The crypto industry unicorn Coinbase has aggressive growth plans for its newly opened New York office, which caters to institutional clients.
The digital asset exchange plans to expand the operation to 150 employees next year, from 20 currently. According to the company, the slump in cryptocurrency prices this year has not quelled institutional demand for this asset class.
"When we saw the market begin to correct, which we all expected, institutions didn't lose interest," Adam White, general manager of Coinbase Institutional, told CoinDesk. "It was exactly the opposite."
Many of the local staff members were hired away from traditional financial institutions such as the New York Stock Exchange, Barclays, and Citigroup.
New York "is an incredibly deep pool of talent," White said during an event Thursday celebrating the opening of its first permanent location in the city (it previously had employees working out of a WeWork there).
"We have to create a bridge between financial services and technology," he went on. "In order to do that, we need to pull from some of the best and brightest minds that have worked their whole careers in other kinds of traditional financial firms."
Institutional and retail
To make corporate clients comfortable when they visit, the office has a security staff comparable to the NYSE's, according to Coinbase's co-head of institutional sales, Christine Sandler, who previously worked at the Big Board.
And yet, Sandler said Coinbase's institutional custody, asset management, and trading services shouldn't be seen as conflicting with its previous focus on retail investors. To the contrary, in her mind, institutional distribution is the key to mainstream adoption.
"We want to partner with appropriate institutions to help the whole ecosystem grow," she told CoinDesk. "It's not 'institutional or retail,' because a lot of these institutions will be distributors."
Stepping back, Coinbase as a company has been on a hiring spree all through the 2018 bear market, and now has more than 500 employees worldwide. And New York isn't the only new office attracting institutional clients and recruits.
Coinbase is looking to "light up more countries and more fiat rails" with an eye on expansion in Asia and Latin America "pretty quickly," White said. Coinbase already started establishing an office in Tokyo this summer, hiring a small team and applying for a Financial Services Agency certification in Japan.
"We're committed to not being a U.S. company," White said.
Photo courtesy of Coinbase: Adam White of Coinbase Institutional (R), New York City Economic Development Corporation CEO James Patchett, and Coinbase chief compliance officer Jeff Horowitz (L)
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