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June 14, 2023

How real-world assets are changing the asset management landscape

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how real-world assets are changing the asset management landscape and how technology and innovation in blockchain are changing the evolution of investing. 

Real-world assets have become a buzzword in Web3 lately. 

Sometimes called RWAs, real-world assets are tangible assets that exist in the physical or traditional financial world, such as real-estate, art, commodities, loans, and more. These assets have significant value in the global economy, but they can be highly illiquid, inaccessible, and inefficient to manage. Real estate is a prime example: globally estimated to be worth over $3.7 trillion, real estate is one of the largest but also most illiquid asset classes in the world. 

Luckily, with the advent of blockchain technology such as Polymesh, RWAs can be represented by digital tokens (or tokenized) on the blockchain, eliminating many of these problems. 

What’s more, RWAs can be used on-chain and integrated into DeFi ecosystems for various purposes: trading, borrowing, lending, staking, and as collateral for various protocols. This ultimately opens many new opportunities for asset owners, borrowers, lenders, and investors to access liquidity, diversify their portfolios, earn yield, and participate in the DeFi ecosystem and economy. 

In this blog post, we’ll take a look at how real-world assets are changing the asset management landscape and how technology and innovation in blockchain are changing the evolution of investing. 

How are tokenized real-world assets used in asset management? 

Asset management is the management of various investments such as stocks, bonds, and real estate. Intent on increasing wealth, asset management aims to maximize returns while minimizing risk. 

Many asset classes have traditionally been restricted to high-net-worth individuals and institutional investors owing to high barriers to entry and the complex nature of the investing industry. 

This is changing with blockchain, as it’s now possible to “tokenize” or represent these assets on-chain with digital tokens. Known as security tokens, tokens representing financial securities bring many opportunities for issuers and investors. 

For example, security tokens enable fractional ownership, allowing investors to invest in only a fraction of an asset instead of the entire thing. As a result, smaller investors can participate in historically elusive and high-value assets like real estate or art.

Reasons to use tokenized real-world assets for asset management 

There are several reasons to use tokenized real-world assets for asset management. 

One just mentioned is increasing liquidity in the market by enabling fractional ownership and trading of assets that were previously illiquid. This also leads to greater price discovery, fair valuation, and a more efficient market. 

Another reason to tokenize real-world assets for asset management is to automate the investment process via the use of smart contracts. Smart contracts are self-executing programs or protocols on the blockchain and can be used to automate asset transfers based on predefined criteria. This leads to greater efficiency, faster transactions, and significantly reduced cost and error. 

Finally, security tokens bring transparency to the asset management industry. Public blockchains such as Polymesh are immutable public ledgers providing all parties – whether investors, issuers, asset owners, auditors, or regulators – with real-time access to information about assets, their performance data, and their ownership. 

Let’s take a look at a few industries that benefit the most from the use of RWAs in asset management. 

Industries that benefit from real-world assets in asset management

Any asset class can benefit from tokenizing real-world assets in asset management. Still, certain industries stand to be radically transformed. Here we take a look at 3: real estate, art, and commodities. 

Real estate

As mentioned above, real estate is one of the most prime industries for tokenization. 

Globally estimated at over $3.7 trillion, real estate is one of the largest asset classes in the world. It’s also one of the most illiquid and is characterized by high barriers to entry, regulatory hurdles, and expensive operational costs.

By tokenizing real estate properties, real estate asset owners can fractionalize their ownership and sell shares to investors who can benefit from rental income and capital appreciation. Tokenization also lowers the barrier to entry for real estate investing, as investors can access global markets with lower minimum and fees. 

For asset management specifically, tokenized real estate can make it easier for asset managers to manage clients’ portfolios by enabling the use of smart contracts to execute investment strategies and enforce terms and conditions of trades. Through fractional ownership, global access, and innovations with blockchain technology, tokenized real estate can also provide asset managers with new markets and opportunities that were previously inaccessible or unfeasible. Finally, asset managers can use tokenized real estate to ensure the transparency and accountability of their operations as the blockchain provides a verifiable proof of ownership. 

These benefits combined, tokenized real estate brings increased efficiency, transparency, and liquidity to real estate markets white reducing costs, operational time, and complexity. 

For a more specific look at real estate tokenization, check out the following blogs:


Art is another illiquid asset class that has historically been accessible only to ultra-wealthy collectors and institutions. 

As is possible with real estate, tokenization can enable the trade and exchange of fractional ownership for art, which is especially useful for high-value pieces that otherwise require large amounts of capital to acquire. The classic example is the Picasso painting Fillette au béret, the ownership rights to which was tokenized on the blockchain by Sygnum bank in 2021. The digital asset was divided into 4,000 tokens sold to more than 50 investors at roughly $1,040 USD apiece. 

Tokens which represent art investments such as the Picasso painting are sometimes dubbed Art Security Tokens (ASTs). 

Ultimately, ASTs enable the democratization of art ownership and appreciation, as anyone can buy and sell fractions of expensive art on secondary markets. For investors, this results in increased portfolio diversification and exposure to a previously exclusive asset class; for asset owners and issuers, this leads to a wider investor base and improved liquidity. 

