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Whale Analysis Report – DeFi Perspective – Part II

Posted by
Pedro Herrera

Lending dapps see much bigger amount of value when compared to other DeFi dapps!

In part two of the DeFi Whale Analysis Report we’ll focus primarily on lending protocols, to identify any whale patterns in these types of dapps, but also to complement the comparison analysis between Binance Smart Chain (BSC) and Ethereum decentralized exchanges undertaken in part one. Providing a more holistic view of DeFi on both networks. Finally, we look at whether DeFi whales are interested in NFTs.

Part one covered whale activity in the DeFi sector specifically on leading decentralized exchanges Uniswap, PancakeSwap, and Curve, on Ethereum and Binance Smart Chain. If you missed that you can catch up here or see the short recap below. 

Key takeaways

  • Despite the massive interest seen in NFTs and games, the DeFi space attracted over  590,000 daily unique active wallets in Q3, reaching $178 B in TVL. 
  • Lending and borrowing protocols appear to have more whale activity than other yield farming activities like DEXs; the average size of transactions on lending platform MakerDAO was recorded north of $3 million in Q3, while exchange liquidity pool Curve was measured around $400,000 in Q3. 
  • Again, Ethereum dapps show higher whale activity than BSC dapps. The average size of transactions on Aave during Q3 was measured around $461,000 whereas, on Alpaca Finance, this metric reached $72,000. 
  • Like DEX whales, lending whales on Ethereum show a minor correlation with other peer categories like NFTs or games, while BSC whales tend to diversify their portfolios with game and NFT based tokens
  • Just 17% of DeFi users interacted with NFT dapps in October, showing that DeFi dapp users are heavily interested in this category only.  

Table of Contents

Part one Recap

As covered in the first part of this report, the popularity of DeFi products has been on the rise since the summer of 2020. People familiar with blockchain have been playing around with the notion of financial products without boundaries or a central actor for some time. One of the most attractive features in the DeFi sphere is yield farming. Which refers to the process of earning returns for allocating an initial investment into one of the many DeFi protocols. Once the protocol is full in liquidity, it provides end-services like token swaps or crypto borrowing, for which the end-users are charged a fee. 

Part I of this report focused on the activity that happens on Decentralized Exchanges or DEXs, providing some insights into whale patterns. These platforms act as decentralized market makers. For instance, DEXs on Ethereum appear to be more attractive to whales than the ones hosted on BSC. Whales have no issues paying $100 for a transaction on Ethereum, the blockchain they’ve been using for years, when their average transaction value is $461.000. 

It became clear that the Ethereum DeFi ecosystem is where whales thrived. Even though the gas fee mechanism changed due to the London upgrade, it still remains an ecosystem that favors whales. On the other hand, BSC is a network that regular traders may find friendlier in regards to fee barriers. As demonstrated by the transaction sizes in Uniswap and PancakeSwap shown in part one. 

Also worth noting that BSC’s whales’ wallets have more diversified portfolios. Especially in regards to other peer categories, NFTs, and games. In part two, we’ll deep dive into lending protocols Aave, MakerDAO, and Alpaca Fiance. Also, to outline the main differences between whales in Ethereum and BSC, the two most important ecosystems in terms of DeFi at the moment. 

Whales in lending protocols

For this second part, we’ll dissect lending protocols. Lending and borrowing dapps democratize debt to individuals. Granting loans to borrowers, and rewarding liquidity providers with an interest yield.  

In Ethereum, MakerDAO, Aave, and Compound are the clear referents, whereas, in BSC, Alpaca Finance and Venus lead the way. For this report, we’ll focus on Maker, Aave, and Alpaca. 

MakerDAO

MakerDAO is a borrowing protocol hosted on the Ethereum network. It became relevant to the DeFi space as the supplier of the widely used stablecoin DAI. DAI is a decentralized stablecoin with the largest supply. Although still far from the circulating supply of Tether or USDC. 

Contrary to other lending dapps, Maker does not accept lending transactions. In Maker, users can only borrow DAI by depositing collateral in the accepted cryptocurrencies, or by creating a new vault with the accepted tokens. The most popular debt pairs include liquidity pairs provided in Uniswap. Which also helps to highlight the interactions that exist between leading DeFi protocols.

At the time of writing, Maker’s TVL is around $15 billion. Analyzing the volumes transacted within Maker hints at a high whale usage. In May, both the transaction volumes and the size of transactions on average reached their respective highs. However, with the massive drop in volume experienced in June, whale activity decreased too.

