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trading

Bakkt and ErisX staff up as institutional crypto gets ready to hit Wall Street

Quick Take

  • ErisX and Bakkt are both looking to get crypto marketplaces off the ground
  • To that end, they have made some big hires as they build out their teams
  • Powerful backers seem to be giving Wall Street talent confidence to move into these new ventures

Two of the hottest projects working on institutional crypto trading platforms have been building out their teams, The Block has learned. 

Intercontinental Exchange’s Bakkt and ErisX, a Chicago-based firm, both have ambitions to dominate the institutional market for cryptocurrency trading. Bakkt, which was announced with much fanfare in August, is looking to launch a market for trading physically delivered bitcoin futures, whereas ErisX is aiming to launch its platform for crypto trading by Q2 of 2019. It has aspirations to launch a derivatives market on top of the spot market. A source close to Bakkt told this reporter that the firm’s first day of trading for its product will be December 12. Originally the firm was planning a November launch. Both ErisX and Bakkt count a long list of major Wall Street firms as backers. 

In the meantime, the two firms are building out their teams, sources close to the company’s operations tell The Block. At Bakkt, Adam White is set to join the company as chief operating officer, as The Block first reportedWhite, who previously led Coinbase’s institutional efforts, reports to Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler. Brian Cooper, a 10-year ICE veteran, has also joined the project’s team, a person familiar with the situation told this reporter, as director of operations. Laura Edelman, a financial sales representative, is also focusing on the launch of Bakkt’s futures product. A person familiar with the firm’s operations said the marketplace would start off small with only a few clients trading. 

Still, the source said: “Sprecher has a track record of overcoming the impossible so there is hope,” referring to ICE chief executive Jeff Sprecher. Sprecher is the husband of Bakkt CEO Loffler. 

ErisX announced Tuesday three new members of its team:

  • Kelly Brown has joined the firm as chief commercial officer from CME Group, the derivatives exchange. He will be responsible for attracting a wide-range of participants to the marketplace, including market making firms. “We’ll be at FIA Chicago socializing with everyone,” Brown said in an interview, referring to an industry conference. The 13-year-veteran of CME was previously global head of intermediary sales. 
  • Liz James also joined as head of clearing. Her career spans operational roles at State Street, Barclays, and Chase. She will be tasked with building out ErisX’s clearing house. Such an entity aims to lower the risk of exchanging assets, which could help make its market for palatable to big investors. Its clearing house would be a first in the digital currency, but it is awaiting approval from the CFTC to launch
  • Michael Piracci joined the firm as senior counsel from ScotiaBank where he was director of compliance. He also worked at Barclays, Morgan Stanley, and the CFTC. 

The team is mostly made up of employees of Eris Exchange, the precursor of the new crypto platform. ErisX was announced in September. 

The post has been updated to correct Michael Piracci’s title. He joined ErisX as senior counsel, not chief compliance officer.