Wall Street offers big pay raises to build crypto army

Wall Street executives looked up when bitcoin exploded onto the scene more than a decade ago. Now, they’re paying sweet bounties to crypto recruits, amassing an army of enthusiasts in the traditionally staid field.

Some of the biggest banks and financial firms have added around 1,000 crypto-related roles since 2018, according to Revelio Labs, which collects data by scraping LinkedIn. Among those hiring the most are JPMorgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which have bolstered their ranks as demand for fast-growing virtual currencies has exploded.

The expansion of the Wall Street legions traces an uncomfortable and at times difficult relationship with cryptocurrency. Banks had largely stayed on the sidelines as bitcoin prices skyrocketed to new highs and suffered frequent crashes.

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon called it “worthless” in October after calling it a fraud in 2017. But behind the scenes, growing global acceptance and customer interest have eroded their resistance , leading companies to add search teams and negotiating desks – and, according to recruiters, offering pay increases of up to 50% for comparable roles to attract talent.

“Banks can’t run the risk that their customers will turn to another bank to do these services, so they have to grow,” said Alan Johnson, managing director of the compensation consulting firm of Wall Street Johnson Associates. “It’s a great asset, a great opportunity, and they need people and they need them fast. They are prepared to pay dearly.

Citigroup Inc. and Morgan Stanley were also among those adding staff, according to Revelio Labs. Most companies declined to comment on the data or provide hiring figures, or did not respond to requests for comment. Citigroup said in a statement that customers are increasingly interested in crypto and that it is carefully monitoring development in light of factors such as regulation.

But there are signs of the effort elsewhere. The number of employees who added a new crypto-related position to their LinkedIn profiles this year through September has already exceeded last year’s tally, according to separate LinkedIn data. The total has tripled since 2015, according to data, which polled 12 financial companies.

And, as financial firms staff themselves, they must compete with tech and crypto firms who do the same – competition heightened by a dearth of talent with both types of experience, said. recruiters. This means that a crypto job can be lucrative, with a related role at a bank commanding a 20% to 30% premium in total compensation over a comparable position at the same institution, according to Johnson.

For higher positions such as research or commerce managers, it could reach 50%, he said. Crypto experts at financial companies are seeing average salary increases of around 9% in their new roles over previous ones, according to Revelio Labs.

Nonetheless, there are reasons to be cautious about the use of assets. Crypto firms face the prospect of a broad crackdown from federal regulators, while China, which already has rules prohibiting banks from offering crypto-related services, has banned crypto transactions in September. Amid the crackdown, some bitcoin miners have moved their operations out of the country.

Bank of America, for its part, is looking to strengthen its new crypto research team over time, according to Alkesh Shah, who heads it. The group was formed in July following calls from clients seeking to understand how they can invest in assets, Shah said in an interview.

“Industry and technology have become too important to ignore,” he said. “There is going to be significant value creation in this ecosystem and we want to make sure customers understand how value creation happens. “

The bank’s move signals the re-opening of traditional finance to bitcoin, as its value has skyrocketed over the past year to an all-time high in October. JPMorgan’s Dimon, who later said he regretted his fraudulent comments, said in October he would follow his customers regardless of his opinion. Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, who once allegedly called bitcoin “totally surreal,” recently said it’s not a fad.

Gorman’s bank appointed Sheena Shah to lead a new crypto research team in September, while JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs began offering crypto futures trading. Mastercard Inc. has just struck a deal to make it easier for banks to offer cryptocurrency rewards on their credit and debt cards.

“We are living in the heyday of Wall Street in crypto,” said Michael Bucella, general partner of crypto investment firm BlockTower Capital. “We are in the early days of 2.0 capital markets. “

Staff hunting appears to be on the rise in banks and crypto companies.

“Even over the past two weeks, we’ve been bombarded with headhunters looking for people to become crypto traders in everything from hedge funds to big banks,” Justin Schmidt, chief strategy officer at Crypto-trading Engineering startup Talos, which joined Goldman Sachs, said last month.

Working in a crypto firm can offer lifestyle improvements not traditionally seen on Wall Street, as well as the ability to own a stake in something, said Elsie Brown-Russell, who was the first Hiring in the product and technology team at crypto firm Grayscale Investments. . Whatever the competition, Wall Street is getting stronger.

Scott Wilk, who worked in crypto before landing at venture capital firm Imaginary, pointed out “all these big banks that didn’t want anything to do with crypto.” But, he said, “In the meantime, you find out that they were still doing their research secretly in the background, knowing that there would be a point when it would be okay to say you’re in crypto.”

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