important things to look out for when opening a crypto platform.
It has been a scary year in the crypto markets.
It feels like every week has brought a new scandal. There was the death spiral of the Terra ecosystem in May, which sparked a wave of contagion across the industry.
Down went crypto lenders Celsius and Voyager Digital, among others.
Then, even more spectacularly, was the collapse of former tier-1 exchange FTX, with $8 billion of customer assets lost. This has led to the bankruptcy of BlockFi and a range of other firms, with more contagion likely still to come.
Against this backdrop, it has never been more important to choose your crypto platform wisely. On this note, we sat down with a few industry experts to get their thoughts on an important question, as part of our series asking expert panels for advice in crypto:
What are the 3 most important things to look out for when choosing a crypto platform to sign up to?
Ramani Ramachandran, CEO and Co-Founder of Router Protocol says:
Trading on crypto platforms is certainly alluring to new Web 3.0 users, but the sheer number of platforms often acts as roadblocks for making the first trade. In my opinion, if you want to judge the merit of a crypto platform these are the 3 things to look out for.
Security: Look at features like two-factor authentication, password recovery options, and multiple different factors that can determine if a platform has security measures in place or not. Moreover, since the ecosystem is still relatively young, you can’t ignore the possibility of a hack entirely, so you should also look at the terms and conditions to see what is insured and what’s not if a hack takes place.
Regulatory Compliances: The good thing about Web 3.0 is that everyone is invited to build and scale. However, when it comes to crypto exchanges, you should take an additional step to know if the team behind the crypto exchange is firstly complying with basic regulations like KYC and anti-money laundering checks. And secondly, check if the team is from a politically stable state that can hold them accountable if they engage in any malpractice.
Variety of Tokens and liquidity: Contrary to popular belief, not every exchange has the same tokens and networks as part of their trading ethos. Generally speaking, you should always opt for trading platforms that provide the most number of tokens and networks for you to trade and also have sufficient liquidity for these pairs
Stefan Rust, CEO of Laguna Labs, says:
Crypto platforms have evolved tremendously over the past 5 years – they come in all shapes and sizes offering all kinds of different assets and trading strategies. And so, the first thing to do is figure out what you want – just a bit of Bitcoin, or Bitcoin derivatives? Or do you want to get into DeFi staking or borrowing? The answers to these questions will lead you to your platform. Secondly, you’ll want to consider your jurisdiction and any tax or regulatory implications and then, finally, how reputable the platform and team behind it is.
Marius Ciuboatriu, co-founder of Hubble Protocol, says:
If you’re new to crypto, then it’s really important to choose a platform that is transparent, has a strong community, and takes security seriously. Read everything in their docs, read their blogs, and read everything you can find out about the platform—then join the platform’s community on Telegram or Discord and start asking questions. Is it easy to understand how everything works? If they are offering yield, where does the yield come from? Finally, is the platform audited by a trusted security firm? If a platform isn’t willing to get a security audit, or even multiple audits after changes are made, then that’s a huge red flag.
Tom Norwood, CEO of Loop Finance, says:
When looking for a new crypto platform, 1: Look for one selling what you want to buy, and for the right price! If it’s undiscovered NFTs you’re after, for example, OpenSea is unlikely to be your huckleberry. Then, 2: Choose one that has strong backing from its community. The beauty of crypto is that members of the community can really tell you a lot about a project or protocol. Finally, 3: Think about whether a platform is centralized or decentralized. If the former, you are subject to the decisions (and mistakes) of a select few founders. If the latter, you have total control of your assets.
Dan Ashmore, data analyst at Coinjournal says:
Safety is the biggest. Make 100% sure the platform is reputable. No other factor is anywhere near as important as this. Venturing outside the bigger names should only be done by those more familiar with the industry.
The second most important is reducing the cost. That means ensuring you are paying the lowest fees possible – deposit fees, FX fees, trading fees etc. Finally, a platform which offers a good range of coins (or specifically, the ones you seek) is preferable.
Martin Lee, Data Journalist at Nansen says:
For exchanges the main things are:
App stability during peak periods (Coinbase known to lag or go down during large moves in the market)
Trading fees and spot price used during swaps/trades. Some exchanges claim to have no fees but when you use their swap/trading functions you’ll realize that the spot price used in the trades is a few percentage points higher than other exchanges.
