Exclusive: Crypto exchange Coinbase appoints new UK boss

Coinbase, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, has appointed Marcus Hughes as its new general manager in the UK and Europe, City A.M. can reveal.

Hughes, who joined the San Francisco-headquartered exchange in 2018 as legal counsel, will be tasked with growing the business across the region at a time of rapid change for the cryptocurrency industry.

Read more: Crypto exchange Coinbase aims for Wall Street listing

He will replace chief executive Zeeshan Feroz, who moves into a consultancy role, with immediate effect.

Prior to joining the firm, Hughes spent a decade at Morgan Stanley, focusing on its electronic trading platforms. 

Coinbase already has more than 35m users worldwide, but Hughes told City A.M. that this would only grow as cryptocurrencies became more embedded in the world’s financial systems.

“I think it’s a really exciting time for the industry”, he said. “Once we can peel away the jargon and demystify crypto, the opportunity becomes huge.”

Hughes said that the market was now entering what he termed the “utility” phase – when instead of simply being bought and sold as an asset, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum can enable a whole range of services to be offered to serve customers’ financial needs, replacing traditional financial networks

“The value proposition for crypto is far bigger than just buying and selling”, he said. “We imagine crypto at the heart of so many different financial services that we have today.”

Earlier this year, Coinbase became the first crypto firm to become a principal member of Visa, meaning it will be able to issue Visa payment cards as well as provide direct settlements.

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Hughes said that the firm would continue to roll-out products that dovetail or offer an alternative to with the world’s conventional financial structures. 

“We’re looking to effectively build a suite of products and services that replicate those kind of products and services you might get in traditional finance. We’re looking to reimagine these using crypto as the underlying component”, he said.

However, he added that he did not think that firms such as Coinbase would do away with the need for traditional financial services altogether, saying they would instead “co-exist”.

Cryptocurrencies have been subject to a great deal of scrutiny in recent years, with many concerned that they present the potential for money laundering, as well as price volatility.

Hughes is an advocate for much greater regulation of the sector, which he says will help give more customers the confidence to engage with the crypto ecosystem.

Back in 2018, Coinbase became the first crypto company toreceive an e-money license from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) , and to be given access to the Faster Payments Scheme, which allows customers to benefit from seamless, instantaneous deposits and withdrawals. 

Read more: Coinbase becomes first crypto platform to receive Visa principal member status

The company is in “continuous dialogue” with regulators around the world, Hughes added, saying that a “higher degree of oversight and accountability” would convince customers to use the asset. 

Coinbase is rumoured to be prepping for a US listing, possibly as early as next year, according to reports from Reuters.

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