Oct 31, 2022 - Economy

Crypto C-suites feature some high-profile departures, but trends show an evolving industry

Data: Heidrick & Struggles; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Heidrick & Struggles; Chart: Axios Visuals

Despite some high-profile departures in crypto, executive turnover there is not much different than other industries, according to data from an international executive search firm.

The big picture: Where some former executives go next, however, represents how the crypto industry as evolved, with abounding opportunities in Washington and in more historically traditional sectors.

What they're saying: "We anecdotally felt like there was a lot of turnover in crypto, but the data doesn’t necessarily say that," David Richardson, partner at Heidrick & Struggles, tells Axios.

  • "There is no statistically significant difference — executive turnover is elevated across a whole range of industries."
  • In that way the "flow of talent" is a "better market indicator than the price of the tokens," Richardson says. That is, the crypto industry is no more or less on the ropes than comparable sectors.

State of play: "Some [crypto executives] came from tech companies and financial institutions and might not stay through the [crypto] winter, but many more will stay in the ecosystem than leave," Richardson says.

  • That ecosystem now expands beyond native crypto.
  • "[That's] another huge change since 2018 there were few traditional finance firms that had a crypto offering, and now you have a whole bunch," Richardson says.
  • Those teams tend to play point on digital asset initiatives at the firm level and those executives tend to have more of a crypto background than one in traditional finance, he adds.

Context: BNY Mellon, for instance, uses software developed with Fireblocks to provide custodial services, while State Street partnered with Copper in anticipation of getting regulatory approval to do the same.

  • Other executives will likely come back to work as investors, or go to D.C. and be industry advocates, he says.

Zoom out: "What is definitely unique in crypto is that we haven’t seen this level of financial success in a compressed time span since the dot-com boom," Richardson says.

  • "Whereas in other industries you see people retiring or going back on [company] boards, you see crypto "pre-tirements."

The bottom line: "Founders and execs who are still young, not ready to retire, but who've been sprinting and working intensely for four years straight and who were unbelievably successful, think they deserve a break, he says."

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