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Coinbase has poached Instinet CEO Jonathan Kellner to lead institutional sales

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 21:  Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong appears on stage at the 2014 TechCrunch Disrupt Europe/London, at The Old Billingsgate on October 21, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Anthony Harvey/Getty Images for TechCrunch) *** Local Caption *** Brian Armstrong

Quick Take

  • Instinet CEO Jonathan Kellner is leaving the firm to join cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, according to people familiar with the situation. 
  • Kellner will lead Coinbase’s institutional sales and support businesses, covering its over-the-counter trading business. 
  • Kellner, who joined Instinet in 2007, took on the top position in 2014. 


Instinet CEO Jonathan Kellner is set to join cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase next year, according to people familiar with the situation. 

Kellner, whose career at Instinet, the institutional brokerage firm, began in 2007, took on the CEO position in 2014. As Business Insider earlier reported in August, Instinet has been preparing for Kellner’s exit and potential replacement by former Goldman Sachs trader Robert Ralston. 

Now, The Block can report that Kellner is going to Coinbase to lead institutional sales and support as a managing director, covering the firm’s new over-the-counter trading business. He will start in January 2019. 

A person familiar with the hire said Kellner will leverage his experience in execution services to build-out Coinbase’s OTC business. The new unit will bring together crypto buyers and sellers off of Coinbase’s main exchange order book. 

OTC desks have been popping up a fast clip in the crypto world. Notably, Kraken has its own OTC desk as does itBit, another cryptocurrency exchange. Blockchain, the wallet company, in recent weeks launched an OTC desk. As The Block first reported, the firm brought on former DRW rates trader Vince Machi to run the operation. 

Chicago trading firms DRW, Akuna Capital, and Geneva Trading are all hiring to build out their crypto-trading desks. Market observers say companies are looking to build out such capabilities to better serve clients and prepare for the next bull market. 

“The bottom line for us is this isn’t a one-year type experience. Even though the environment might be lower volume, we see a bigger picture down the line,” Bobby Cho, the head of DRW’s crypto unit Cumberland, told the Financial Times

Ambitions to nab more institutional clients in crypto has translated into an all-out assault on Wall Street talent by the crypto world. 

Jamie Selway, formerly of ITG, has joined Blockchain as global head of institutional markets. And Rob Salman in recent weeks left IEX to become head of business development at CoinList. 

This post has been updated to include Kellner’s secondary title of managing director at Coinbase. 

If you have more information relevant to this story, please reach out to Frank Chaparro at [email protected]