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DeFiSeptember 14, 2020

How Curve.fi Works

Shubham Goyal
Product Specialist
September 14, 2020

What is Curve.fi?

Curve.fi, or Curve Finance, is essentially a DEX (decentralized exchange) platform for stablecoin swaps (like USDC to USDT) at low transaction fees. It’s quite similar to Uniswap in the sense that it uses liquidity pools. All liquidity providers get to benefit from the interests earned, and the creators behind Curve.fi do not hold any power over your tokens. Therefore it’s non-custodial.

To gain a better understanding of Curve.fi’s features, let’s stack the better known Uniswap’s features against its own to see what only Curve.fi has to offer:

Uniswap vs. Curve.fi: A Comparison of Key Features:

1. Stablecoin Swap:

Uniswap Curve.fi

In the case of Uniswap, it only allows direct trading against ETH (Ethereum). So, say, when you are trading your USDT for USDC, you essentially have to go through not one but two trades-

  1. Firstly, USDT gets traded for ETH
  2. Then ETH gets traded for USDC.
Curve.fi allows direct trading between stablecoins, so when you’re trying to trade between USDT and USDC, you can do that directly through a liquidity pool. This is obviously a more hassle-free way to go about stablecoin swapping.


2. Trading Charges:

Uniswap Curve.fi
Since two trades actually occur when it comes to stablecoin trading, you have to, of course, pay the trading fee twice. Needless to say, Curve.fi only charges a trading fee once.


3. Price Volatility:

Uniswap Curve.fi
It’s no secret that all crypto prices are subjected to constant, rapid and unpredictable highs and lows. Therefore, you never know whether ETH’s value is going to be fluctuating or not during your trade, so as a liquidity provider, you are always running the risk of a major loss.

However, it’s also true that while you can lose money when ETH’s value shifts, the loss gets cancelled when the price comes back to what it was when you provided liquidity. So the loss you might suffer is an impermanent one.

We have already established that on Curve.fi, stablecoins get swapped directly between themselves. And since the whole point of stablecoins is to provide price stability, you won’t have to worry about losing your money.

This is also why Curve.fi is known as the ‘better Uniswap built for stablecoins’ in the DeFi world.


How Does Curve.fi Work?

So we know Curve.fi uses liquidity pools to allow users to trade stablecoins. Now allow me to back up a bit here and talk about liquidity pools, for those new to Ethereum’s DeFi (decentralized finance) world.

Liquidity pools are essentially pools of different tokens locked in a smart contract (an automated program that self-executes when all pre-determined terms and conditions are met). Curve.fi has a bunch of different pools that offer different ranges of risks on returns.

Let’s take a Curve.fi pool of DAI and USDT for example.

Now, DAI and USDT both are supposed to hold the same value as one US dollar, so 1 DAI = 1 USDT (the prices of these two stablecoins keep fluctuating by fractions, but they are usually the same. For example, at the time of writing this post, 1 DAI = 1.020100 USDT), and this pool is going to have similar numbers of DAI and USDT in it. Presume there are 1000 DAI and 1000 USDT coins in the pool.

Suppose Trader X comes and swaps 100 USDT for 100 DAI from the pool. Now the pool has 900 DAI and 1100 USDT in it. It isn’t balanced anymore. What happens now is that the price for DAI drops by a bit, so that another trader may be willing to swap their DAI for USDT, and this keeps on occuring until the pool is back to having a balanced ratio of 1:1 between the DAI and USDT it contains.

Before you decide which pool to invest in, you can see the current standing of coins in each pool and trade in the pool that would give you the most profit. There are seven Curve.fi pools in total at the moment, each of them with different risk returns. You can find out more about finding the right pool to invest in here.

How Do Liquidity Providers Profit?

If you are a liquidity provider who owns multiple stablecoins, you stand to profit a lot from a pool you create with your own coins. The following are the ways a liquidity provider can benefit from a Curve.fi pool:

  1. Every time someone exchanges their stablecoins through a pool, the liquidity provider gets a transaction fee. All Curve.fi pools thus earn interest from trading charges.
  2. If you deposit a stablecoin in a liquidity pool that at the time is lower in number compared to the other ones, you earn a deposit bonus.
  3. Similarly, if you withdraw the stablecoin that is greater in number inside a pool, you earn a bonus. Basically, if you help balance a pool, you get a bonus.
  4. Some pools give incentives when you invest in them.
  5. In some pools, you can also earn interest from lending.

Should You be Investing in Curve.fi?

Curve.fi, like the rest of the DeFi world, is still fairly new. So what investors must keep in mind is that it’s certainly not without its issues, and good returns are never 100% guaranteed.

With Curve.fi, all investors must remember the following:

  • You should only invest in a pool that matches your risk appetite.
  • The security audits don’t do away with all chances of hacking/frauds. You can never be absolutely sure that the Curve.fi smart contracts would remain invulnerable. If an attack does happen, you stand to lose your assets.
  • When you’re joining a pool, you must know that you might also have to deal with systemic risks from the coins inside the pool.

Having said that, though, Curve.fi is certainly one of the best platforms for the swapping of your stablecoins. Centralized exchange platforms charge high fees when it comes to coin trading, which is a quite big problem, especially for those who need to trade their coins often. Curve.fi charges low fees and low slippage on tradings, and when you are a liquidity provider, you do receive a pretty decent compensation.

Also, Curve.fi pools have so far held and transferred around millions without any attacks on the funds; and it’s probably safe to say that it’s not for the lack of effort on the hackers’ parts, seeing the amount of money on offer.

So if you can afford it, starting out by investing in a relatively low-risk Curve.fi pool might be an excellent idea.

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