General trustworthy-ness of the platform – do they have coverage/insurance against hacks, public perception, founders background etc.
Lars Seier Christensen, chairman of Concordium and founder of Saxo Bank says:
First of all, I would like to say that I have spent nearly all my professional life dealing with mostly semi-professional and sophisticated clients dealing in speculative investments. Foreign exchange, futures, CFDs, leveraged trading. And out of all of these, I consider crypto to be the most risky and volatile asset class I have ever dealt with. So before even opening an account, people have to educate themselves thoroughly on what they are getting into. If in doubt, stay out.
If they still want to engage and open a brokerage or exchange crypto account, they should choose a provider that is regulated in a solid jurisdiction. They should start with CEXes, rather than DEXes and not start in opaque DeFi schemes. They should check the financial solidity of who they deal with and they should look for people that are open and transparent about their management and their experience. Who is responsible? And are they qualified?
Yang Lan, founder of Fiat24 says:
Crypto platforms can refer to many things – cryptocurrencies, wallets, exchanges, lending protocols, etc.
Regardless, the top 3 things to look out for are to look for signs that it is trustworthy (white papers, roadmaps, community, transparency, the team behind it); research to understand its potential value in the future (market cap, historical performance, tokenomics, etc); and finally, try to place it in the larger scheme of the space right now (the competition, trends, new technologies, external factors).
Dmitry Gooshchin, COO and Co-Founder of EndoTech says:
The three most important things to look out for when choosing a crypto platform are reputation, functionality, and fees.
Reputation: you want your investment to succeed or fail on its own merits, not on the wallet you choose. Therefore, it’s important to understand that we are in a new era and there are many fly-by-night companies. You want to make sure you have a business that has adequate regulatory and security oversight.
Functionality: while you may start with a simple buy/sell, you’ll likely want to grow into more advanced solutions like trading algorithms and AltCoins. Make sure your wallet can grow in sophistication with you.
Fees: too many people make this their #1 criteria. While it does add up in the end, it’s more important to have a reputable and functional wallet for your investments.
Bobby Pham – CMO KardiaChain says:
I’m assuming the question when asking about the platform is regarding an exchange or wallet.
The 3 most important factors to consider when deciding which platform to sign up for are:
Security. The crypto industry is still in its infant stages. Thus, security issues, bugs, and hacks are still common within the industry. Evaluate the security of a platform when you’re deciding which to sign up for. Essentially, the more checks and requirements a platform asks of you to sign up, the more secure it is.
Insurance Policy. Even the most secure platforms can be prone to hacks and risks, so the next factor in evaluating is a platform’s insurance policy. If the platform is hacked, how much money do they have to restore users’ lost funds? For example, Coinbase has an insurance policy of up to $225 Million in its reserves if users’ funds are hacked. Having the peace of mind of knowing that your funds are safe even in the event of a hack is another factor to consider.
Customer Support. A strong, available customer support system is a green flag of a trusted platform. While great improvements have been made in the ease and simplicity of using crypto platforms, it’s still confusing for many new to the space. Crypto platforms that have a strong and available customer support team in place is indicative of a brand that cares about its users.
The most important thing to look out for when choosing a crypto platform is the high-security standard of a crypto exchange. Rule of thumb: the harder it is to create an account at a particular exchange and the more checks they do, the better it is. Trustworthiness is important, to protect and be able to track and manage your digital assets anytime. As the crypto community loves to say: “Not your keys, not your coins. So either store cryptos in your own (preferably cold) wallet with your own keys, or only entrust your assets to regulated and reputable institutional providers.
The second most important thing when choosing a crypto platform is to be aware of fees and pairs. Most crypto exchanges will include some type of fee for any transactions which is based on the size of the transaction or dependent upon your level of activity or membership. Do you plan to be highly active, making transactions every day? If so, perhaps consider an exchange with a lower per-transaction fee.
The third important thing in choosing a crypto platform is the volume of a crypto coin or a crypto pair. If you see a coin that’s appreciating on the back of high volume, it’s more likely to be a sustainable move. Logically, when more money is moving into a cryptocurrency, it means there is more demand for the crypto coin and for the crypto platform.
