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What is Liquid Staking? | 2024 Edition
February 8, 2024

Discover the transformative world of liquid staking in cryptocurrency, a novel approach that's reshaping how we think about asset utilization and yield generation. Unlike traditional staking methods, liquid staking introduces a more dynamic mechanism, offering flexibility and potentially higher returns.

Dive into this comprehensive guide to understand everything from the basics of liquid staking to its nuanced differences from native staking, alongside an exploration of its risks and rewards.

Remember, this is not to be confused with our announcement of Liquid Stacking via LISA

What Is Liquid Staking?

Liquid staking is a type of staking mechanism where you receive a token, akin to a receipt, that represents a claim on the underlying staked asset within the protocol.

Consider this simple example: Instead of staking BTC to earn yield, in liquid staking, you would stake your BTC and receive a token in return. This token, known as a liquid staking token (LST), represents your initially staked BTC.

Imagine you swapped 1 BTC for 1 lstBTC, targeting an 8% APY. In a year, this would typically yield 1.08 BTC upon unstaking your lstBTC. However, if you leverage this further by staking your lstBTC on a DeFi platform offering a 10% APY yield, the outcome changes. After a year, you would first receive 1.1 lstBTC, which, when unstaked, equates to 1.188 BTC.

This approach potentially allows you to earn twice the reward by combining native and liquid staking strategies—all enabled by liquid staking tokens.

It's important to note that this article does not endorse any specific platforms for staking your liquid staking tokens.

One of the primary benefits of liquid staking, as opposed to traditional staking, is the ability to utilize staked assets in other financial activities, such as lending and borrowing, without needing to unlock them first. This added flexibility can potentially increase returns on the assets. Additionally, the advent of liquid staking derivatives (LSDs) has become a significant development in DeFi protocols.

Overall, liquid staking offers a more dynamic and versatile approach to participating in staking activities within the cryptocurrency ecosystem. It provides enhanced opportunities for users to maximize their returns and partake in a broader range of DeFi activities.

Is atALEXv2 from ALEX a Liquid Staking Token?

Yes, atALEXv2 is a liquid staking token because you are already earning ALEX by holding atALEXv2 in your wallet. 

If you are interested, you can earn yield by staking ALEX right now via our Bitcoin DeFi app here.

On top of that, you can use your atALEXv2 to borrow USDA on Arkadiko, which potentially maxes your yield potential—just remember that DeFi carries the risk of its own.


Native Staking vs Liquid Staking: Key Differences 

Native Staking: Native staking involves directly staking your tokens through validators or DeFi protocols to earn yields. In this method, the tokens are locked up, and you typically earn yield based on the platform's or validator's Annual Percentage Yield (APY).

The staking rewards are usually accessible only after unstaking the tokens, which might have a predetermined lock-up period. This traditional approach is characterized by:

  • Direct engagement with validators or protocols.
  • Lock-up periods where assets are not liquid.
  • Yields are often accessible only after unstaking.
  • A straightforward, less complex process.

In case you missed it, ALEX offers native staking for anyone looking to earn yield for their BTC by providing liquidity for the platform.

Liquid Staking: Liquid staking, on the other hand, allows you to earn yields by holding liquid staking tokens (LSTs) in your wallet. These tokens represent your staked assets and can often be traded or used in other DeFi activities. This type of staking is characterized by:

  • Receiving LSTs that represent staked assets.
  • Ability to use LSTs in the broader DeFi ecosystem.
  • More flexibility as tokens are liquid and can be used for other purposes.
  • Potential for higher yields but with added complexity and risks.

Multi-Staking Strategy: A multi-staking strategy involves staking liquid staking tokens on DeFi platforms to earn an additional yield on top of the liquid staking token's APY.

This strategy might increase potential returns but also amplifies risks, as it relies on the performance of multiple platforms. Key aspects include:

  • Leveraging LSTs to earn additional yields.
  • Greater potential returns but increased exposure to risk, like using LST to earn high yield returns in far unstable LP pool.
  • Dependency on multiple platforms' performance and stability.
  • greater risk since your original tokens are now in the hands of several different protocols, which equates to more counterparty risk.

