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Circle Taps Former US Homeland Security Official as New Legal Chief

Circle Internet Financial has announced the hiring of a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official as its chief legal officer.

As reported on the company’s blog, the cryptocurrency startup has welcomed former DHS acting general counsel Gus Coldebella to its legal and senior leadership team. Going forward, Coldebella will oversee all of the firm’s legal, compliance, regulatory and government affairs in this capacity.

He will also be tasked with helping Circle in its global expansion, as the firm works with lawmakers and regulators internationally to begin providing services, Circle co-founders Sean Neville and Jeremy Allaire wrote.

Coldebella comes with not only legal expertise but is an acknowledged authority on cybersecurity policy. While at the DHS, he co-led implementation of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative under President Bush. That effort was aimed to protect government networks from cyber-attack and to promote cooperation between the public and private sectors, according to the George Washingto University where he is a senior fellow.

Prior to joining Circle, Coldebella was a principal at law firm Fish & Richardson, where he helped firms address cyber security planning and incident response, government and internal investigations, and more.

Circle, which offers a variety of crypto services including an investment app, closed a Bitmain-led $110 million Series E fundraising back in May – a figure that valued the startup at nearly $3 billion. Part of that funding was said to be directed into hiring new staff at the firm.

At the time, Circle also revealed a plan to bolster its products and services by launching a “U.S. dollar coin,” a regulated blockchain asset that would be backed by fiat currency.

A previous $50 million round in 2015 notably saw the firm receive backing from investment bank Goldman Sachs.

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Former Estonian Prime Minister Becomes Blockchain Startup Advisor

A former Estonian prime minister has signed on as an advisor to a blockchain startup that wants to encourage people to exercise more.

Taavi Rõivas, who ran the Estonian government as prime minister from 2014 to 2016 and currently serves as a member of the country’s parliament, has joined cryptocurrency startup Lympo as chairman of its supervisory board. Lympo aims to incentive exercise and active lifestyles through its LYM token, the company announced in a press release.

Rõivas confirmed the move on Twitter, saying that he was “excited to help one of the most promising Baltic startups to grow and pursue the mission of motivating people to excercise more and better.”

Lympo says it tracks and aggregates users’ health and medical information, issuing tokens in order to reward individuals that complete various physical activities. These activities may be announced or potentially sponsored by companies working with Lympo, according to its whitepaper.

In turn, the companies may receive parts or all of the aggregated data from participants, though the whitepaper emphasizes that users maintain ownership over their data, and certain forms of sharing would be restricted under the E.U.’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

While Lympo originally built its LYM token on the ethereum protocol, the startup intends to move its token ecosystem to another blockchain – most likely NEO, CEO Ada Jonuse said in an FAQ published last month.

Taavi Rõivas image via Sven Tupits/Wikimedia Commons

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Coinbase Taps Regulation Veteran for First-Ever Crypto Compliance Chief

Cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase has announced the appointment of its first-ever chief compliance officer as it moves to become a licensed broker-dealer in the U.S.

According to a blog post published on Tuesday, the company is tapping the experience of Jeff Horowitz, who joins the firm following decades working for both banks and regulatory bodies.

Horowitz has spent the last 12 years leading the compliance team at Pershing, a BNY Mellon company and also one of the largest providers of brokerage custody. Before that, he worked at Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, as well as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a self-regulatory organization. All those roles saw Horowitz managing anti-money laundering and other compliance programs.

During his career, Horowitz has also taken efforts to shape financial regulation in the U.S via his involvement with industry associations such as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Asiff Hirji, Coinbase’s president and chief operating officer, wrote in the blog post:

“His experience managing matters related to broker-dealer regulation, asset custodianship, and AML programs makes him a uniquely qualified leader for our compliance team.”

The appointment comes soon after Coinbase started offering a crypto custody service aimed at institutional investors and is taking steps to become a regulated broker-dealer in the U.S.

The company said earlier this month that FINRA had already approved its acquisition of three licensed broker-dealers, inching the firm a step closer to potentially listing crypto tokens deemed as securities.

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Crypto Exchange Huobi Poaches App Exec to Lead New US Branch

A senior executive from the provider of China’s top photo-retouching app, Meitu, will now lead HBUS – the new U.S. arm of cryptocurrency exchange Huobi.

According to an announcement on Monday, Frank Fu, former managing director of Meitu’s global business, will join the fledgling U.S. exchange as CEO, and will manage its operations and oversee the platform’s technology development going forward.

Fu’s appointment comes at a time when the exchange is moving toward a formal launch in the U.S., having already registered as a money services business with regulators in the country. According to its website, the San Francisco-based exchange plans to start trading early next month.

Notably, Fu’s new position does not mark his first step into the cryptocurrency space. In April this year, he invested $2 million in a blockchain-based sports game called MyDFS and was appointed an adviser to the project, according to an announcement at the time.

Fu, who said he sees the current moment as a “compelling time in the cryptocurrency industry,” is also not the first Meitu exec to have shown an interest in cryptocurrency.

