secure and consistently generated yield for its depositors, gradually dropping its rates in the process. It also launched a slew of new products, including the BlockFi credit card.
BlockFi garnered a reputation as one of the leading and most-trusted cryptocurrency interest accounts particularly, popular among those keen on generating passive income. Compared to traditional investment accounts, BlockFi offered 43x more than “high-interest” savings accounts with Ally Bank (0.2%) and 4.7x than WealthFront (1.82%).
However, it’s worth noting that despite no interruptions or hacks, BlockFi deposits aren’t FDIC insured. These accounts weren’t supposed to be considered savings account they were investment accounts with a unique risks.
Today, absent its BlockFi Interest Account, BlockFi offers three primary services:
- The BlockFi credit card.
- The BlockFi Wallet.
- Cryptocurrency-backed Loans. BlockFi offers loans backed by your cryptocurrency with a 50% LTV ratio.
Is BlockFi right for me? BlockFi is a fairly attractive option for individuals that have a beginner to moderate level proficiency with digital assets. Since the platform now offers direct ACH deposits, you only need minimal cryptocurrency literacy to start.
- Minimum Deposit: $0
- BlockFi Referral Code & Promotions: Receive up to $75.
See also our BlockFi credit card guide.
BlockFi and SEC Fines: Latest Update
The gripe with BlockFi’s Interest Account largely revolved around:
- The consensus is that the BIA’s are actually securities, and the company hadn’t registered them.
- An inadequate disclosure of risk in site and marketing copy
- BlockFi issuing securities as well as holding more than 40% of its total assets in investment securities (such as loans of cryptocurrency assets to institutional borrowers).
BlockFi’s parent company settled, agreeing to pay a $50 million penalty to the SEC, cease its offers and sales of the unregistered BlockFi Interest Account, and attempt to bring its business within the provisions of the Investment Company Act within 60 days.
BlockFi paid an additional $50 million in fines to 32 states.
BlockFi also announced it intends to register the offer and sale of a new lending product under the Securities Act of 1933. The new product has not yet been registered nor disclosed.The full press release from the SEC can be found here.
The BlockFi Team
BlockFi’s leadership team has decades of experience in the traditional financial services and banking world. The company claims to take a conservative approach to regulation to position itself favorably for sustainable long-term growth and expansion.
Founder & CEO, Zac Prince has leadership experience at multiple successful tech companies. Prior to starting BlockFi, he led business development teams at Orchard Platform, a broker-dealer and RIA in the online lending sector, and Zibby, an online consumer lender.
Co-Founder & VP of Operations Flori Marquez has experience managing alternative lending products. She helped build and scale a $125MM portfolio for Bond Street (acquired by Goldman Sachs) as Head of Portfolio Management. She managed all operations including point of origination, default, and litigation.
How Much Money has BlockFi Raised?
BlockFi has raised a total of $508.7M, valuing the young company at $3 billion. BlockFi’s revenue has grown 10x over the past year, putting it on track to reach $100M in revenue over the next year. With over $1.5B in assets on the platform, and a 0% loss rate across its lending portfolio, BlockFi has made a strong case for establishing itself as a dominant entity in the overarching emerging FinTech space.
BlockFi raised its lion’s share of funding in a $350M Series D, led by new investors such as Bain Capital Ventures, Pomp Investments, Tiger Global, and partners of DST Global. In a press release, BlockFi noted it plans to use the inflow of capital to explore further innovation in its product suite, accelerate new market expansion, and potentially fund new acquisition opportunities.
BlockFi raised $50 million in its Series C led by Morgan Creek Digital, with participating investors such as Valar Ventures, Winklevoss Capital, Kenetic Capital, CMT Digital, Castle Island Ventures, SCB 10X, HashKey, Avon Ventures, Purple Arch Ventures, Michael Antonov, NBA player Matthew Dellavedova, and two university endowments.
Prior to its recent Series C, BlockFi raised $18.3 million in Series A funding led by the Peter Thiel-backed Valar Ventures with participation from Winklevoss Capital, Galaxy Digital, ConsenSys Ventures, Akuna Capital, Avon Ventures, Susquehanna, CMT Digital, Morgan Creek, and PJC.
BlockFi has also raised earlier rounds by SoFi and Purple Arch Ventures.
