Permissionless day 2: Even the banks are bullish

Real-world assets are a hot topic of conversation on day two of Blockworks’ Permissionless conference. 

By my eye, the “Institutional” stage track was by far the most popular, with multiple presentations often standing room only, and when — or if— the traditional finance money will pour into the industry was a constant topic of debate. 

This humble reporter hosted a panel focused on that very topic. Along with Kevin Chan (BlockTower), Shaun Musuka (MakerDAO), Lucas Vogelsang (Centrifuge) and Markus Infanger (Ripple), we dove into where and how the RWA revolution will drive TVL and development for DeFi — an ecosystem that may eventually cater specifically to meatspace assets. 

The revolution might not be so sudden, however. 

The panelists held wildly different views on how quickly money will pour into the new sector, which at the moment primarily consists of a few hundred million in total value locked. Answers to “where will we be in two years?” varied from “roughly the same” to “one trillion” — a bullish dart throw from Ripple’s Markus Infanger. 

Infanger and Vogelsang also invoked Roy Amara: “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” 

As Vogelsang pointed out, the tech stack to buy a pizza on the internet was available in 1997. Still, mass online ordering didn’t occur until decades later, and even then, is often done via a device (smartphones) that didn’t exist in the 90s. 

It’s a warning I heard from multiple speakers and in conversations throughout the day. Despite having the ability to tokenize assets, it may not happen at scale for some time — and it may look very different than what we’re used to when it does happen. 

Curiously, the hypothetical users of these products (institutions and banks) don’t share this caution. 

In multiple conversations, attendees pointed me to a new real-world asset report from the likes of Citibank, Boston Consulting Group, Wisdomtree, and Ernest and Young. The banks seem ready to embrace the tech, or at least are writing like they are. 

Elsewhere, there was more than one dazed bear market survivor wandering the booths of Permissionless. 

Kaltoro, a former social media manager, confided over coffee that he’s not even in stablecoins anymore. The market got so bad he simply offramped most of his crypto wealth. 

It’s a strange situation to be in where the banks are more bullish than the degens, but coming out of day two, I got the sense that even industry veterans might be caught by surprise come the next bull market.

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