Expert voices: Robinhood's crypto GM on European expansion
We sat down (virtually) with Johann Kerbrat, Robinhood's Crypto general manager, to discuss the current state of the online broker's crypto effort, as well as what's next.
Why it matters: With Bitcoin leading a rally of all things crypto, eyes are turning to opportunities in the sector.
This interview was lightly edited for length, style and clarity.
Can you tell me about how crypto got started at Robinhood and where things are now?
- Crypto was launched in February of 2018, but that was before my time and there was a small team. We were only kind of supporting Bitcoin and Ethereum when I joined in 2021.
- At that time, crypto was kind of a secondary product, but we really started to invest in it. We started to add a lot of features, we added more assets, and we now have 15 tokens on the platform.
- We really took the initiative to say no matter where the volume is, let's make sure that we keep investing in the business, and when the cycle comes back, we will be ready and have the right team structure in place.
- We kept thinking the goal is that crypto is going to be the financial framework of tomorrow. If you want to be ready for that, we need to have a constant investment, no matter the volatility in the market.
You mentioned you have 15 tokens on the platform, and obviously that's changed over the years. What is the process for adding an asset, and how do you decide when to delist?
- We have a listing committee that will look at different assets and make decisions based on various criteria. It goes from technology, compliance, operations, legal, security, infrastructure, all these kinds of things.
- The idea is to make sure we offer something that we feel good about for our customers, and we have at least a quarterly review of these assets. Some assets will trigger a review sooner than quarterly in case there is some issue on the network.
When you announced you were going into the EU, you said you were going to make 25 tokens available. Why will European customers have access to certain assets that U.S. customers won't?
- We're really treating the two businesses as separate entities. It's owned by Robinhood, of course, but the customer needs in Europe are, in our opinion, very different.
- Because it's a different market, it makes sense to have a different offering. But we have a very similar system where every [asset] listed in the EU went through a committee where we reviewed a long list of criteria.
- The number of assets is not going to be the only difference. We're also going to offer different features and different types of products in the near future in the EU.
Can you give some examples?
- We announced, for example, that we will offer staking in the future. And that's something that in the U.S., we are not currently looking at, but we think the market could be more interesting in [Europe].
Given the volatility of the last 18 months, how are crypto users behaving on the platform? On the equities side, it seems like transaction volumes are down, there's less active trading, but users tend to be holding assets. Is that true for crypto as well?
- I think it's a bit similar. Despite the downturn in the market, Robinhood still maintains a very strong hold on customer assets. We actually saw a year-over-year increase in assets. It shows that we have, a number of long-term HODLers on the platform that is growing.
- I think also what we saw is that our market share has increased on the assets that we offer on the platform, so it shows that we are getting some kind of loyalty from our customer base.