CeFi vs DeFi: Similarities and Differences Compared

By Michael Flannelly · March 30, 2023 · 8 minute read

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CeFi vs DeFi: Similarities and Differences Compared

CeFi and DeFi are two terms that have become increasingly popular in the world of finance and cryptocurrency. CeFi, or Centralized Finance, refers to crypto and blockchain companies that operate like traditional financial systems, meaning a private central authority controls them and users are customers. DeFi, or Decentralized Finance, on the other hand, is a new type of financial system that operates on a blockchain network. Unlike CeFi, DeFi products and services are not controlled by a private central authority but are managed by an open-source network of computers.

While CeFi and DeFi may sound similar and have similar functions, there are some critical differences between the two. Investors should know this before investing in cryptocurrencies or blockchain technology.

DeFi vs CeFi: Similarities

Decentralized finance (DeFi) and centralized finance (CeFi) are more known for the distinction between the two financial systems. Nonetheless, DeFi and CeFi have several things in common:

Financial Services

As their names suggest, DeFi and CeFi platforms allow users to access financial services such as lending, payments, and trading securities exchanges. They also both use digital assets as collateral for these services.

Also, a large number of people around the world can access DeFi and CeFi products, making it easy for individuals and businesses to access financial services regardless of their location.

Recommended: Centralized vs. Decentralized Exchanges: Six Differences to Consider

Use of Technology

Another similarity is that both DeFi and CeFi platforms use digital and internet-based technologies to provide financial services. DeFi platforms are built on blockchain technology, while CeFi platforms use traditional technologies such as databases and servers to provide their services, in addition to some use of blockchain technology. These technologies allow both algorithms and automated processes to facilitate financial transactions and provide financial services, making it easier and more efficient to conduct financial transactions.

DeFi vs CeFi: Differences

As noted above, DeFi and CeFi are more known for their differences than similarities. Some of these differences include the following:


DeFi is decentralized, meaning that a single entity, such as a bank or government, does not control it. Instead, it often relies on decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), open source networks, and decentralized ledgers, such as a blockchain, to facilitate financial transactions and provide financial services. CeFi, on the other hand, is centralized, meaning that a single private entity, such as a bank or financial institution, controls it.

Asset Custody

Asset custody refers to the process of securely holding and managing digital assets, such as cryptocurrencies, on behalf of users. Asset custody is a critical component of DeFi, as it ensures the security and integrity of users’ assets and helps prevent theft and fraud. In DeFi, users generally manage their digital assets directly, using a crypto wallet or other secure storage solution. In contrast, CeFi platforms generally act as a user’s asset custodian, meaning they control the assets.

Smart Contracts

DeFi relies on smart contracts, self-executing contracts with the terms of the agreement between buyer and seller directly written into lines of code. Smart contracts enable DeFi transactions to be transparent, secure, and automated. CeFi does not use smart contracts and instead relies on traditional contracts and intermediaries to facilitate financial transactions.


Some experts consider DeFi more transparent than CeFi, as it relies on public decentralized networks and blockchain technology; users and researchers can track transactions in case of issues. CeFi, on the other hand, is vulnerable to centralized points of failure, such as hacks and data breaches.


DeFi is often considered more innovative and experimental than CeFi, as it is a newer and less established financial system constantly evolving and exploring new technologies and approaches. CeFi, on the other hand, is a more established and traditional financial system that tends to be more conservative and risk-averse.

Customer Service

CeFi companies usually have robust customer support staff to assist users when they encounter issues. This customer service gives users a sense of security. In contrast, there are fewer customer support services with DeFi platforms, which may be an issue if problems arise when using the products.


CeFi companies are subject to laws and regulations by government agencies and financial authorities, which aim to ensure the integrity and stability of the financial system. Some regulations include Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering rules. In contrast, DeFi platforms operate in a regulatory gray zone.

