With the emergence and development of blockchain technology, digital securities have seen wider adoption by investors and investment firms. Arising from the need for protection against fraud and as a way for investors to ensure asset ownership, digital securities are a digital representation of traditional securities and follow the same regulatory rules. Since their first appearance, digital securities have come to represent any debt, equity, or asset that is registered and transferred electronically using blockchain technology.
Digital securities are made possible by blockchain, also known as “distributed ledger technology”. Distributed ledger technology is a database where transactions are continually appended and verified across by multiple participants, ensuring that each transaction has a “witness” to validate its legitimacy. By the nature of the system, it is more difficult for hackers to manipulate, as copies of the ledger are decentralized or located across multiple different locations. Changes to one copy would be impossible, as the others would recognize it as invalid.
Distributed ledger technology allows digital securities to be incredibly secure. Ownership is easily recorded and verified through the distributed ledger, a huge benefit over traditional securities. Any transfer of digital securities is also recorded and with each copy of the transaction stored separately, multiple witnesses of the transaction exist to corroborate it.
With traditional securities, investors can lose their certificate of ownership or companies can delete key files detailing who their investors are. Without a certificate, proving how many shares an investor owns would be incredibly challenging. In contrast, digital security ownership is immutable. Investors are protected by always being able to prove their ownership since the record cannot be deleted or altered by anyone. Additionally, investors can view all information that is related to the shares they’ve purchased, such as their voting rights and their ability to share and manage their portfolios with both accuracy and confidence.
Since the record is unchangeable, it also serves as a risk management mechanism for companies, as the risk of a faulty or fraudulent transaction occurring is removed. Digital securities are also greatly beneficial to the company when preparing for any capital activity since the company’s records are transparent and readily available. With traditional securities, the company would typically hire an advisor to review all company documents. If the company has issued digital securities, this cost is eliminated, as it is already in an immutable form.
Also making digital securities possible are smart contracts that eliminate manual paperwork, creating an automated system on which digital securities can be managed. Integrated into the securities is the smart contract, which has preprogrammed protocols for the exchange of digital securities. Without the time-consuming paper process, companies can utilize digital securities to raise funds from a larger pool of investors, such as the case with crowdfunding. Rather than keeping manual records of each transaction, the smart contract automatically tracks and calculates funds and distributes securities to investors.
Companies that are looking to provide their investors with the ability to trade digital securities must be aware that they are required to follow the same rules set by the SEC for the sale and exchange of traditional securities such as registering the offering with the SEC. This ensures that potential investors are provided with information compliant with securities regulation worldwide. According to the SEC, investors must receive ongoing disclosures from the issuer so they can make informed decisions regarding ownership of their securities. Companies that are not compliant with the SEC can face severe penalties and may be required to reimburse investors who purchased the unregistered offerings.
Besides the companies offering securities, broker-dealers must also register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Similarly, platforms on which digital securities can be traded must register as an Alternative Trading System operator with the SEC. Both broker-dealers and ATS operators can face severe penalties if not properly registered.
Possibly the greatest benefit of digital securities is that it allows for smoother secondary market transactions. With records of ownership clear and unchangeable, an investor can easily bring their shares to a secondary market. Transactions are more efficient and parties have easy access to all necessary information regarding the securities being traded, removing the friction that is typically seen with traditional securities.
At KoreConX, the KoreChain platform is a fully permissioned blockchain, allowing for companies to issue fully compliant digital securities. Records are updated in real-time as transactions occur, eliminating errors that would occur when transferring information from another source. The platform securely manages transactions, providing investors with support and portfolio management capabilities. Additionally, the KoreChain is not tied to cryptocurrencies, so it is a less attractive target for potential crypto thieves. KoreChain allows companies to manage their offerings and company data with the highest level of accuracy and transparency.
Since digital securities face the same regulatory rules as traditional ones, investors are protected by the SEC against fraudulent offerings. This, together with the security and transparency that blockchain technology allows, creates a form of investment that is better for investors and issuers alike. Since the process is simplified and errors are decreased without redundant paperwork, issuers have the potential to raise capital more efficiently. They will also be better prepared for future capital activity. For investors, a more secure form of security protects them from potential fraud and losses on their investments. With digital securities still in their infancy, it will be exciting to see how this method of investment changes the industry.