Lang Mei, CEO of AirDAO says:
Unfortunately, the decentralization-focused crypto industry has a long history of centralized exchanges misappropriating users’ funds. Infamously, Mt. Gox exchange went insolvent after a hacker stole funds deposited by customers, and the hack resulted in a near-decade legal battle that still hasn’t been fully resolved yet. You must learn from the past and ask yourself whether you can trust the crypto exchange you are going to use:
Research whether the exchange you plan to use has a good reputation.
Get a hardware wallet to safely withdraw your assets immediately after purchase instead of leaving them on a centralized exchange.
Look into DeFi as an alternative to using centralized exchanges.
Vlad Totia, Research Analyst at Zilliqa says:
Maturity: Crypto has come a long way since truly gaining mainstream attention back in 2017. Although there are still many scams around, a good portion of the space has matured. One of the best indicators of this is the growth of centralized exchanges, like Binance, Coinbase, Kucoin, or ByBit becoming reasonably well-regulated and established.
Security: Even though it’s a nuisance every time a deposit or withdrawal gets done, features like 2FA, email, or SMS confirmation are very important for the safety of users’ funds. Whether it’s using a personal cold wallet, a browser wallet, or staying only within the confines of an exchange, it’s very good practice to get used to security checks.
Diversity of assets and services: At this stage, most of the big exchanges have grown into their role and offer quite a broad variety of tokens, as well as features to trade, borrow, earn, or stake. Given this ‘one-stop shop’ reality, it makes the most sense to use only one large exchange when getting started and then become a more advanced user from there.
Hristiyan Hristov, Account Management Team Lead at Nexo says:
First, identify what your needs are and find the platform that is the best fit for what you require. That’ll depend on what you’re looking to do, which could be earning interest, trading, borrow/margin, or secure custody. I would strongly recommend finding a place where most of your needs could be accommodated in one place. This will come in handy when the temperature heats up and the market is volatile. In those situations, it might be very slow to move assets around – due to network congestions and other circumstances – which can prevent you from achieving the best results and protecting your funds.
Second tip: If you’re planning on moving assets from a cold wallet to a custodial one, security should take center stage in your research. You must diligently check if the platform you’re planning to move funds to has had any issues in the past and what practices it follows. Check whether it has reputable partners, licenses and registrations, are its financials audited, and is there any insurance. 2FA authentication, in particular, is an absolute must, no matter the amount of money you are holding.
And now, number three: sustainability. Don’t be attracted to the glamour of abnormally high yields or low interest rates. As a general rule, if something looks too good to be true, it usually is. Always ask yourself if the offered rates and services are sustainable in the long term, and compare them to what other market participants are offering. Any serious outliers from the “normal” range should have you raising an eyebrow.
Wolfgang Rückerl, Co-Founder and CEO of Istari Vision and Entity says:
When deciding where to invest your crypto, it’s crucial to choose a platform with a healthy trading volume. This is an indicator of both the available liquidity and the reputation of the platform, since low volume means that big money investors do not trust a given exchange. A high volume shows that an exchange is trusted, and also means there are more fees to reward liquidity providers.
Investors must also assess whether a platform supports a range of different tokens. Bigger platforms tend to have a bigger selection, which presents more options for investors and leads to greater capital flows.
It is also crucial to pay attention to the global availability and legal status of exchanges. Some platforms are restricted in certain countries, which limits the potential user base. Furthermore, some platforms might even operate without a license in some jurisdictions. This is a red flag that an exchange is not serious about regulatory compliance.”
Nimantha Siriwardana, Co-Founder and CTO of Metacask says:
The first thing new crypto users need to look out for is whether it’s a legitimate company. Do they have a history? Check that they have a legitimate business address and real people working there. There are plenty of fraudulent exchanges and websites that pretend to be existing exchanges. It’s a relatively new and unregulated industry, so there are plenty of scoundrels out there looking to take your hard-earned cash.
Users also need to be aware of how simple or difficult it is to deposit and withdraw their fiat currency (USD, GBP, EUR). Check your bank’s stance on cryptocurrencies – some banks are less crypto-friendly than others and will not accept deposits from crypto exchanges.
In addition, users should check the exchange fees – platforms charge varying transaction fees, so if you’re making lots of transactions, these can quickly add up.