In Q3, the average transaction size exceeded $3 million during August but has plummeted ever since. Decreasing to $1.5 million approximately during October. Nonetheless, Maker can still be considered a platform that whales use to lend and borrow capital. Especially when compared to other lending protocols.

Aave

Aave has become one of the foremost lending protocols currently deployed on Ethereum, Polygon, and Avalanche. This DeFi dapp allows investors to lend and borrow 31 different assets and 16 liquidity pairs from Uniswap and Balancer. Whereas on Polygon and Avalanche, there are 7 assets respectively. 

Aave differentiates itself from other lending protocols, not only because of its varied asset offering but for pioneering flash loans and enabling rate switching. Because of these complimentary DeFi features, Aave became widely used by not only big investors, but arbitrageurs too. At the time of writing, Aave has over $15 billion in total value locked in Ethereum. So if you’re paying attention, Aave holds some whale potential. 

Overall, the transaction size on Aave follows almost the same pattern seen in Maker. Following a sudden drop in transaction volumes in June, whale activity diminished at the same rate. However, during Q3, the average number of transactions almost tripled even though the transaction volume remained at the same levels.

While Aave is certainly a place where whale transactions occur frequently, it is important to note that the size of transactions on Maker are approximately 10 times larger than Aave.

Alpaca Finance

To get a fuller picture, and confirm that the behavior observed in BSC’s DEXs seen in part 1 repeats itself in lending protocols, we analyze Alpaca Finance. Alpaca is the largest lending protocol on BSC that enables leveraged yield farming. It allows borrowers to take undercollateralized loans against leveraged yield farming positions. 

Looking at the volumes transacted on Alpaca, we can see the same steady drop in June that was observed in other DeFi dapps. Not the scope of this report, but it looks like May’s crash in crypto prices was widely felt in the DeFi space. 

The average size of transactions on Alpaca has been growing constantly. Since the start of Q3, the average transaction has grown almost 5 times, measuring at almost $125,000 in October. Even though it is far from the millions seen in Maker, it is not far from Aave’s level.

Whale Wallets: Stablecoin and wrapped assets

So far, we have covered the main differences, from a whale perspective, between DeFi protocols on Ethereum and BSC. To gain additional insight on how whales behave on both networks, we analyze the wrapped versions of both native tokens. Wrapped ETH or WETH is one of the most utilized assets in DeFi appearing in the five most traded pairs on the network.

WETH is one of the least concentrated assets. The top 5 WETH whales only hold around 0.45% of the token’s circulating supply. Overall, there are around 300,000 WETH holders.

Again, using DappRadar’s portfolio tool, we can identify that the top whale of WETH has  high-end activity in DeFi, whilst also interesting to see 1inch, the DEX yield aggregator, another DeFi dapp attracting whales. Additionally, AXS, the governance token of the play-to-earn game Axie Infinity, which holders can stake on the Ronin sidechain to earn rewards.

DappRadar Portfolio Tracker

Looking at the top 5 holders of WBNB, the wrapped version of Binance Coin, we see a very diluted asset. Only 0.75% is held by the top 5 WBNB whales. The number of WBNB holders, 804,500, is also bigger than in WETH, which is a reflection of each token’s supply. 

It is interesting to note that as with the DEXs governance tokens, BSC wallets tend to be more diversified. Not being solely focused on DeFi. For instance, one of the WBNB whales holds a high amount of altcoins like MATIC, LINK, ADA, and EGLD, with a good amount of TLM, the Alien Worlds in-game currency. 

DappRadar Portfolio Tracker

The difference is more visible by comparing the most popular stablecoins in both ecosystems. This BUSD (Binance USD) whale wallet holds different NFT and game-related tokens. The BSC diversification is in full display again. 

DappRadar Portfolio Tracker

To finish up, looking at one of the DAI whale wallets, confirms that Ethereum whales are mostly focused on DeFi, even though the activity is not always as active. 

DappRadar Portfolio Tracker

Differences between Ethereum and BSC whales

BSC and Ethereum are the two most important blockchains in terms of DeFi. Combined they hold around 76% of the total value locked in DeFi, with Ethereum holding over 66%. After diving deep into DEXs and lending platforms offering yield farming, we find four main differences between whale patterns in these two prominent categories. 