As reported by CoinDesk, Cai Wensheng, the founder and chairman of Meitu – which went public in Hong Kong in 2016 with a valuation of $5 billion at the time – said in May that he had achieved his goal of amassing 10,000 bitcoin during the market sell-off in the first quarter of this year.

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The leader in blockchain news, 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.

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Former Reuters Risk Exec Joins Crypto Compliance Startup

Thomson Reuters’ former head of World-Check is moving to a blockchain startup focused on regulatory compliance.

Greg Pinn, who ran Thomson Reuters’ risk intelligence and financial crime screening platform, will now be in charge of product strategy at iComply, which focuses on using blockchain and artificial intelligence to maintain immutable records. So far the startup has launched a know-your-customer (KYC) tool, as well as a toolkit for blockchain startups looking to add governance and compliance systems, according to a press release.

In a statement, Pinn said that KYC processes are important for cryptocurrencies, and he plans for iComply to be an industry standard in the space.

Pinn explained:

“Both World-Check and iComply are in the KYC space, and World-Check came about at a time before there even really was a compliance space – it was one of the first players in the market to solve a major problem. iComply is doing the same thing for the emerging blockchain and crypto world, not only removing the ‘tinfoil hat’ from crypto but solving a real problem and building a solution for it.”

Matthew Unger, chief executive and founder of iComply, said in a statement that cryptocurrency exchanges and startups need better KYC tools than most use at present, which means they do not actually comply with certain legal requirements.

As such, he sees iComply as filling a need for regulatory compliance, adding that “The irony of the cryptocurrency markets is that while blockchain opened the door to non-compliance with ICOs initially, the underlying technology actually has the ability to provide more robust and effective compliance, transparency and integrity than traditional tools, at a fraction of the cost.”

“Existing legacy tools and services do not have the capabilities to assess the unique risks within cryptocurrency markets. This has allowed iComply to raise the standards of compliance in the industry, enabling institutional wealth to start participating in the growth of global financial decentralization,” he said.

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Blockchain Taps Former Goldman Exec for Institutional Investor Push

Blockchain, a cryptocurrency wallet and data provider based in San Francisco, has hired a former Goldman Sachs executive as head of institutional sales and strategy.

Signaling that the firm is ramping up its business with hedge funds and other large investors, the new hire, Breanne Madigan, previously served as head of institutional wealth services at Goldman Sachs, where she oversaw relationships with funds managing total assets of $1.49 trillion.

While Blockchain has barely discussed its work with large investors in the past, Peter Smith, the firm’s co-founder and CEO, told CoinDesk: “We have a lot of family office, hedge fund investors.”

Smith further directed CoinDesk to a website login page branded “Blockchain Principle Strategies,” though he did not provide login credentials.

Madigan told CoinDesk on Monday that she saw her new role as “helping more traditional investors gain unparalleled access to the future of finance,” adding that she has worked with “many of the largest and best-known hedge funds” in the past.

Blockchain provides online cryptocurrency wallets, allowing users to buy, sell or hold digital assets. The firm operates in 140 countries and has provided 24 million wallets.

The company plans to triple its headcount in 2018, according to a statement, while Smith added that that includes “hiring people with specialized skill sets for institutional investors and family offices.”

However, Blockchain may find that the competition to serve large cryptocurrency investors will heat up in the coming months.

A person familiar with the matter told CoinDesk that Barclays is talking to clients about opening a cryptocurrency trading desk. The source said that no concrete plans were in place, adding that most or all major banks are likely exploring the same possibility.

“These banks are trying to respond to client demand,” Smith said. “There’s really strong demand from clients.”

Bitcoin and dollars image via Shutterstock.

The leader in blockchain news, 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.

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'Big Four' Firm Deloitte Appoints New Head of Blockchain Services

“Big 4” consulting firm Deloitte has a new blockchain lead.

Following the departure of Eric Piscini from the role, Linda Pawczuk, who formerly ran the company’s insurance sector blockchain projects, will be stepping in as the new head of the Deloitte U.S. Financial Services Industry Blockchain group, the company announced Tuesday.

Pawczuk will work on advancing Deloitte’s blockchain agenda, said spokesperson Chris Faile. To that end, Pawczuk will work at “creating new business models, disrupting existing business processes and harvesting the underlying technologies and ecosystem players to build solutions with clients and industries,” he said.

“We envision that this ever-evolving and nimble team will build upon our past success in helping our clients, which includes 92 percent of the financial service companies listed on the Fortune 500 list, to hone their blockchain-backed offerings,” he said.

In future, said Faile, the firm hopes to further use blockchain technology as a “railroad track” to other emerging technologies, such as cloud computing and automation.

The company’s former blockchain lead, Piscini, is leaving the firm to join a startup project, Faile said. The company sees his move “as a testament to Deloitte’s successful efforts” in helping its team gain experiences and skillsets.

“When you are seen as the market leader, it’s inevitable that some leaders will decide to take on new challenges outside of the organization,” he said.

Pawczuk image via Deloitte CIO Journal/YouTube

The leader in blockchain news, 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.