The cryptocurrency exchange set up by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss has hired the co-founder of UK digital bank Starling to kick-start a European expansion, even as the fever over digital currencies cools.
Gemini Trust Company, the US crypto trading and custody group founded by the twin brothers in 2014, has recruited Julian Sawyer to head up its European operations in a bid to expand outside America.
The Winklevoss brothers were early and vocal backers of bitcoin, but their attempts to launch an exchange-traded fund backed by cryptocurrency suffered a series of setbacks over concerns about a lack of market regulation.
Gemini has made a string of high-profile hires over the past 18 months to expand its exchange and custody business, however, bringing in executives from the New York Stock Exchange and the International Securities Exchange (ISE).
But the group’s push into Europe comes as interest in cryptocurrency has eased.
Bitcoin now trades at around $7,000, far below the peak of almost $20,000 in December 2017. Plans led by Facebook for a global digital currency Libra have also stumbled, with the withdrawal of prominent backers from the payments sector such as Visa and PayPal leaving the future of the project in doubt.
Mr Sawyer dismissed the idea that the time for crypto-exchanges had passed.
“I really see the world of crypto and digital exchanges being at that pivotal point,” he said, adding that he was confident new uses for the assets would be found as they became more mainstream. “If you look at the long term I don’t think we’ve reached the peak . . . These things will just take time.”
Gemini will arrive in the UK as market regulators plan to ban derivatives on cryptocurrencies for retail investors, with the Financial Conduct Authority saying in June that trading them is “akin to gambling.”
The Winklevoss brothers are still best known for their claims that Mark Zuckerberg stole the idea for Facebook from them — the subject of the subsequent film The Social Network.
Mr Sawyer served as chief operating officer and head of banking services at Starling, one of the UK’s most successful fledgling digital banks, until July this year.
His departure from the bank he co-founded came amid an exodus of top executives. Four senior employees left within months of each other as Starling sought to speed up its own growth, though both Mr Sawyer and the bank said his departure had been on good terms.
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