The team notes that they anticipate raising additional capital in the future to facilitate continued product development and rapid growth.
As of March 2021, the platform has over 265,000 retail and 200,000 institutional clients, with reported monthly revenue of $50m in 2021, compared to $1.5m monthly revenue in 2020.
How Does BlockFi Make Money?
BlockFi has a few revenue streams.
Its former Interest Account was a spread business that makes money by borrowing capital at a certain rate (the interest rates it pays to users) and lends it a higher rate (the interest rates it offers for BTC/ETH/GUSD loans). A BlockFi blog post notes that the company primarily works with institutional counter-parties to offer them liquidity. These borrowers consist of:
- Traders and investment funds seeking arbitrage trading opportunities in a fragmented marketplace. They borrow cryptocurrency to close mispricing gaps between exchanges or dispersed markets. Margin traders will borrow to fuel their trading strategies.
- Over the counter (OTC) market makers that connect buyers and sellers that prefer not to transact over public exchanges, often at a steep mark-up. These parties need to keep cryptocurrency inventory on hand to meet demand. Since owning the cryptocurrency is very capital intensive and bears the risks of price volatility, OTC market makers will borrow from lenders such as BlockFi to facilitate their needs.
- Other businesses that need an inventory of cryptocurrency to provide their clients with liquidity. This category includes businesses such as cryptocurrency ATMs that keep the majority of their cryptocurrency assets in cold storage and need some level of liquidity to function on a daily basis.
Today, BlockFi still makes money on the spread of assets exchanged on its platform, interest paid on its loans, and various schemes with its credit card account.
Is BlockFi Safe? Is Your Money Safe on BlockFi?
Based on our research and conversations, BlockFi passes the safety test. Well, it’s about as safe as Gemini, its primary custodian. Gemini keeps 95% of its assets in cold storage and 5% in hot wallets that are insured by Aon.
Gemini is a licensed custodian and regulated by the NYDFS, and it recently received SOC2 compliance from Deloitte for its custody solution.
Although the agreement with the SEC may be viewed as coming from a punitive point of view, the BlockFi team hailed the decision as a step in “pioneering a path forward to regulatory clarity.” The email sent to BlockFi account holders is attached below.
What happens to user funds during each of these scenarios? How are they protected?
Even if we trust a business, which there is little to indicate BlockFi can’t be trusted, the doomsday “what if’s” hold primary real estate in our brains.
We asked the BlockFi team some doomsday questions:
What happens if BlockFi gets hacked?: “Gemini is BlockFi’s primary custodian and BlockFi doesn’t hold private keys directly. Gemini keeps the vast majority of its assets in cold storage and is insured by Aon. Gemini is a licensed custodian and regulated by the NYDFS. They recently received SOC2 Type 1 compliance audit from Deloitte for their custody solution. We encourage users to read more about Gemini’s security. “
What happens if a user account is compromised?: “Since inception, BlockFi has not lost any customer funds. In the event that a user’s account is compromised, which our security protocols have caught in the past, we freeze the individual’s account for one week. Then, we conduct a Videoconference with the affected individual to verify their identity. We can then change their email address and password, so they can regain control of their account.”
What happens if suddenly everyone defaults on their cryptocurrency loans?: “When we lend crypto assets to generate yield, we have an extremely thorough risk management and credit analysis process. We only primarily lend to large, well-capitalized, institutional borrowers, or to counter-parties willing to post collateral and provide the ability to margin call them on a 24/7 basis.”
“What that means is, if we are lending $1M worth of BTC to Firm XYZ, Firm XYZ collateralizes the loan (typically ~120%) by giving us ~$1.2M USD. If the loan were to then enter margin call and the borrower was unable to provide additional collateral (default), we would use their USD collateral to buy crypto.”
“We have actively lent since January of 2018, including throughout multiple periods of high volatility, without any losses across our entire lending portfolio. BlockFi is bound by NDA’s to discuss terms of specific borrowers/rates.”
How do I apply for a BlockFi Account?
Signing up for BlockFi is fairly straightforward and can be done in under two minutes. Please note that it is not currently offering the BlockFi Interest Account.
- You can start right from this BlockFi review. Go to the BlockFi website. Using this code, you can receive up to $75.
