Discussion Thread: Use synthetics for collateral to avoid centralization risks

Don’t synthetics have the problem of having just eth as collateral still? This is all the same type of risk as having eth backing dai, and so nothing new is added. I don’t think that there’s a good way to remove centralization risk for physical assets. Maybe if there was a token that was backed by several independent centralized custodians? Then the risk would be spread out instead of having a single point of failure. This is essentially how we overcome the oracle problem.

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Not really. On the Synthetix platform, the value of the synths are backed by SNX with a collateral ratio of 800%. So even though the price of SNX is correlated with ETH, its not a perfect correlation (the value of SNX should ultimately be related to fees generated from trading on the Synthetix platform), and the very high collateral ratio gives a lot more protection than with current CDP collateral ratios.

I share the discomfort with centralized collateral but I dont think the design of Synthetix is robust enough to be used as collateral in core infra like MakerDAO.

That said, I think synthetics would be great collateral for MakerDAO, especially inversely correlated “short ETH” tokens. Would rather wait for robust long lived synthetics implementations though.

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800% also seems excessive, I doubt there will be much demand for a platform that offers such low use of locked funds. But primarily the idea of onboarding synthetic collateral that is backed by cryptocurrencies only to diversify pure cryptocurrency collateral seems circular to me. We could essentially achieve the same thing by just increasing the LR on eth in cdps.

It looks like the synthetix token itself has a decent market cap though. Perhaps this token would make a good proposal for collateral?

Most of the synthetix tokens are locked up to provide that 800% ratio (or for liquidity on uniswap.)

I have to agree with this, the whole system relies on the value of the SNX token. The SNX token is currently inflating in order to provide staking rewards (and incentivise liquidity) before trading fees take off.

Details here: https://dashboard.synthetix.io/
Some points worth mentioning:

  • Only $15M synths minted.
  • This is mostly sETH (which is subsidised through inflation on the uniswap pool)
  • And sUSD (which is subsidised through inflation on Curve)
  • $8M in fees is more than I expected actually, though this is from Dec 2018.

Probably true, but this risk can be mitigated by setting a low ceiling for the synthetics. Since synthetics solve one of the biggest problems in new collateral types (centralization risk), we should be helping the new platforms grow.


lol. “The entire thing right now is essentially a backdoor” - Kain Warwick, Synthetix CEO.

Also, in general, I think people who see competition in this space just aren’t thinking straight. Synthetix, if they ever do release admin control of their contracts, has a significantly different design and aim from Maker. This is mostly caught up in the fact that they have only one collateral pool, which (arguably) increases both risk and liquidity. I honestly wish them the very best, and hope that they succeed, believing that there is more than enough room for both Maker and Synthetix, but I would be against using any of those tokens as collateral while “the entire thing [remains] a backdoor”.


Lol, the guy talks about how he wants the platform to be fully decentralized and unregulateable, then brings up that his team has unilateral control over everything all in the same breath. Totally wild.

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I avoid Synthetix because it is a ticking timebomb. Two problems with Synthetix:

  1. No liquidations. The system can go undercollateralized and stay that way, invalidating the value of all synths.
  2. SNX is the only collateral it accepts.

Imagine if Dai was backed by MKR instead of ETH. Holders would be no recourse in the event of a shutdown.

I think they have only SNX as collateral.


Possible but just to be clear with the 800% collateralization ratio, the system has never been close to having to default on the synths, SNX minters are incentivized to restore the ratios so that they can claim their dividends- but agree that there are failure modes, but all systems have those to some degree.

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It’s even worse than this, they have zero mechanism for ensuring synth_price == underlying_price. Maker, BitMEX, Deribit, Binance have the funding mechanism (for Maker it’s SF & DSR), UMA has cash settlement, SNX has thoughts and prayers.

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I’m generally against most synthetix tokens at this stage as in my view there are better options to get exposure to pretty much all of the synthetics that they offer…

That said i am kind of interested to see what peoples thoughts are around iETH. Seems interesting to me given that we see tons of people using DAI to lever up on their long ETH position. Seems possible that there are also people interested in shorting ETH that might be willing to take on leverage in a similar manor. Just curious what peoples thoughts are around their inverse token offerings.

FWIW there is about $240k worth of ETH being borrowed atm through compound which says to me that there is at least a small market for levered shorting.

Regarding the synthetix peg.

I’m a bit new to the synthetix ecosystem. And it’s a bit new too. But they’ve been subsidizing liquidity providers, mainly through the curve susd contract now. This helps provide deep liquidity for susd, and the synthetix ecosystem. (Side benefit of also providing liquidity for DAI)

And they do have some tools for maintaining the 1 USD = 1 sUSD peg. They could adjust the global collateralization ratio, add/remove incentives for holding synths.

So the more accurate statement is:

SNX has thoughts and prayers and a temporary centralized subsidy.

Ehh, so they did raise the SNX collateralization ratio to 800%, if there’s not enough demand for synths they could always raise it higher. (Stakers would need to buy up sUSD if they want their weekly rewards)

Also having deep liquidity on curve does make a big difference for maintaining the peg.

I mean your points aren’t wrong but I’m talking about the system from a fundamental perspective.

It is fundamentally flawed, while it currently kinda works in practice. The inflation rewards won’t last forever, let’s hope they address the fundamental flaws before then

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So the take away is we are not convinced enough of synthetix as a technology to be interested in any of their token offerings? Even if one that supposedly has a -1 correlation with ETH price?

It seems to me that some of these concerns that have been discussed so far could likely be mitigated through higher liquidation ratios and/or lower debt ceilings, but that is just my opinion.

I think synths can be used if there is demand from synth holders to take loans against their synths. If we add synths, I would propose:

  • Slightly worse than standard collateralization (so sETH would be ~175% instead of 150%)
  • Low debt ceiling
  • Reasonable risk premium (due to the admin key + fundamental architecture flaws)

I think the risk here is not short term volatility but more-so synths collapsing to zero due to the system collapsing. I have plans to write-up my concerns in long form but here are some in dot point:

  • Admin key
  • Chainlink oracle, N of M multisig oracle with no OSM
  • No pricing guarantees (no funding payments, or settlement)
  • No liquidations for undercollateralized positions, related to no pricing guarantees.

While I have a pessimistic outlook on Synthetix, there could be demand for long-term hold tokens (sXAU, synthetic shares, sDEFI etc). I just wonder if its worth the tech cost of supporting if we can’t offer very attractive parameters (due to the risks)

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I guess that does bring up a good point. Is there a way for us to measure demand there? I imagine most synth holders don’t really follow what’s going on in the makerdao governance forum.

I do agree that there’s some issues, snx black swan feedback loops.

Also, I’m not sure if anything maker can offer will even be attractive [i.e low demand]. Synthetix may be able to offer more attractive leverage options from within their ecosystem. They’ll also be setup to do automatic liquidations using the synthetix exchange.

They’ll probably be able to offer a 120% margin requirement or better.