PhD defence by Carl Victor von Wachter
Decentralized Finance: Building and Analyzing Financial Infrastructure on Blockchain Technology
Decentralized Finance (DeFi) has experienced astonishing surges in user adoption and asset accumulation. The financial assets secured in the broader DeFi ecosystem grew from $600 million in January 2020 to $38 billion in January 2023 - an increase of no less than 6,333% over three years. Decentralized Finance refers to an ecosystem of financial applications on public blockchain technology that offers financial services and instruments while reducing the dependency on intermediaries. DeFi’s overarching aim is to rethink traditional financial infrastructure by minimizing the power of single entities as well as providing more accessible and efficient financial services.
Despite the promising potentials and genuine objectives, building a financial system on a blockchain remains challenging owing to the technology’s infancy and inherent technical compromises. DeFi also presents a distinct environment for financial services, one that is openly accessible, continually operating, and adversarial. These conditions may have significant and distinct impacts on the broad range of financial services, further characterized by regional differences.
This cumulative thesis consists of an essay that investigates the extent to which blockchain technology is suitable for the implementation of a financial service as well as six publications. It consolidates the contributions of these six publications, each developed during a three-year Ph.D. program, into an assessment framework that proposes guiding principles that determine when the use of blockchain technology is advantageous for a financial service. Categorized by the overarching domain of DeFi, the individual publications follow a research approach based on prototyping or network analysis. The built prototypes serve as proofs of concept and aid in understanding the problem. The analytical work explores the de facto use of existing applications, aiming to broaden the discussion from purely technical to encompass human interactions and economics. Specifically, the publications present blockchain-based building blocks for standard financial services such as targeted stimulus payments, asset reserves, equity, and crowdfunding. The empirical publications propose algorithms to quantify domain-specific phenomena such as system integration, illicit behaviors in marketplaces, and financial arbitrage.
This thesis contributes to the existing knowledge, particularly to Information Systems (IS) research, by proposing an evaluation framework and increasing the understanding of blockchain technology’s applicability to financial services. Further, the individual publications contribute to their respective field by presenting applicable blockchain-based building blocks for financial services and domain-specific algorithms for the DeFi ecosystem.
With the impressive growth of DeFi, amassing billions of USDs in assets, the significance of this research continues to evolve, potentially addressing critical questions toward establishing a more efficient and resilient financial system based on blockchain technology.
Assoc. Prof. Omri Ross (Principal Supervisor)
Assoc. Prof. Cosmin Oancea (Co-Supervisor)
Prof. Fritz Henglein, DIKU (chairman)
Prof. Horst Treiblmaier, Modul University Vienna
Lead of cryptofinance research group Bernhard Haslhofer, Complexity Science Hub Vienna
For an electronic copy of the thesis, please visit the PhD Programme page.
Decentralized Finance workshop
As a prelude to this PhD defence, you can join a workshop on decentralized finance.
The workshop will take place at PTLC meeting room, 772-01-0-S29 at HCØ, Universitetsparken 5.
(or on Zoom - only available for the morning sessions)
We will have two great experts from Vienna visiting who will give the following talks:
10:00-10:50 Horst Treiblmaier - Energy consumption of Bitcoin
11:00-11:50 Bernhard Haslhofer - Unraveling the Complexity of Cryptoasset Ecosystems: Algorithmic Methods and Measurements
Afterwards, we will go for lunch and reconvene for the defence of Carl Victor Von Wacther.