- Go to the “Get Started” in the menu.
- Enter your email and make a password to create your account.
- Enter the verification code sent to that email.
- Once logged in, select “Deposit” to verify your identity and make your first deposit.
- Enter your personal information for verification (part 1)
- Upload a form of ID such as a passport, driver’s license, or ID card and wait to be approved.
How do I get in contact with BlockFi Customer Service?
If you’d like to contact customer service, you can reach them at [email protected].
So far, BlockFi support has been well above average. Let us know how your experience was any different!
Is BlockFi insured?
Is BlockFi FDIC insured? Well, since FDIC insurance doesn’t apply to digital assets such as cryptocurrencies, your deposits in BlockFi are not covered by FDIC insurance. However, BlockFi uses partner company Gemini as its custodial service, and Gemini does have its own insurance for its deposits. However, take this with a grain of salt, as BlockFi has yet to experience a hack for user funds– insurance is only as good as it works, and it has yet to be determined (and hopefully never will be!)
BlockFi Interview: How Did BlockFi Work?
Although the BlockFi Interest Account only exists for prior customers, who even then aren’t able to add more funds, there are some lessons that can be gained about the evolving cryptocurrency interest account niche. Excerpts are from our interview with the BlockFi team, prior to the SEC event mentioned above.
How is offering a 4.5% on BTC interest rate sustainable?
“The interest we are able to pay is based on the yield that we are able to generate from lending, which directly correlates to the market demand in the space (I.e. what rate institutions are willing to pay to borrow specific crypto assets, as it varies from asset to asset). We are bound by NDAs to discuss specifics (institutions, specific rates, etc).”
How about the 9% interest rate on Stablecoins like GUSD?
“We are able to use stablecoin deposits to fund our consumer loans (average APR is ~10-13%) so we can afford to pay higher interest to GUSD / Stablecoin depositors.”
The BlockFi interest rate is subject to change on a monthly basis, could you explain why this is?
“Upcoming changes are announced typically 1-2 weeks prior to a new month, giving clients ample notice and time to prepare. The interest we are able to pay is a function of the borrowing demand.
What happens in the case of a BTC/ETH fork? Will a user’s balance be credited with the forked coin as well?
“Gemini is our custodian and has all of the information about what happens in the case of a forked network. Please refer to their user agreement here where you can read more about that.”
What’s Next for BlockFi
“We’re confident that we will become a very large and successful company that provides financial services on a global scale to the benefit of millions of clients. We plan on going through three distinct growth phases based on our addressable market and products:
- Phase 1
- Products for people who already own Bitcoin or another crypto asset that’s supported on BlockFi’s platform
- Ability to earn interest borrow USD secured by your crypto
- Phase 2
- Expand the addressable market to include people who don’t own cryptocurrency yet.
- Launch the ability to buy and sell on the platform and payments category products like a Bitcoin rewards credit card
- Phase 3
- Focus on global expansion and expand the addressable market to include users that may not ever want to own crypto
- Heavily utilize stablecoins to provide traditional banking products on blockchain rails
All of our indicators for this BlockFi review (history, team, communication with support, and business model evaluation) point to yes: BlockFi is legit. There is very little evidence that suggests otherwise.
Whether or not BlockFi is worth it comes down to your risk profile and what you’re doing with your cryptocurrency.
It’s worth remembering that any time your cryptocurrency leaves your hardware wallets, it’s exposed to a higher degree of risk. If BlockFi or Gemini were to experience some (highly unlikely) catastrophic hack, your cryptocurrency would be at risk.
Our BlockFi review comes back positive. After speaking with team representatives, and with their support team on the client-side, we look forward to seeing BlockFi establish itself further in the space and lead the charge in working with regulators in building a better and safer financial ecosystem. Projects such as BlockFi simply existing provide cryptocurrency investors with a much-needed diversification of tools.
Editor’s Note/disclaimers: The above article isn’t investment advice. This review is written for educational and entertainment purposes. Do not invest anything you cannot afford to lose, and speak with a licensed financial advisor if you’re interested in cryptocurrency.
Never Miss Another Opportunity! Get hand selected news & info from our Crypto Experts so you can make educated, informed decisions that directly affect your crypto profits. Subscribe to CoinCentral free newsletter now.