From Tangible to Digital: The Crucial Role of Real-World Asset Tokenization in Adoption

Ceras Ventures
8 min readAug 20, 2023

A recently published report by the Global Financial Markets Association, in collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group and other stakeholders, foresees a remarkable shift in the global landscape. The projection reveals that the value of tokenized illiquid assets, which stood at approximately $0.3 trillion in 2022, is expected to soar to an astounding $16 trillion by 2030.

At the core of this transformation are security tokens, constituting a substantial portion of the anticipated $16 trillion surge. These security tokens serve as a regulated conduit for financing and investor engagement within the realm of private market assets. With their advent, previously exclusive investment opportunities are becoming accessible to a wider audience, fostering security and compliance on-chain.

However, the implications of security tokens extend beyond inclusivity. These sophisticated digital financial instruments also function as a guiding framework for prominent institutions, providing them with insights to navigate the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) landscape within financial markets.

The alignment of heightened interest, robust funding, and the establishment of regulated exchanges for tokenized assets has nurtured an ecosystem ripe for expansion in both private and public asset tokenization. Notably, this evolution has caught the attention of industry titans, with notable figures like Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, envisioning a future where markets and securities thrive in their tokenized manifestation.

Conventional exchanges are eagerly embracing tokenization, evident through proactive strides taken by asset management giants including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and HSBC, among others. These entities are paving the way for a tokenized era, constructing comprehensive infrastructures that span the lifecycle of tokenized assets. Such versatile frameworks, compatible with permissioned and public blockchains alike, are poised to uphold an array of asset classes within the expansive Web3 ecosystem.

Real-World Asset Explained

The core concept of real-world asset tokenization involves creating digital representations of tangible assets on the blockchain such as converting real estate, art, commodities, and even intellectual property — into digital tokens. These tokens are stored, exchanged, and traded securely using blockchain technology. Each token symbolizes a direct ownership portion in the actual asset, and this process allows for the subdivision of these assets into smaller, more manageable units that can be traded with ease.

Illustrating this with the example of a Warhol painting, when ownership is divided into shares held by, say, 1,000 individuals, speculative trading becomes efficient and unrestricted. There’s no need for cumbersome coordination among co-owners. In contrast to the conventional scenario where a seller engages a range of professionals — gallery, appraiser, lawyer, and bank — for a sale, direct peer-to-peer transactions become feasible. Such transactions incur minimal gas fees and ensure instant asset transfers.

The scope of asset tokenization extends beyond high-value items such as vintage cars, real estate, and gold. Even assets like U.S. Treasuries, currencies, and stocks are undergoing tokenization, further accentuating the versatility and applicability of this transformative technology.

Current RWA Ecosystem

Source: Binance Research

1. Blockchains:
Permissioned and Permissionless Blockchains Tailored for RWAs that involves developing and utilizing blockchain networks specifically designed for Real-World Assets (RWAs). Permissioned blockchains provide controlled access to authorized participants, ensuring privacy and security, while permissionless blockchains offer openness and decentralization.

2. Securitization / Tokenization:
Bringing RWAs onto the Blockchain by converting ownership rights of RWAs into digital tokens on the blockchain. This tokenization enables fractional ownership, making it possible for multiple investors to hold shares in an RWA, increasing accessibility and liquidity.

3. Compliance:
Services to Ensure Investor and Issuer Compliance that involves implementing solutions that ensure both investors and issuers adhere to relevant regulations. Compliance services could include verification of investor accreditation, Anti-Money Laundering (AML) checks, and Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures.

4. Real Estate:
Originate and Create Demand for Real Estate-Backed RWAs by creating and launching digital assets backed by real estate properties. It involves selecting suitable properties, performing due diligence, and structuring tokenized offerings that allow investors to gain exposure to real estate markets.

5. Climate:
Originate and Create Demand for Climate Asset-Backed RWAs by originating and promoting asset-backed tokens tied to climate-related assets, such as renewable energy projects, carbon credits, or sustainable infrastructure. These investments align with environmental goals.

