Coinbase’s director of institutional sales, Christine Sandler, has left the cryptocurrency startup for Fidelity Investments, one of the world’s largest financial services providers, according to multiple industry sources.
Sandler, a long-time executive in the financial space, held positions with NYSE Euronext and Barclays Investment Bank before joining Coinbase in March 2018 to head up its institutional sales division.
It is not clear which part of Fidelity she is joining, but a logical candidate would be the recently launched Fidelity Digital Assets (FDAS), a cryptocurrency custody and brokerage service for institutional investors.
According to one source, her departure stemmed from a change in the direction of Coinbase’s institutional business.
“It has become clear that Coinbase is focusing on crypto first and crypto-native hedge funds, and the team that Adam [White, a former Coinbase executive] brought on board was very much focused on the institutional world,” this person said, adding:
“Christine is part of that; she had decades of experience of working with traditional financial institutions. Her skills are much better suited to a company that is taking that approach – like Fidelity.”
Indeed, White left Coinbase in October. to become chief operating officer of Bakkt, the bitcoin futures platform being built by Intercontinental Exchange, the parent of the New York Stock Exchange. Similarly, another of his hires at Coinbase, former head of trading Hunter Merghart, resigned in October.
Coinbase confirmed Sandler’s departure but declined to comment further. Fidelity declined to comment. Attempts to reach Sandler by press time were unsuccessful.
Fidelity, which first announced it was building a crypto trading and storage platform last October, launched earlier this year and has begun onboarding clients. The firm currently offers bitcoin services, though it may look to add other cryptocurrencies in the coming months.
Tom Jessop, Fidelity Digital Assets’ president, previously told CoinDesk that the firm had developed an in-house framework to evaluate different cryptocurrencies, and it would most likely examine potential listings by looking at coins’ market caps.
That being said, the second-largest cryptocurrency by market cap, ether, will probably not be added anytime soon, Jessop has said, citing concerns about its upgrade process.
While FDAS has already on-boarded a select number of clients, Sandler’s joining may indicate a renewed push to draw in major customers.
Jessop told CoinDesk earlier this month that one of the firm’s goals for 2019 was to add new clients, in particular receiving “consistent interest from institutions.”
In terms of the volume that these institutions represent, he explained, “I know in terms of [assets under management] … it’s anywhere from like low single-digit millions up to tens if not hundreds of millions.”
Christine Sandler (second from right) at the BlockFS conference in 2018, image via Marc Hochstein for CoinDesk.