WisdomTree’s Crypto Business Goes Live in New York Against Big Shareholder's Wishes

The asset manager’s largest shareholder is urging investors to vote against the reappointment of the firm’s CEO, Jonathan Steinberg, who has led the firm’s business toward decentralized finance.

AccessTimeIconMay 9, 2024 at 6:25 p.m. UTC
Updated May 9, 2024 at 6:28 p.m. UTC
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  • WisdomTree Prime, the firm's digital asset app, went live in New York on Thursday.
  • The app allows users to save, spend and invest in digital assets on-chain.
  • The move comes as one of the firm's biggest shareholders is urging investors to vote against the reappointment of CEO Jonathan Steinberg given his strong push into crypto.
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  • WisdomTree's digital asset app, which offers users access to bitcoin (BTC) and Ethereum's ether (ETH) as well as dollar and gold tokens, on Thursday became available to customers in New York, even as CEO Jonathan Steinberg is under pressure from shareholders as a result of the investment company's push into decentralized finance.

    The app, called WisdomTree Prime, launched in 21 states in July and received a charter to operate as a limited-purpose trust company under the New York Banking law in March.

    It lets users save, spend and invest in digital assets on-chain using the Stellar and Ethereum blockchains, which share ownership records.

    "Since we first entered app stores in select states last summer, we have exhibited strong momentum across all fronts, including new digital fund launches, payment capabilities, and collaboration with regulators," Will Peck, head of digital assets at the firm, said in a press release.

    WisdomTree's digital asset plans, however, have caused headaches for Steinberg, the Financial Times reported earlier this week.

    The firm's biggest shareholder, Graham Tuckwell, chair of ETFS Capital, doesn't agree with the firm's strong push into DeFi and has urged investors to vote against the reappointment of Steinberg.

    According to the FT, Tuckwell told shareholders that Steinberg's initiatives in DeFi have been a "massive distraction and utterly unsuccessful." The Australian businessman became an important shareholder of WisdomTree in 2018 when the firm acquired the European arm of ETF Securities which Tuckwell founded in 2005.

    WisdomTree has become a dominant TradFi player in crypto since 2019 when it launched its first bitcoin exchange-traded product on Swiss stock exchange SIX. In January of this year, it became one of the 10 issuers of a spot bitcoin ETF in the U.S. The fund has seen the least amount of inflows among all issuers at around $70 million, while others have collected billions of dollars of investors' money.

    Edited by Nick Baker.

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    Helene Braun

    Helene is a New York-based reporter covering Wall Street, the rise of the spot bitcoin ETFs and crypto exchanges. She is also the co-host of CoinDesk's Markets Daily show. Helene is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program and has appeared on CBS News, YahooFinance and Nasdaq TradeTalks. She holds BTC and ETH.


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