Gemini Hires Former Starling Bank Founder as Managing Director of Europe

The exchange hired Julian Sawyer, former co-founder and chief operating officer of a U.K. digital bank, to shape the exchange’s strategy in the region and manage European hiring.

AccessTimeIconDec 4, 2019 at 6:00 a.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 11:45 a.m. UTC

Gemini, the cryptocurrency exchange co-founded by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, is tapping a digital bank founder to manage its European operations, the company announced Wednesday.

Julian Sawyer, former co-founder and chief operating officer at U.K.-based Starling Bank, will shape the exchange’s strategy for the region as well as manage European hiring, according to a press release. Sawyer will report to Gemini’s president, Cameron Winklevoss.

At Starling, Sawyer oversaw a doubling in the company’s customer growth over eight months and launched a euro account, which allows U.K. residents to hold, send and receive euros for free. He also founded Bluerock Consulting, a financial management consultancy, and has previously worked at professional services firms Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) and Ernst & Young.

In an emailed statement, Sawyer said that there are subtle differences in the European Union and United Kingdom banking regulatory regime compared to other jurisdictions around the globe. To provide services in local European currencies, the crypto exchange has to have an e-money license, which it is applying for through the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority.

Sawyer compared the crypto space to real-time payments in banking -- an advanced capability that was only performed by a few banks but soon spread throughout the whole banking industry.

“Starling hasn’t done anything in the crypto space, and I think that is because a number of challenger banks and fintechs are just watching the market,” he said. “However, as our financial systems evolve, banks also need to give customers the tools to buy, sell and store crypto safely and securely. This is where businesses and consumers will turn to crypto exchanges for some [of] their banking needs.”

In addition to new kinds of banking services, Sawyer said that the next evolution in financial services will include better customer metrics. 

“Do we [crypto firms] measure against traditional metrics like bank deposits, lending, lifetime value and cross-sell penetration? All too often banks have been stuck with a few simple metrics that don’t work,” he said. “Cohort management, where you look at subsets of customers and treat their needs differently, becomes critical. At Gemini, we have customers who trade and other who invest--we use different measures across our different segments.”

In the past 18 months, Gemini has added several senior leaders to its ranks. The former global head of financial crimes at Morgan Stanley, Noah Perlman, joined Gemini as its chief compliance officer; its chief security officer, David Damato, came from cybersecurity firm Tanium; its new general counsel, Sydney Schaub, has worked for Google and Square; its managing director of operations, Jeanine Hightower-Sellitto, was previously chief operating officer at the Nasdaq-owned International Securities Exchange; and former New York Stock Exchange chief information officer, Robert Cornish, came on as its chief technology officer. 


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