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UMA, or Universal Market Access, is a protocol for the creation of synthetic assets based on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain. UMA was launched in December 2018.
Synthetic assets are a class of assets that represent different, underlying assets and have the same value. UMA specifically enables its users to design and create self-executing, self-enforcing financial contracts secured by economic incentives and run them on Ethereum’s blockchain.
In essence, UMA allows counterparties to digitize and automate any real-world financial derivatives, such as futures, contracts for differences (CFDs) or total return swaps. It also enables the creation of self-fulfilling derivative contracts based on digital assets, like other cryptocurrencies.
UMA was co-founded by Hart Lambur and Allison Lu, who met on the Goldman Sachs trading floor.
In 2005, Lambur graduated from Columbia University with a computer science degree. In addition to co-founding UMA, he is also the CEO and co-founder of Risk Labs, the company in charge of developing the Universal Market Access protocol.
Prior to UMA and Risk Labs, Lambur worked as a research assistant at Columbia and as a government bond trader at Goldman Sachs. He has also founded and headed Openfolio, a personal finance tracking platform which he sold to Stone Ridge Asset Management in 2017.
Allison Lu has received a degree in Economics and Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Between 2009 and 2015, she worked as a vice president at Goldman Sachs, where Lu and Lambur met. Afterward, Lu worked as the VP of credit & risk analysis at the financial services mobile app Tala. She was also an advisor at One Daijo, an Ethereum-based peer-to-peer lending platform.
The main idea behind Universal Market Access is reflected in its name: by developing a protocol for the creation of synthetic assets and financial contracts on the blockchain, it seeks to democratize and decentralize the financial derivatives market.
The traditional financial markets have high barriers to entry in the form of regulations and custody requirements, which tend to preclude individuals from participating in them. It is often especially difficult for would-be traders and investors to take part in markets outside of their local financial system. This prevents the emergence of a truly inclusive global financial market and limits participation to a handful of institutions that can afford the necessary due diligence and legal procedures.
UMA contracts, on the other hand, are based on Ethereum’s blockchain, whose permissionless nature allows any user to create, run and trade digitized derivatives from anywhere in the world. This accessibility is especially important for the developing economies around the globe, where financial institutions are frequently far from maturity, forcing local market participants into relative isolation.
UMA is the governance token of the Universal Market Access protocol, meaning that its holders have the right to vote on changes to the protocol’s parameters and system upgrades.
The total supply of UMA is a little over 100 million tokens, of which about 55 million are in circulation as of October 2020.
From the total supply, 2 million tokens were sold during the project’s initial coin offering (ICO), 48.5 million were reserved for the founders of the project, 35 million were put aside as rewards for the developers of the protocol and 14.5 million designated for future sales.
In order to incentivize voter participation, every time a voting process takes place on the network, an inflationary reward equal to 0.05% of the current UMA supply is distributed among active voters proportionate to their current stake.
UMA runs on top of Ethereum’s blockchain and as a consequence, they are protected by the same proof-of-work hash function Ethash.