Crypto Exchange Wars: Bakkt Poaches Key Exec from Coinbase Ahead of November Launch

Regulated cryptocurrency exchange Bakkt will compete with top U.S.-based crypto trading platform Coinbase not just for trading volume but talent, too. Bakkt, which is gearing up to make its debut next month, announced on Twitter that it has poached Coinbase alum Adam White as chief operating officer. It’s a blow to Coinbase, where White had a key role in solidifying Coinbase’s leadership position, and if there was ever any doubt, it’s a sign that the new NYSE-parent-backed Bakkt will come out swinging from day one.

Courtesy: Fortune

With the ink not too try on the new contract, White, who will officially join Bakkt in November, seemingly updated his Twitter profile this morning to reflect his new employer in addition to his past position as GM at Coinbase. Bakkt CEO Kelly Loeffler also made the announcement in a blog post, where she stated:

“If you know Adam, you may know he was employee #5 at Coinbase, the largest digital currency platform in the U.S. Equally important as his credentials, he’s also an excellent fit with our culture of collaboration, problem-solving, integrity and leadership. As a visionary and a strong operator, Adam is a much-anticipated addition to our busy team.”

White’s decision to decamp popular crypto exchange Coinbase is likely to hit a nerve with his former employer. In an interview with Fortune, he explains that the reason behind the move was in anticipation of institutional capital into Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which is a market segment that Coinbase is similarly targeting, as evidenced by its custody solution and the fact that its institutional trading volume reportedly exceeded that of retail investors this year.

Trading Volume

Nonetheless, Coinbase’s volume has dropped dramatically from the beginning of 2018 when it stood at more than $20 billion. According to CoinMarketCap, Coinbase Pro volume currently hovers at $227.5 million. “Cryptocurrency markets go their own way, we see bull and bear markets. But what matters is that the number of daily transactions for all cryptocurrencies is up year over year,” White told Fortune, pointing to technologies like Liquid Network, which is designed to accelerate crypto transactions, as a sign of progress.

According to White, big investors remain sidelined until they can enter the crypto space with equal security attached to trading more traditional asset classes. “That’s why I joined Bakkt,” he told Fortune.

Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong has been transparent about the fact that the exchange works closely with regulators, but Bakkt is coming out of the gate as a regulated ecosystem for digital assets. While it may turn off some retail traders, it’s designed to attract institutional investors and should be a catalyst for gains. Needless to say, the crypto market has been erratic this year, though investors got a taste of what those gains could look like when $20 billion poured into the market overnight.

Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock. 

Gerelyn has been covering ICOs and the cryptocurrency market since mid-2017. She's also reported on fintech more broadly in addition to asset management, having previously specialized in institutional investing. She owns some BTC and ETH.

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