A recent hire by Coinbase, the cryptocurrency trading company, shows it is serious about building the crypto-version of the New York Stock Exchange.
The firm has hired Hunter Merghart, a former director of equity trading at Barclays. Merghart, who previously worked at RBC Capital Markets and Credit Suisse, was hired as a sales trader. He is based in New York and works with Christine Sandler, director of institutional sales at Coinbase. Merghart recently updated his LinkedIn profile to reflect the move.
Coinbase, which first started offering services for institutional Wall Street firms in 2014 via its GDAX exchange, has recently been gunning for more institutional business in crypto. GDAX is at the core of that mission. But the firm has also announced the launch of Coinbase Custodian, a custodian product for the crypto space which the firm is trying to scale to be the “State Street of cryptocurrency.”
The service will provide institutional clients a method to store their cryptocurrency that offers the same level of security as custody banks such as State Street. It’ll only be available to customers with at least $10 million in deposits.
Coinbase is also working on other products and services, including advanced order types and products tied to market data.
A key component of this expansion is hiring talent from the Wall Street world. Recently, the company brought on Sandler from Barclays. It also hired Eric Scro from the New York Stock Exchange as its vice president of finance.
Coinbase appears to be interested in hiring folks based in Chicago. Presumably, that is because of the wealth of talent in trading in the city. The firm recently hired Kyle Kavanagh, a young engineer, in April as a senior trading systems engineer. Kavanagh did not respond to a message seeking comment. Coinbase is also seeking a head of market structure to “develop marketplace improvements.”
Still, crypto exchanges such as GDAX have a long way to go before they are on the same level as established equity venues such as the NYSE. Lynn Martin, the head of data at ICE, told Business Insider that comparing equity exchanges and crypto exchanges is the equivalent of comparing “apples and florescent neon signs.”
“You are talking about a market that really was built 225 years ago and has had multiple evolutions as a result of various crises to a very new market, “Martin said. “Crypto markets are very, very new. I like to say the guardrails haven’t been found yet in this market. The regulatory framework hasn’t been found yet in this market. That’s why you don’t find institutional users jumping in with feet first yet.”
Elsewhere in crypto, rival Kraken hired Nelson Minier, formerly of Credit Suisse, for its new over-the-counter trading operation, Business Insider first reported in April. He joined Nick Gustafson, a former senior vice president at Jefferies, on the desk. Steve Lee, a former portfolio manager and trader at Goldman, joined crypto hedge fund BlockTower Capital.
A spokeswoman representing Coinbase declined to comment about its hiring.