The recent major upgrades in the Ethereum network, namely the Merge and Shanghai, have inadvertently led to a rise in Ethereum staking. However, a new report by JPMorgan has shed light on the alarming cost associated with this growth – higher centralization and lower staking yields. This analysis, conducted by JPMorgan’s team of analysts led by senior managing director Nikolaos Panigirtzoglou, has raised concerns about the risks posed by Ethereum’s increasing centralization. The report points out that the top five liquid staking providers, namely Lido, Coinbase, Figment, Binance, and Kraken, now control over 50% of staking on the Ethereum network, with Lido alone accounting for almost one-third of the total.
While the decentralized liquid staking platform Lido has been hailed as a superior alternative to centralized staking platforms, the JPMorgan report emphasizes that even decentralized solutions like Lido have a significant level of centralization. Surprisingly, one Lido node operator controls more than 7,000 validator sets or 230,000 Ether (ETH). This node operator is selected by Lido’s decentralized autonomous organization (DAO), but the DAO is controlled by just a few wallet addresses. This concentration of power in decision-making effectively undermines the decentralization touted by Lido. The report highlights that Lido’s rejection of a proposal to cap the staking share at 22% of Ethereum’s overall staking further reinforces the high degree of centralization. JPMorgan warns that any form of centralization poses risks to the Ethereum network, including the possibility of a single point of failure, vulnerability to attacks, and the creation of an oligopoly.
In addition to concerns over centralization, JPMorgan’s report also touches upon the decline of staking yields in post-Merge Ethereum. The analysts note that standard block rewards have decreased from 4.3% prior to the Shanghai upgrade to 3.5% at present. The overall staking yield has similarly declined from 7.3% before the upgrade to around 5.5% now. This decline in staking yields raises questions about the sustainability and attractiveness of Ethereum staking as a viable investment option.
JPMorgan’s analysts are not the only ones to have recognized the growing centralization within the Ethereum network following the Merge upgrade. This significant shift towards centralization has been viewed as a major obstacle to Ethereum’s decentralization process and a contributing factor to declining yields. Even Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin has acknowledged node centralization as one of the primary challenges facing Ethereum. In fact, Buterin went so far as to suggest that finding a comprehensive solution to combat this problem may take up to another 20 years.
The rising centralization and declining staking yields within Ethereum’s network have undoubtedly raised red flags for investors and stakeholders. The concentration of staking power in the hands of a few major providers poses significant risks to the network’s integrity and stability. Additionally, the decrease in staking yields undermines the attractiveness of Ethereum staking as a means to generate returns. It is clear that action needs to be taken to address these issues and strive for a more decentralized and sustainable Ethereum ecosystem. Only through proactive measures can the network maintain its position as a leading blockchain platform, capable of fulfilling its promise of decentralization and providing reliable staking opportunities for its participants.