trading

New tech and younger faces: DRW’s Cumberland looks different, its counter-parties say

Quick Take

  • Cumberland, tech giant DRW’s crypto unit, looks very different from the outside following leadership and API changes, sources say
  • A number of its gray beard execs have departed the firm and it is taking a fresh approach to engaging with the nascent crypto market

DRW’s Cumberland might be unrecognizable to some of its counter-parties as it takes a more modern approach to trading, and as its old-guard execs depart the company. 

The firm, which is led by trading giant Don Wilson, was one of the first well-known high-frequency trading shops to dive into the over-the-counter trading market for crypto. In 2014, it launched Cumberland Mining, which later rebranded to Cumberland.

Recently three members of its senior management have either left the firm or announced their upcoming departure, including its vanguard Bobby Cho, who built out the desk in its earliest days. A source said Cho, who said Wednesday he was stepping down at the end of May, plans to move to the East Coast and has no immediate plans to take on a new role. 

Prior to this, David Gross, a gray-haired veteran of the Wall Street world, stepped down as global head of relationship management. Gross joined the team in 2018 after spending close to 15 years in convertible bond sales and trading at Credit Suisse and Lehman Brothers.

Cumberland also parted ways with James Radecki, its former global head of business development. Radecki, who joined Cumberland last year having been a longtime employee of investment bank Goldman Sachs, was responsible for maintaining and building relationships with Cumberland’s counter-parties. A source told The Block that Gross and Radecki disagreed on the direction of the company. 

With Gross, Radecki, and Cho out, that leaves a much younger staff helming the ship.

“The company has changed, lots of young faces now,” one source said, describing recent leadership changes. 

To be sure, Jason Leung, a veteran of the FX world, remains at Cumberland as its global head. Justin Chow, according to a memo, has been promoted to oversee business development and relationship management. The former macro trader at DRW and Citadel, joined Cumberland’s crypto desk in 2017

The firm, which trades dozens of cryptocurrencies via its over-the-counter desk, also looks different with respect to the way it engages with the market. Recently, it launched its new electronic OTC platform, Marea, which allows its counterparties to trade with Cumberland via a new graphical user interface. It’s a move that follows its Chicago cross-town rival Jump Trading and other market makers in crypto that have modernized their marketplaces. 

“One of the glaring things to us is that our counter parties wanted to trade in different ways with us,” Cho told The Block at the time of Marea’s launch. “So we had this historical business starting in 2014 of counterparties wanting to trade OTC with us in chat. That evolved to ‘hey, we actually want to trade with you electronically.’ And that spun out and we started providing an API and now what we are announcing today, Marea.”

The crypto OTC market is known for operating much like FX markets in the 1990s — with much of the trading conducted over the phone or via messaging apps such as Skype.

A spokeswoman for DRW declined to comment.