Former Citigroup Chairman Joins Board of Crypto Payments Firm Celo

Dick Parsons could bring a critical eye to some of the decentralized finance protocols that look like structured products, said Celo co-founder Rene Reinsberg.

Apr 16, 2021 at 1:20 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 14, 2021 at 12:41 p.m. UTC

Blockchain payments startup Celo has added former Citigroup Chairman Dick Parsons as the first member of its external board.

Celo is a proof-of-stake blockchain built on Ethereum, designed to support stablecoins and tokenized assets while utilizing cellphone numbers to secure a user’s public keys.

The Parsons appointment adds heft to a mobile-first token project looking to thrive where Libra (now Diem) and others have largely failed.

"The Celo Foundation and its 130 global member organizations are addressing a critical need, especially for the bottom billion who don't have access to traditional financial services and tools," Parsons said in an emailed statement, adding:

"They've demonstrated how cryptocurrency can be an equalizing factor in the distribution of wealth and put financial access in the hands of people who need it most. I'm thrilled to join the Foundation in its mission to create a new financial system where anyone, anywhere in the world, has access to global assets."

The Facebook-initiated Diem created an environment in which central bankers began to question the macroeconomic impact of digital assets, said Celo co-founder Rene Reinsberg. (One of the Diem Association's first hires announced a move to stablecoin firm Circle just this week.)

"The experience that someone like Dick can bring to Celo is enormous," Reinsberg told CoinDesk in an interview, "because it requires a deep understanding of traditional finance, global economics and macroeconomics."

Parsons became chairman of Citigroup in 2009 after the financial crisis had left the bank in shambles. Citigroup’s leverage had almost doubled to 32-1, and Parsons convinced regulators not to let the bank fail.

Decentralized finance "is something that traditional finance might have an opinion on," Reinsberg said, mentioning 2008's market crash. "I would argue that similarly in DeFi there are questions around composability and different protocols leveraging each other and leading to an increasingly complex ecosystem of structured products."


The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.