Similarities: Despite the differences, both native and liquid staking share some commonalities:

  • Both aim to generate yields from staked assets.
  • They contribute to the overall security and functionality of their respective blockchain networks.
  • Require an understanding of the staking process and associated risks.

In summary, while native staking offers a more straightforward and possibly safer route, liquid staking provides flexibility and potentially higher returns at the cost of greater complexity and risk. Understanding these nuances is crucial for anyone looking to engage in staking activities within the cryptocurrency ecosystem.

Will Liquid Staking Tokens Loses It's Peg?

The potential for liquid staking tokens (LSTs) to lose their peg is very unlikely. The peg's stability depends on various factors, including market conditions and the specific mechanisms of the LSTs.

The only recorded event in which a liquid staking token lost its peg was in May 2022.

Which is, stETH, a popular liquid staking token, experienced a de-pegging from its underlying asset, ETH, in May 2022. This de-pegging occurred during a tumultuous period in the crypto market and was influenced by several factors, including institutional crypto traders selling stETH holdings and delays in Ethereum's development updates like the Merge.

However, it's important to note that stETH began to recover post-Merge and its staking APR increased, which positively influenced its recovery to the peg.

LSTs' peg to the base asset can be vulnerable to market dynamics and platform-specific issues. The price volatility of the underlying asset and potential exploits in smart contracts are notable risks. Additionally, if validators on a liquid staking platform act maliciously, it could lead to slashing of staked assets and impact the value of LSTs.

In the case of stETH, its de-pegging was a significant event, but it managed to recover over time. This shows that while LSTs can face periods of instability, they also have the potential to rebound depending on market conditions and platform responses.

To mitigate risks, investors should understand the mechanisms of liquid staking tokens and the platforms offering them. Diversifying investments and not staking life savings on new or unproven protocols are prudent strategies.

Familiarizing oneself with how established platforms like Lido operate and using software wallets that offer staking services can be a good starting point for those interested in liquid staking.

Most Common Risks with Liquid Staking Tokens

While liquid staking presents an innovative approach to earning yields in the DeFi ecosystem, you must be aware of the inherent risks associated with this practice.

This section delves into the most common risks tied to liquid staking tokens, offering insights into the challenges and potential pitfalls. By understanding these risks, you can make more informed decisions and better protect your digital assets.

#1: Security Concerns in Liquid Staking

A primary risk in liquid staking is the security of assets. Staked assets are often locked in smart contracts, which, while secure, are not impervious to threats. The integrity of these smart contracts is crucial, as vulnerabilities could expose them to hacking or cyber-attacks. Selecting a liquid staking provider requires diligence, particularly regarding their smart contract security.

It's also vital to recognize that in liquid staking, your assets are under third-party control, introducing an inherent counterparty risk. For instance, Ankr's smart contracts undergo rigorous audits, details of which are available in our documentation, enhancing trust and security.

#2: Liquidity Challenges and De-Pegging Risks

Liquid staking faces challenges with liquidity and the risk of de-pegging. The ability to exchange liquid staking tokens for their base assets is a significant advantage, but it relies on sufficient liquidity. If Total Value Locked (TVL) in liquidity pools diminishes, it could lead to the de-pegging of tokens and high slippage during asset swaps.

De-pegging is often mitigated through arbitrage mechanisms in Decentralized Exchanges (DEXs). However, a sharp decline in TVL can disrupt these mechanisms, potentially destabilizing the token's peg to its base asset. This issue is particularly pertinent in Ethereum Liquid Staking, where ETH is not yet redeemable, contrasting with other chains where arbitrage opportunities exist to correct such imbalances.

#3: DeFi Exploits and Hacks

The possibility of smart contract hacks presents a significant risk in liquid staking. For example, when you mint liquid-staked ETH, your original ETH is held in a smart contract. If the protocol managing this contract is compromised, your assets could be at risk of theft.