Tahem Verma, Co-Founder and CEO of mesha says:
Security and trust are vital when choosing a crypto platform. Investors need to be aware of where their funds will be held and whether the platform has suffered any hacks. Checking the reviews is also an easy way to get an inside look into existing users’ experiences. The chosen crypto platform should be regulated and have the proper licenses in place. In addition, investors should review the platform’s pricing in terms of their fees and spreads.
Andrew Levine, CEO and Co-Founder of Koinos Group says:
When choosing a crypto platform to sign up for, one should always ask ‘What is the unique value proposition of the platform?’ Basically, how is the platform advancing the field? Besides looking into the monetary potential of a platform, investors should evaluate if the platform will contribute in a meaningful way and what the growth potential of the proposed technology is.
Additionally, a potential investor should examine how easy it is to develop applications on the blockchain. Will the blockchain require frequent updates or hard forks that will disrupt the flow of innovation? When looking to invest in a new crypto platform, an investor should predict whether there is a fluid way to develop dApps. The technology should support innovation.
Another important factor is how pleasant the user experience is. Will developers actually want to build on the platform? This goes back to the ability for the blockchain to evolve and the upgradability of the platform. It’s also important to note if the platform is accessible to new users or if there are many barriers to entry.
Pannathorn Lorattawut, CEO of VUCA Digital, from the CROWN Token Project says:
The first thing you need to consider is the credibility of the company, the team, and their projects. When you sign up for something, you give personal information to that platform. Doing due diligence on the reputation and security of the platform will help mitigate the risk. You can also check whether they have customer support and a channel to contact them if something goes wrong.
Next, consider the real growth opportunities of the projects. You should understand the purposes and products of the platform, its sources of revenue, and key drivers that support the growth. This will help you evaluate the platform’s sustainability and see whether the returns from its products are reasonable.
Lastly, look at the features of the platform and its project. Each platform may provide different solutions, for example, functions, flexibility, security, fee, and return. The platform’s current features and its roadmap will help answer whether it is what you’re looking for.
Richa Joshi, Co-Founder of Push Protocol says:
Existing Adoption. There is certainly opportunity to be found by interacting with a crypto platform in its earliest days — especially if there are token incentives involved, such as LPing in DeFi protocols. However, early adopters also shoulder significant risk; volatility risk and security risk. Seeking out projects that have a proven track record of adoption is a more assured way of interacting with web3 in a secure manner.
Partners & Supporters. Though web3 is a space where an individual can go far, many of the most impressive protocols have a strong network of partners and supporters. These can include investors, technical partners, and customers. Seeking projects that have a “wall” of supporters and partners that you also trust is typically good practice when choosing a protocol.
Community Sentiment. Spend some time in the communities of the projects you’re considering — mainly Discord and Twitter. How are those community members interacting with the protocol? Are they combative or supportive? Is there an over-emphasis on token price, or does there appear to be general consensus that the technology and utility of the project is more interesting? A community makes a project, so look for the best communities out there.
Joshua Tobkin, CEO and Co-Founder of SupraOracles says:
When choosing a crypto platform to sign up to, be sure to check that the site is reputable, and that the URL is spelled exactly as it is meant to be spelled (beware of copycat sites that are run by scammers). Also, look for an exchange that offers as many of the tokens you are looking to trade as possible. Lastly, make sure there is a high enough trading volume to ensure you get the proper value for the tokens you are exchanging. I would suggest starting with CEXs and probably only the top 10 you can find on CoinGecko/CoinMarketCap.
Valentin Pletnev, CEO of Quasar says:
Understanding what risks apply to you. If you choose a custodial provider, you’re not only exposed to DeFi risk, you’re also exposed to their financial situation and runway management. Not your keys, not your assets.
Team track record & focus on the mission that is being tackled. Professionalism, active development and clear goals are underappreciated in crypto, pick winners
Take the time to understand the foundational knowledge that the crypto platform is built on top of and only choose things you have a clear and immediate need for. Doing your own research is critical and a key principle in crypto.
Mario Baxter, CTO at Fun says:
Understand what custody looks like. There are 2 main types: externally-custodied and self-custodied. Externally-custodied means that the control of the account resides with the custodian, for example Coinbase. Self-custodied means that you have full control over the account via the storing of a private key or recovery phrase. With great power comes great responsibility, as they say, and this is especially true with regard to crypto custody. If you choose to self-custody your assets (congrats! you are self-sovereign), you need to be extremely careful with how you store your private keys — if these are lost or compromised you will lose access to all of your funds.