Pros and Cons of DeFi



Users control their own assets Lack of regulatory oversight
May be resistant to sudden changes Potential for technical issues

DeFi has both pros and cons. Some of the main advantages of DeFi include greater accessibility and control for users. Because DeFi platforms are built on blockchain technology and operate without the need for a central authority, they offer users greater control over their assets. Additionally, the open source and decentralized nature of the blockchain may make DeFi platforms, like decentralized exchanges (DEX), resistant to sudden changes because users can observe and verify operations.

However, DeFi also has some disadvantages. One of the main disadvantages is the lack of regulatory oversight. Because DeFi platforms operate without the need for a central authority, they are not subject to the same level of regulatory oversight as traditional financial institutions. This can make it difficult for users to know if they are using a trustworthy DeFi platform and they can be susceptible to fraud and scams.

Another disadvantage is the potential for technical issues. Because DeFi platforms are built on complex technology such as smart contracts and blockchain, there is a risk of technical issues arising that could affect the platform’s functionality. Relatedly, DeFi usually has difficult user experience which prevents non-tech savvy users access to the platforms.

Pros and Cons of CeFi



Stability and security Users lack control of their own assets
Many financial services Potential for censorship

Some of the main advantages of CeFi include stability and security. Because CeFi platforms are controlled by a central authority, they are subject to regulatory oversight and may be more stable and secure than decentralized platforms. This can provide users with a greater sense of trust and confidence in the platform.

Another advantage of CeFi is the ability to access a broader range of financial services. Because CeFi platforms are typically operated by institutions with ties to traditional finance, they can offer a wider range of services, such as loans, credit cards, and investment products. Additionally, CeFi companies can offer seamless conversion of digital assets to fiat currency and vice versa. This can provide users with more options and flexibility.

However, CeFi also has some disadvantages. One of the main disadvantages is the lack of control for users. Because CeFi platforms are controlled by a central authority, users are subject to the policies and regulations of that authority. This can limit users’ ability to access and control their own assets.

Another disadvantage is the potential for censorship. Because CeFi platforms are controlled by a central authority, there is a risk that the authority could censor certain transactions or activities on the platform. This could limit users’ freedom and ability to access certain services.

Can CeFi and DeFi Work Together?

Many analysts believe it is possible for CeFi and DeFi to work together. While the two types of platforms have some differences, they also have some similarities and can potentially complement each other.

One way that CeFi and DeFi could work together is by combining the strengths of both types of platforms. For example, DeFi could provide the accessibility and control that users desire, while CeFi could provide the stability and security of traditional financial institutions. This could allow for a more balanced and comprehensive approach to finance.

Another way that CeFi and DeFi could work together is through the use of interoperability. Interoperability refers to the ability of different systems or platforms to work together and exchange data. By using interoperability, CeFi and DeFi platforms could share information and services, allowing users to access a wider range of financial services.

The Takeaway

CeFi and DeFi offer unique opportunities for investors and users to access financial services and products. CeFi is typically more regulated and centralized, while DeFi is more decentralized and operates outside of traditional financial systems. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and it is up to the individual investor or users to decide which platform best fits their needs and goals. Ultimately, the choice between CeFi and DeFi will depend on an individual’s risk tolerance, preference for regulation, and desire for decentralization.


How does DeFi differ from centralized finance?

DeFi differs from centralized finance in several key ways. The main difference is that DeFi platforms operate without a central authority, whereas centralized finance relies on traditional financial institutions controlled by a central authority. This lack of a central authority in DeFi means that users theoretically have complete control over their assets and are not subject to the policies and regulations of a central authority. In contrast, centralized finance is subject to the policies and regulations of the institutions and governments that control and oversee it.

How are crypto and DeFi different?

Cryptocurrency and DeFi are two related but distinct concepts in finance. Cryptocurrency is a digital asset that uses cryptography for security and operates on a decentralized ledger called the blockchain. DeFi, on the other hand, refers to the use of blockchain technology to provide financial services such as lending, borrowing, and trading without the need for a central authority.

Is all crypto based on decentralized finance?

Not all cryptocurrency is based on decentralized finance. While DeFi is a growing movement in cryptocurrency, not all cryptocurrencies are designed specifically for use in DeFi, like lending or asset trading.

Photo credit: iStock/Delmaine Donson

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