The Shapella Upgrade was completed in April, marking a significant event for both Ethereum and the entire crypto industry. This upgrade combined changes to both the Execution Layer (Shanghai upgrade) and Consensus Layer (Capella upgrade), allowing for the withdrawal of staked ETH and any accumulated staking rewards.
Shapella was a major stride towards greater flexibility and accessibility in staking on the Ethereum network. With the ability to withdraw staked ETH and rewards, the pivotal event galvanized institutional interest in the second-largest cryptocurrency by market value.
In this article, we’ll explore how the Shapella upgrade has sparked increasing interest in ETH staking among institutional investors, and why this trend is expected to continue.
A look back…
Let’s start by examining how we arrived at the current situation and why withdrawals were not enabled during the Ethereum transition from Proof-of-Work (PoW) to a Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism.
The Ethereum network transitioned from Proof-of-Work (PoW) to Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus mechanism in two stages, starting with the launch of the Beacon Chain, followed by the Merge. During this time, staking withdrawals were not enabled to ensure network security and reduce the risk of failure. Validators were able to exit, but customers could not unstake their staked ETH.
Despite knowing they would be unable to withdraw their ETH for some time, the initial network participants contributed millions of ETH to secure the Ethereum PoS network.
To ensure the upgrade went smoothly, it was implemented without any downtime. And the focus was solely on making this transition as seamlessly as possible. As a result, no other features or changes were added at that time. The goal was to minimize the chances of anything going wrong and to keep the Ethereum network running smoothly for all its users. ETH withdrawals were not enabled, until Shapella.
Why Institutions hesitated to stake ETH before Shapella
Prior to Shapella, staking ETH involved significant risks due to uncertainty surrounding withdrawals. This made institutions hesitant to stake their assets, as they needed quick access to them if necessary.
In fact, despite ranking second in market cap, only 15% of the total ETH supply was staked, a remarkably lower percentage than other tokens such as Solana, which has over 70% of its total supply staked.
Another reason for the lack of institutional participation in ETH staking was the general unclear regulatory stance regarding digital assets globally.
For instance, in late 2021, the SEC sent Kraken, one of the largest US exchanges, a Wells notice regarding its staking services. According to the SEC, Kraken's staking service constituted a security offering and required registration with the Commission. Kraken disagreed with the SEC's position and argued that staking fell outside its jurisdiction and was not a security offering. Despite its stance, Kraken suspended its staking services for US customers due to concerns over the regulatory environment and uncertainty surrounding the SEC's position on staking.
As a result, institutions feared that what happened to Kraken would apply to all staking providers, although Kraken's situation was a one-off and would not affect someone who staked their assets through a trusted non-custodial staking provider like Chorus One.
Here's why a situation like this is unlikely to happen to a non- custodial staking provider or validator like Chorus One:
The Silver Lining: Why ETH staking is more appealing to Institutions post-Upgrade
Since Shapella, the level of staking is on an upwards trajectory, despite shaky grounds.
The amount of ETH being staked has been steadily increasing, with large amounts of capital being locked up to earn 4 to 5% yields in ETH.
Source: Dune Analytics
Approximately 655k ETH ($1.2M) has been deposited since the upgrade, with the ‘largest weekly token inflow in ether staking’s nearly two-and-a-half-year history’ seen just two weeks following Shapella. The surge was largely driven by enterprise-grade staking providers and institutional investors seeking to reinvest their rewards following withdrawal.
At the time of writing, there are approximately 19M staked ETH, and deposits continue to surpass withdrawals.
The growing amount of staked ETH is a promising indicator for the adoption and security of Ethereum. Now that yields are available, institutional investors are likely to be even more interested in staking ETH. In fact, there has already been a strong influx of institutional interest in ETH futures following the upgrade, indicating positive staking momentum among larger investors who are looking to increase their revenue.
Additionally, the first week of May 2023 saw a surge in staked ETH deposits as investors raced to stake their tokens with validators. According to Nansen, over 200,000 ETH was deposited into the network, marking the first time since Shapella that deposits outpaced withdrawals. This recent surge has resulted in over 19 million ETH being locked for staking, which accounts for about 15% of the total circulating supply of ether.
Shapella benefits institutions by providing them with the opportunity to get liquidity on their staked ETH and earn a yield of 4% or more while participating in securing the network. It essentially derisks staking, which increases the intrinsic value of the asset and makes Ethereum even more attractive to institutions. This reduction in perceived risks associated with staking makes it more likely for risk-averse holders to consider staking, which could bring more institutional investors to Ethereum staking.
In conclusion, the Shapella upgrade sparked significant positive changes to the Ethereum network - particularly in terms of staking - and paved a secure way for institutions to get involved in supporting the growth of the network.
As a leading staking provider, Chorus One is dedicated to making the staking process easier, secure, and compliant for our customers. Our multi-chain staking solution, OPUS, is safe, secure, and compliant, making it easy for institutions to start staking with a few simple clicks. Learn more about OPUS here and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how we can help you get started.
Chorus One is one of the biggest institutional staking providers globally operating infrastructure for 40+ Proof-of-Stake networks including Ethereum, Cosmos, Solana, Avalanche, and Near amongst others. Since 2018, we have been at the forefront of the PoS industry and now offer easy enterprise-grade staking solutions, industry-leading research, and also invest in some of the most cutting-edge protocols through Chorus Ventures. We are a team of over 50 passionate individuals spread throughout the globe who believe in the transformative power of blockchain technology.