Look into trading fees as well as the features offered. Some platforms offer additional functionality aside from simply being a medium for holding crypto assets. They can offer staking, lending and borrowing, as well as direct integrations with DeFi protocols, just to name a few.
Look into the jurisdictions where the platform is authorized to operate. Some platforms will be geographically bound, meaning that a platform intended for European users may not be accessible in the United States.
David Schwed, Chief Operating Officer of Halborn says:
Many may hear the statement “not your keys, not your crypto”, which means they should hold the information (private key) necessary to effectuate a transaction as opposed to a third party like an exchange. While I fundamentally agree, I think for new crypto users, the safest option is to buy/sell/hold crypto on a centralized exchange. When selecting an exchange, I would look at the following criteria:
Security, security, security. What security controls have the exchange implemented that help protect your crypto. At a minimum, there should be multi-factor authentication methods besides using a phone number for texting. On the more secure side would be a hardware key or a time-based one-time password.
Jurisdiction is critical. Since many exchanges/companies rise to jurisdictions where there is little to no regulatory oversight, check to see where they are registered and what laws/regulations they have to comply with. Based on that information select an exchange in an area that has strong regulatory oversight.
Thirdly, check if there have been any notable security events in the past 36 months and see what corrective actions have been taken.
Limaris Torres, Security Advisor at Halborn says:
I think, for the newcomers the key things to look at when choosing a crypto platform are usability, security and service. As users, we all have a variety of different skills and our own preferences, so people new to this space should look for something that’s easy to use and have simple functionality that can get you started. This means visually easy to navigate but also flexible in terms of web app or mobile app. The best platform for anyone will always be the one they can and do use consistently.
Second and most important is security, there’s always risk with investing but the risk should be related to your strategy and not the lack or broken approach to security of the platform. Users should be able to trust that their assets will be safe, the two factor authentication by default should be a norm on any platform.
Lastly, users should look at support and customer service capability of the platform. Mistakes happen and things break. I’d suggest paying attention to and choosing a platform with excellent customer service to help you with all your logistical needs.
Paulina Jóśków, Head of Business Development at Ramp says:
It’s all about trust. And as the old adage says, trust arrives on foot and leaves on horseback. But how can you trust a platform with your money and with your crypto? In addition to the obvious suspects (like online reviews, checking age and activity of web properties and social media, etc), here are some things to look out for:
Transparency: how upfront and transparent are they – about their fees, costs, and especially about their team? Don’t get me wrong, anonymous teams have built some amazing things. But if you have an issue with your money, would you really prefer to chase after a funny monkey JPEG anon on Discord instead of a registered company?
Compliance: the crypto space is maturing and increasingly subject to laws and regulations. Is the platform you’re dealing with compliant with global and local regulations? Are they authorised to offer services to your region? If not, this can lead to a host of legal issues to them and you.
Security history: it’s not just about if a platform has been hacked before (many great ones have, only to emerge stronger). But what caused the attack? What was the platform’s response to users, and how honest/transparent were they during the process? And finally, what measures did they take to avoid another similar issue? These answers can tell very different stories, from unfortunate zero-day exploits that got immediately patched, to tales of repeated negligence by irresponsible founders.
Has the exchange been vetted by a reputable third party? Firms like Digital Asset Research have methodologies that evaluate the quality of an exchange and can be useful in decision making https://www.digitalassetresearch.com/digital-asset-research-announces-july-2022-crypto-exchange-vetting-results/
Disclosures – transparency of terms and conditions and user agreement for using the platform should be easy to locate and understand.
Is it regulated? – Exchanges that are regulated have certain standards to adhere to and oversight. NY State BitLicense is one such example as are state level Money Transmitter Licenses.
Rashid Ali, co-founder and CEO of Exarta says:
I guess we are talking about crypto exchanges. For me personally, it’s about the crypto options they have as not all platforms have all tokens listed for various reasons. However, more and more, we need to start asking what they are doing about security as exchanges are a prime target, although I would recommend holding any long term crypto in secure cold storage.
