A new survey by polling agency Morning Consult found that fewer than one-third of ordinary Americans have heard of decentralized finance, or DeFi, compared with 77% of crypto owners.
Considering that about 87% or 290.9 million Americans had not yet owned crypto through 2021, according to Statista, awareness of decentralized finance among non-owners is limited to about 90 million Americans and still has a long way to go.
The survey was conducted between Feb. 16 and 23 of this year. It included 4,404 United States-based adult respondents.
Although discussion within the crypto industry often looks to highlight the rapid growth of the DeFi space over traditional financial service providers, it is easy to overlook the echo chamber.
However, the survey's most optimistic finding was that 91% of Americans have heard of cryptocurrency, a number tantalizingly close to representing the entire population.
The report, written by Morning Consult’s analyst Charlotte Principato, states that 40% of respondents agreed that there is a lack of innovation in existing traditional financial services and are actively diversifying the financial services and providers they use. While there is demand for more services, it is not necessarily a factor driving users out of traditional finance.
However, people have become accustomed to managing more aspects of their lives thanks to the at-a-touch accessibility their smartphones give them. Principato believes this idea applies to the decentralization of one’s own finances across multiple service providers. She states, “using products from multiple providers offers superior service and is more cost effective than working with just one.”
That familiarity with self-direction could translate into the financial realm. Though it may not lead to the automatic adoption of DeFi, it is a behavioral and attitudinal shift that the report says financial service providers should watch evolve or risk falling behind.
“Industry leaders need to pay attention to these attitudinal and behavioral shifts — but, more importantly, they must continue to innovate product offerings that can rival those of their DeFi counterparts.”
Traditional banks like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America have begun exploring crypto-based services, which they could offer to their clients to try to better demonstrate the recent innovations in financial services. Principato believes that coupling crypto awareness with traditional services that utilize crypto and the demand for financial decentralization could eventually push consumers out of the traditional finance sector entirely and into DeFi.
As for now, the status quo remains fairly intact as the vast majority of Americans rely on traditional banks for their financial services and only a small minority own crypto.