Coinbase’s Head of EMEA, Guillaume Chatain, explains how he transitioned to crypto from JPM, the exchange’s ambition to become the Amazon of crypto, Coinbase’s culture under Brian Armstrong, and the current institutional outlook.
After spending almost a decade working for the Wall Street behemoth – JPMorgan Chase & Co – Guillaume Chatain took the leap towards blockchain and crypto, where he helped establish a regulated digital broker-dealer.
As of now, he is the Head of EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) Sales at the leading US-based cryptocurrency exchange – Coinbase – a position which he occupies for over a year.
From JP Morgan to Coinbase: The Future of Finance
Chatain made a huge transition in his professional life. His previous company, for almost ten years, was none other than JP Morgan – the international banking giant spearheaded by Jamie Dimon.
Dimon was known for his particularly skeptical view of cryptocurrencies and, at one point, made headlines calling Bitcoin “a fraud.” However, he later apologized for this but remained relatively critical of the industry as a whole.
So, in the end, what was it that made Chatain leave JPM for Coinbase?
“When I was at JP Morgan in 2016, I started to read a lot about blockchain. For every piece of research, I was taking it, printing it, and reading it.
I really thought this was going to be the future of finance. This is what was going to be helping to remove a lot of friction and a lot of intermediaries that are present in the world of traditional finance.” – He told us as we met in France for Paris Blockchain Week.
Being between the two worlds, Chatain ultimately decided to leave Hong Kong for London and began working on his own idea of a marketplace for structured investments that would be managed by smart contracts. However, he admitted that this was too early for its time back then:
“I spoke with the regulator in the UK because I thought if the regulator is not on board, it’s never going to work. And the FCA in the UK basically said, “That’s a great idea. Why don’t you come to build and do the first test as part of our FCA regulatory sandbox?”
Staying true to his path, though, Chatain turned the page. It was then he decided to join Coinbase, where he now occupies the position of Head of Institutional Sales for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
“From an institutional point of view, it’s very important for European clients to have a counterparty with a caliber of Coinbase.”, he explained the expansion of Coinbase to Europe.
“I’m talking about a company that is publicly listed, a company that has proven over its nine years of existence that we are very good at safekeeping clients’ assets. We can do it at scale without ever losing their money.”
“We’re also offering to our clients a full prime broker experience that goes beyond a simple access to Coinbase liquidity. We give our institutional clients access to a pool of liquidity that consists of multiple regulated exchanges and OTC counterparties, and we offer additional services such as financing, borrow, lending, analytics, and staking directly from cold storage” he said.
Despite the somewhat reserved stance on crypto from UK regulators, the region is among the most active in terms of institutional adoption, said Chatain.
The Institutions Are Here
Since 2018, the phrase ‘the institutions are here’ has been used by crypto proponents almost every year. However, is it like this in 2022? The Head of EMEA Sales at Coinbase, who deals only with institutional clients, Chatain, shared with us:
“I can tell you that institutions are here, present. I’m dealing every day with corporate institutions like high-net-worth individuals and family offices, hedge funds, asset managers, and large corporates. We 10x’ed our institutional trading volumes last year.
We’re in a very lucky position of having so many inbound requests that we don’t have the bandwidth with my team, which by the way, grew 4x. And we still have to prioritize the largest opportunities over smaller corporations in terms of onboarding. Institutions in general kee showing a lot of interest.”
Life Following the Coinbase IPO
Coinbase made history last year when it became a publicly-traded company. Chatain asserted that the move
helped legitimize not just the firm but also the industry. As such, with the added transparency as a public company, the number of institutions seeking business relationships with Coinbase grew.
“One example is a company, a trading company who contacted us immediately after the public listing and saying like, “We’re just waiting for the company to be public to start engaging.” And since then, we have onboarded them.
So it’s been very positive in general as part of my day-to-day discussions with new prospects, just mentioning that we are listed, it makes a difference.”
Chatain also explained that Coinbase raised capital through a convertible bond following the listing. A few months down the road, the firm raised more funds through a 10-year bond, which was ” oversubscribed.”
” Being able to access capital markets or the bond market is really showing that you have a lot of investors that believe Coinbase is going to be there for ten years, for the next ten years, and are willing to put some money in there. I think that’s even more significant than being a listed company.”
The Coinbase Culture
Chatain also emphasized the transparent corporate culture at Coinbase.
“Whatever you read on the Coinbase blog, whatever Brian (Armstrong, Coinbase’s CEO) is writing in his own papers, is super transparent. And when you start working at Coinbase, it’s exactly what is written on paper. So, that was very refreshing when I started.”
And what about Coinbase as a flat organization? “Coming from a bank like JP Morgan where everything is so huge that you have some access to top management, but it happens very rarely. At Coinbase, we have corporate meetings every couple of weeks, and Brian is always present. He’s always talking, and he is always super prepared and very transparent in what he’s doing, so I really love that.”
Becoming the Amazon of Crypto
Undoubtedly, one of the most heavily-discussed topics within the community is Coinbase’s listing process for new coins. To this, Chatain emphasized the company’s transparent approach and said:
“I would say to any founder that wants to list his token to go to Coinbase’s Assethub. Something that I love about Coinbase is we’re just transparent about everything: all the rules and the listing criteria are there.
Our ambition is to become the Amazon of crypto – offering all the crypto tokens that are available, as long as we’re authorized to do that from a security as well as a legal point of view.”