6. Private Credit:
This involves creating tokenized assets linked to private credit instruments, like loans and debt securities. It provides opportunities for investors to participate in private credit markets traditionally accessible only to institutional players.

7. Public Credit / Equities:
This focuses on creating tokenized assets backed by public credit instruments (bonds) or equities, allowing retail investors to invest in traditional capital markets through blockchain technology.

8. Emerging Market:
This area aims to originate and offer tokenized assets linked to assets in emerging markets. It provides investors with exposure to the growth potential of these markets while leveraging blockchain for transparency.

9. Trade Finance:
This involves creating tokenized assets based on trade finance instruments like invoices or receivables. These RWAs offer investors exposure to the trade finance sector and provide liquidity to businesses awaiting payments.

Tokenized Asset Industries

Real Estate:
Historically, the real estate sector has been characterized by high barriers to entry, complex transaction processes, and limited liquidity. However, the emergence of real estate asset tokenization introduces a paradigm shift with transformative potential. This innovative approach has the capacity to democratize real estate investments by enhancing accessibility, affordability, and liquidity. Through the tokenization of properties, investors gain the ability to acquire fractional ownership, thus providing a pathway for a broader range of individuals to participate in the property market. This inclusivity grants aspiring investors access to an arena that was once elusive. Nonetheless, this evolution introduces new considerations, particularly regarding legal matters encompassing governance and ownership, necessitating thorough legal frameworks.

Fine Art and Collectibles:
Tokenization’s influence extends beyond real estate, permeating the realm of fine art and collectibles. By subdividing ownership into shares, tokenization facilitates inclusivity in the art market, enabling a diverse range of investors to engage. This process propels a more equitable distribution of art ownership and offers tangible access to real yields. The newfound accessibility empowers a broader demographic to partake in niche investments, simultaneously reinvigorating the art market and creating opportunities for artists and collectors to monetize their assets more effectively.

Intellectual Property and Patents:
Tokenization’s potential reverberates into the realm of intellectual property (IP) and patents, triggering a significant transformation in management and monetization strategies. Tokenized IP introduces novel revenue streams for inventors and IP owners, catalyzing the democratization of IP investments. This shift widens participation, granting a more diverse audience the ability to engage. Furthermore, this evolution opens doors to collateralizing and lending IP assets, potentially reshaping IP market dynamics. The outlook is optimistic for a more streamlined, transparent IP market that fosters innovation, accelerates the monetization of ideas, and enables inventors to raise funds for their projects with greater ease.

Commodities, Stocks, and Debt:
Conventional asset markets are not impervious to the transformative power of tokenization. This process stands to reshape the landscape by enhancing transparency, liquidity, and efficiency within global capital markets. Tokenized settlements, bolstered by their transparency and cost-effectiveness, hold the promise of augmenting the fluidity of these markets. The synergy between tokenized assets and smart contracts further catalyzes the potential for novel, trustless transactions. However, tokenizing certain assets, like precious metals, introduces unique challenges. Verification mechanisms grounded in the physical world must be robust to ensure the legitimacy of these tokens. This distinct contrast highlights the distinction between easily digitized markets, such as bonds or equities, and those that require more intricate real-world validation.

What Benefits Does Tokenization Offer?

Enhanced Liquidity:
The process of asset tokenization holds the potential to unlock historically illiquid assets, including real estate and art. For instance, acquiring a fractional stake of a rental property becomes notably feasible for smaller investors, expanding market accessibility. With reduced transaction and settlement costs, capital can flow more freely, enhancing the liquidity of real-world assets.

Accessibility and Inclusivity:
Tokenization plays a pivotal role in democratizing investment across various asset classes that were traditionally reserved for high-net-worth or institutional investors. Fractional ownership facilitates lowered entry barriers, enabling retail investors to diversify portfolios and partake in diverse industries. Additionally, digital existence permits asset trading across borders, providing a safeguard against financial crises.

