If you haven’t been paying attention to the explosive growth of decentralized finance, otherwise known as DeFi, now is a good time to start.


DeFi refers to the rapidly expanding ecosystem that enables the provision of financial products and services—including trading, lending, borrowing, insurance, and more—without the involvement of traditional financial institutions.


Christine Parlour, a professor and the Sylvan C. Coleman Chair in Finance and Accounting at Berkeley Haas, has focused much of her recent research on DeFi, fintech, and market microstructure. She also co-taught a recent MOOC (massive open online course) about DeFi that enrolled over 2,800 students from 30 countries.


We asked Parlour to break down what DeFi is, what makes it better than traditional finance systems, what’s behind its recent exponential growth—and why we all should be paying attention.