Short for decentralized finance, DeFi is an umbrella term for peer-to-peer financial services on public blockchains, primarily Ethereum. DeFi (or “decentralized finance”) is an umbrella term for financial services on public blockchains, primarily Ethereum. With DeFi, you can do most of the things that banks support — earn interest, borrow, lend, buy insurance, trade derivatives, trade assets, and more — but it’s faster and doesn’t require paperwork or a third party. As with crypto generally, DeFi is global, peer-to-peer (meaning directly between two people, not routed through a centralized system), pseudonymous, and open to all.
DeFi takes the basic premise of Bitcoin — digital money — and expands on it, creating an entire digital alternative to Wall Street, but without all the associated costs (think office towers, trading floors, banker salaries). This has the potential to create more open, free, and fair financial markets that are accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Users typically engage with DeFi via software called dapps (“decentralized apps”), most of which currently run on the Ethereum blockchain. Unlike a conventional bank, there is no application to fill out or account to open.