For artists and creators, tokenizing art can also be a way to raise funds for their work and retain a stake in its future value. Tokenization also improves transparency in the art market, as blockchain provides an immutable record of ownership and transaction history. 


Another asset class prime for tokenization in asset management is commodities. Commodities are physical goods such as precious metals (e.g. gold) and agricultural products (e.g. oil). 

Commodities are often subject to price fluctuations from factors such as supply and demand, geopolitical events, environmental factors, and other market forces. As a result, commodities trading can be complex and risky, and requires specialized knowledge and infrastructure.  

Commodities can also be expensive or difficult to deal with in terms of delivery, storage, and maintenance. This makes them tricky and often expensive investments. However, fractional ownership via tokenization allows for trading of commodities in smaller units and ultimately the sharing of these burdens between multiple investors. 

As with real estate and art, tokenization also brings advantages to the commodities market such as better transparency, increased liquidity, improved efficiency, reduced costs, wider access, and enhanced security. These advantages can help to eliminate many of the difficulties faced by the commodities market and bring to it  more activity and depth. 

What benefits do tokenized real-world assets offer over traditional asset management?

Some of the benefits tokenized RWA offer over traditional asset management are: 

  • Liquidity: RWA tokens can be transferred and exchanged on blockchain frictionlessly, making transactions easier and faster while increasing market efficiency and transparency

  • Accessibility: RWA tokens can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, democratizing access to valuable assets that previously only the wealthy or accredited investors could participate in

  • Innovation: RWA tokens can be used in various DeFi protocols to offer novel services and products such as lending platforms, yield aggregators, synthetic asset baskets, collateral, and more. These protocols enable users to leverage their RWA tokens to generate income, hedge risks, create exposure, and optimize their returns.

  • Security: RWA tokens are secured by the validity and immutability of the blockchain and its cryptography and consensus mechanisms. The rights and interests of token holders can also be protected by backing RWA tokens with legal contracts, audits, insurance policies, and other safeguards.

What are the challenges of tokenizing real-world assets? 

Tokenizing real-world assets isn’t a simple process. There are various challenges and complexities involved in bringing assets on-chain, including: legal and regulatory compliance, valuation and auditing, custody and security, governance and trust, and interoperability and scalability. Resolving these challenges will require significant collaboration between all parties involved, including asset originators, token issuers, service providers, regulatory, and investors. 

Resolving the challenges of asset tokenization will also require a blockchain platform that’s fit-for-purpose and addresses issues around regulatory compliance, data privacy, identity verification, governance, and scalability. 

Polymesh is this platform! Purpose-built for security tokens and regulated assets, the Polymesh blockchain offers a number of advantages for asset tokenization, such as:

  • Governance: Polymesh uses a robust, industry-leading governance model to ensure network security and stability. Governance on Polymesh is multi-layered and includes token holders, a council of key stakeholders, and various committees. Built using Substrate, Polymesh also features a seamless upgrade mechanism that allows the blockchain to evolve and adapt as ecosystem needs and regulations change

  • Identity: Polymesh’s unique identity system and decentralized identifier (DID) framework ensures that all participants on the platform – whether issuers, investors, developers, or node operators – have a known, verified identity attached to their on-chain identity

  • Compliance: Token issuers can customize compliance rules according to their specific needs and preferences to enforce compliance with various rules and regulations across jurisdictions, such as KYC/AML, investor accreditation, and transfer restrictions

  • Confidentiality: With zero-knowledge proofs and a patent-pending protocol for secure asset management, Polymesh protects the privacy of participants by encrypting sensitive data, allowing selective disclosure of information to authorized parties as required, and enabling transaction verification without revealing underlying data

  • Settlement: Polymesh facilitates settlement for both on- and off-chain assets via an on-chain settlement engine, two-way transaction affirmation, and near-instant deterministic finality–all without the need for pre-funding or smart contracts.

The above advantages are also known as Polymesh’s 5 key pillars. Read more about them at polymesh.network/key-pillars-overview

Impact on the financial industry 

Leveraging the power of blockchain technology, RWAs enable users to unlock the value of their physical assets to access new markets and opportunities and participate in decentralized finance or DeFi. 

RWAs will have a transformative impact on DeFi by offering yields that are sustainable, reliable, and backed by traditional asset classes. RWAs can also expand the pool of capital available for DeFi protocols and projects, as well as diversify the risk and return profiles of DeFi investors. 

But it’s not just about DeFi! As we’ve seen in this article, RWAs will also have a significant impact on traditional finance (TradFi) by increasing the liquidity, transparency, efficiency, and accessibility of the financial system. 

According to estimates, the market size of RWAs in DeFi was around $2.3 billion USD in 2021–only a fraction of the reportedly $126 trillion USD global assets under management (AUM). 

This number is expected to grow immensely as more and more RWAs are tokenized on the blockchain. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) estimates that the value of tokenized real-world assets could reach $16 trillion USD by 2030

Overall, the coming years will be huge for RWA tokenization as more solutions and standards emerge to address the existing challenges and opportunities of the AUM market–such as Polymesh, which was purpose-built for asset tokenization. 

To learn more about real-world assets, visit polymesh.network/real-world-assets.

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