StakingMarketRegulationCryptostake ExplainsUncharted
Restaking on the Rise: The Successes and Struggles of Renzo Protocol

Renzo's impressive growth and liquidity issues

Renzo's journey through volatile markets reveals essential lessons on cryptocurrency liquidity.

Key takeaways:

  • Recent sell-offs illustrate the fragile balance in liquid staking protocols.
  • Upcoming changes aim to restore confidence and stability in Renzo's operations.

Renzo's liquid staking protocol marked a significant milestone in 2024, accumulating an impressive total of over 1 million ether, valued at approximately $3.3 billion. This surge in growth was primarily fueled by incentive points, which rewarded users not only for depositing Ethereum directly with Renzo but also for engaging in more speculative financial activities associated with EigenLayer protocols. These incentives were crucial in driving the volume of deposits, reflecting a strategic push to integrate traditional financial mechanisms into the blockchain space.

The mechanics of ezETH and market dynamics

The architecture of Renzo's system facilitated unique partnerships with other leading DeFi protocols, notably Morpho and Gearbox, to enhance the utility and appeal of the ezETH liquid staking token (LRT). These collaborations enabled ezETH holders to leverage their tokens in vaults, multiplying their points and potential returns. The theoretical basis for these operations rests on the correlation between ezETH and ETH, where the assets can be cyclically "looped" to maximize gains: depositing ezETH, borrowing ETH, and then restaking this borrowed ETH to obtain even more ezETH. 

This repetitive cycle was designed to exploit the market dynamics effectively, but also introduced a level of risk as it depended heavily on maintaining the price correlation between ezETH and ETH.

Impact of withdrawal delays and market reactions

The delicate balance of this system faced a severe test when an unexpected rush of ezETH sell-offs occurred, following a perceived misstep in the announcement of upcoming airdrop allocations. This sudden movement broke the correlation with ETH and triggered a series of liquidations, particularly affecting those who were significantly leveraged. 

Ivan GBI, Gearbox co-founder, revealed in a discussion that traders employing more than approximately 6x leverage found themselves facing sudden liquidation, illustrating the volatile nature of highly leveraged investments in such a fluid market.

Future outlook and preventative measures

The core issue that emerged from this incident was not related to the solvency of the assets but rather to their liquidity. Although each ezETH token is backed one-to-one by ETH staked with a validator and further staked through EigenLayer, the process to unwind these staking arrangements is complex and time-consuming. Currently, Renzo has not activated withdrawal capabilities, leaving the sale of ezETH in on-chain liquidity pools as the primary method for users seeking access to their ETH. 

This setup has proved risky, as minor market shifts can precipitate significant liquidity crises. The planned enablement of withdrawals is anticipated to mitigate such risks, with the team indicating a likely timeline for these features to go live in early May, pending completion of necessary audits and code reviews.