Security is becoming an area where exchanges need to show they take it seriously. We have seen many hacks over the years, and I doubt they will stop anytime soon.
Peter Eberle, President and CIO of Castle Funds says:
Are they legally doing business in your jurisdiction? Though crypto is largely unregulated, in the United States regulations do exist to protect consumers. Through the internet users can access web sites around the world it is important not to circumvent laws as your assets could be frozen.
Fees – All exchanges have different cost structures. Dig beyond just the commissions. There are fees for moving fiat on and off exchange, commissions, and various other fees.
Liquidity – The more popular the platform the greater the liquidity. Why does liquidity matter? The spread between bid and offer (where you can buy or sell crypto) can be large or small but even if the spread is small, it might be for only a small amount so if you are trying to buy a larger quantity the spread might be quite large. See how much liquidity there actually is.
Paolo Ardoino, CTO of Bitfinex says:
For exchanges the main things are:
Security, check if an exchange has had any previous incidents and how these incidents were resolved. Also be sure to check what the recourse is for you if your funds in yourwallet have been compromised. It is also helpful to check the liquidity of the exchange and possible issues faced in the past or ongoing with regard to liquidity Very closely aligned to this is to check if the platform has a verification or Know Your Customer (KYC) process – which serves to protect against fraudulent account creation by verifying that account holders are who they say they are.
Cyber scammers are always looking for new ways to commit fraud. Scammers are increasing in their sophistication. One example is cryptojacking – where hackers implant a piece of software that mines cryptocurrencies on a victim’s computer – further demonstrates that the ingenuity of cybercrooks should never be underestimated. Unsuspecting victims are left perplexed as their devices slow down to a snail’s pace, unaware of the criminal activity and where it emanates from. Whether you are a retail user or a business, you need to remain in a perpetual state of vigilance to guard against such threats. To keep your account safe look at combining password protection and basic anti-phishing controls, which may add resiliency to cryptojacking attempts.
It may seem obvious but users need to check the jurisdiction that the exchange operates in and whether they are able to make use of it and last but not least:
Trading fees and spot price used during swaps/trades. These can sometimes be overlooked, however, certain exchanges claim to have zero fees but when using their swap/trading functions you realize that the spot price used in the trades is a few percentage points higher than other exchanges.
Jake Yocom-Piatt, Co-Founder and Project Lead of Decred says:
The first step is to choose a reputable exchange that supports the right fiat currencies, cryptocurrencies, and customer jurisdictions. Many exchanges only support particular fiat currencies, cryptocurrencies, and customer jurisdictions.
Spend time doing your own independent research to find a well-known and well-reviewed exchange that fits your needs. As this is becoming an increasingly common problem, make certain the exchange supports deposits and withdrawals in your cryptocurrencies of choice and not just deposits.
Some exchanges only allow deposits and not withdrawals in a given cryptocurrency, and some do not allow either deposits or withdrawals in a given cryptocurrency. The last thing to look out for is being patient. The account registration process at most cryptocurrency exchanges that process fiat can take several days or weeks to complete in a worst-case scenario.
Be prepared to submit information similar to what you would submit to open a bank account and for it to take time to verify that information. If you are registering an account during a bull market, account registration delays can be significant.
Charmyn Ho, head of crypto insights at Bybit says:
Security, product range and integrity.
The number one question the average trader should ask is – are your assets safe? Exchanges are infrastructure projects that compete on technical expertise. Hence it is important to start with a wallet you can trust on a platform that values security.
More likely than not, your crypto journey will evolve at a fast pace. While everyone’s learning curve is different, a beginner may soon find that basic platforms are unable to meet their needs. Hence, you may wish to save your time and money by choosing an exchange with diverse product offerings which also has an increasing number of trading pairs and project listings, as well as more sophisticated products you’ll need down the road. Even if you are starting with spot trading a handful of mainstream coins, trading on exchanges with advanced offerings and an edge in derivatives now will save you the hassle of switching later on.
When you consider the platform, the technology it deploys and the company behind it, integrity is critical to your success. To start with, find an exchange with a track record of reliability and a sizable user base. Exchanges with integrity value transparency, fairness and customer support, but more importantly it is able to provide better market depth, liquidity, and resilience in volatile times.