1) Whale activity on Ethereum tends to be bigger than BSC – It is undeniable that the high gas fees that occur on Ethereum hinder the investment from the user perspective; yet it is also true that whales are less sensitive to these fees. While regular investors may look for other alternatives such as sidechains, layer-2 solutions, or other layer-1 alternatives, whales do not show this behavior. 

Overall, whales’ demand for DeFi products is basically inelastic when the gas fees are factored in. Meaning whales are not concerned about paying high fees whilst they operate in their preferred network. 


BNB Whale transactions: Santiment
ETH Whale transactions: Santiment

The charts above show that whale activity (transactions higher than $1M) occur in bigger waves on Ethereum lending protocols than the ones happening in BNB within the Binance-branded network.

2) In Ethereum DEXs, the predominance of stablecoins is more visible. Whilst the wrapped versions of ETH and BTC are widely used in Ethereum, the supply of stablecoins is significant. Tether, the largest stablecoin by supply on Ethereum, and USDC, both surpass the supply of BUSD by more than double.

By looking at the number of stablecoins held by whales, it is clear that Ethereum whales hold a larger grasp on the supply of these versatile assets.

ETH supply held by whales: Santiment

3) BSC whales have more diversified portfolios – Whilst the DeFi whales on Ethereum tend to focus mostly on stablecoins or DeFi related currencies, whales on BSC appear to be more involved in Games and NFTs. Looking at PancakeSwap whales, we see a dominance of game dapp tokens such as HERO, SPS, or MPET. And while Ethereum whales certainly consider other DeFi peer categories, the diversification is less visible in their portfolios.

We found a similar pattern by analyzing BUSD and Alpaca portfolios, where the diversification of assets stands out.

4) The whale activity between both networks is more distinguishable in DEXs than in lending protocols – After analyzing some of the most important DEXs and lending protocols in both Ethereum and BSC, there is a clear distinction when analyzing DEXs, and not a clear one when focusing on lending dapps. 

For instance, the size of transactions in Curve during September surpassed $450,000 on average, whilst on PancakeSwap, these had a value of around $750 in the same period. Even compared to Uniswap, whose transaction size floated around $50,000, the difference is significant. 

However, when comparing lending protocols Aave and Alpaca, the difference is barely more than triple. Whilst Ethereum lending protocols have higher whale activity, the gap between Alpaca and Aave is not as big as between Uniswap and PancakeSwap.

Do DeFi whales invest in NFTs? 

To close this DeFi whale analysis, we analyze the behavior of those wallets that connected to DappRadar’s portfolio tool during October (MTD). Understanding DeFi users as wallets that have interacted with at least one DeFi feature, and NFT users, a wallet that holds at least one NFT token.

In this month, almost 83% of this user base interacted only with DeFi dapps, whereas 17% are involved in both categories. To compare with August’s behavior report, we see an increased interest in NFTs. At that time, only 13% of DeFi wallets interacted with NFTs to some extent. 

Even though the interest in NFTs and games is on the rise, heavy DeFi users remain fully engaged.

In summary

Since the start of 2020, the volume of transactions in the industry has increased exponentially. This caused gas fees to reach all-time highs on several blockchains. Most notably on Ethereum. In addition, with the price of ETH reaching historical all-time highs, gas fees forced regular investors towards alternatives, such as BSC. However, that was not the case for whales. 

As in other categories of the industry, analyzing DeFi whales is important. Especially when realizing that this category holds a stronghold on the majority of the industry’s value. After analyzing some of the most important DeFi dapps on Ethereum and BSC, it is clear that whales still highly concentrate on Ethereum, and in DeFi. Certainly, there is whale activity on BSC, although it tends to be much lower.

Percentage of stablecoins held by whale wallets (>$5M): Santiment

Also interesting to note that in highly used DeFi dapps like DEXs, the difference is even more evident. Whereas on lending protocols, the gap is tighter. We for example also expect this behavior in yield aggregators, another DeFi layer that is full of whale activity. 

All in all, Ethereum whales, and DeFi whales tend to focus on this category only. The DeFi summer of last year was born on Ethereum and saw users yield mind-blowing rewards. Most of these whales tend to stick with this network, as a place where they can comfortably move around from one dapp to another in search of a better yield without having to bridge assets to another blockchain. Mostly in part due to the inelasticity that whales show in regards to gas fees. Whereas regular investors look for alternatives like BSC where they can easily experiment with DeFi. In addition they get wider exposure to other categories like NFTs and games. 

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