Transparency Augmentation:
Blockchain’s distributed ledgers foster transaction transparency, curbing fraudulent activities and ensuring equitable access to market information for all participants.

Reduced Settlement Expenses:
Blockchain introduces direct peer-to-peer settlements, substantially mitigating the overhead expenses prevalent in contemporary real-world asset trading platforms. Tokenized assets can be traded with fees as nominal as $0.01.

Empowering Smart Contracts:
Tokenized assets seamlessly interact with smart contracts and DeFi protocols, paving the way for novel financial platforms and services. These smart contracts also enable the establishment of trustless asset management solutions, enabling users to trade without the shadow of counterparty risks.

Current Challenges

Why Hasn’t Tokenization of Real-World Assets Gained Widespread Adoption Yet? Tokenization holds the promise of revolutionizing conventional asset management practices, ushering in inclusivity, liquidity enhancement, and a global financial paradigm shift. However, various factors have prevented its widespread adoption.

Navigating Regulatory Uncertainties

A significant impediment is the prevailing regulatory ambiguity. Governments worldwide need to establish comprehensive regulatory frameworks tailored to asset tokenization. This includes addressing compliance with existing regulations such as anti-money laundering (AML) and know-your-customer (KYC) requirements. Developing legal constructs for the tokenization process is equally crucial.

Creating regulations that safeguard market participants is paramount, ensuring that tokenized assets maintain proper backing, management, and legal protection. To harness the complete potential of this emerging technology, global regulatory bodies should collaborate to formulate a unified international framework governing both asset trading and tokenization processes.

Overcoming Technical Hurdles

The complexity of both legal and technical challenges in tokenizing diverse asset classes varies depending on the industry in question. Sectors encountering intricate hurdles, such as commodities with unresolved “last mile” issues or real estate navigating complex token holder rights, face obstacles to fully capitalizing on tokenization’s benefits. Additionally, industries like venture capital markets, already subject to rigorous legal regulations, present challenges to seamless adoption in the near term.

Conversely, assets possessing fungibility, and particularly intangible assets like digital goods and services, exhibit greater compatibility with tokenization.

Maturing the Framework for Asset Tokenization

The development of comprehensive frameworks for asset tokenization requires time and careful refinement. Despite these challenges, the progressive adoption of digital assets by numerous nations underscores the inevitable evolution toward asset tokenization. The question has shifted from “if” to “when” this transformation will materialize.

In summation, the journey toward embracing asset tokenization as a ubiquitous financial practice requires addressing regulatory uncertainties and surmounting technical intricacies. As global cooperation and technological advancements continue, the path to realizing tokenization’s potential draws closer, paving the way for an inclusive and liquidity-rich financial landscape.

A Glimpse into the Future

As the asset tokenization landscape matures over the forthcoming years, new solutions for interoperability will emerge, and legal frameworks will solidify. This gradual transformation will usher in a new era where digital tokens fundamentally redefine ownership, trading dynamics, and liquidity provisions. Yet, it’s prudent to temper expectations; this paradigm shift may take a span of years to fully manifest. The journey toward redefining the financial landscape is a nuanced and evolutionary process.

In summary, tokenization stands as a catalyst poised to revolutionize the financial landscape, but it’s vital to embrace a realistic outlook. We navigate an intricate journey, where innovation and transformation are balanced with the need for stability, regulation, and industry-wide adoption. As we embrace this transformation, it’s clear that tokenization’s potential, while substantial, is intertwined with the steady maturation of technology and the collective evolution of financial systems worldwide.

Written By: Sarah Abuagela
Additional Sources: Global Finance Markets Association, McKinsey and Company, Binance Research, CreditCoin

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Ceras Ventures

Ceras Ventures is a leading global crypto and blockchain investment firm investing capital on behalf of traditional funds, institutions and individuals