Layoffs are rife in the crypto world, as they have been since early May. The year flipped back on the calendar, but the sector doesn’t have a “new year, new me” flip: over 26,000 crypto jobs lost in 2022. At press time, the 2023 tally had numbered no fewer than 1,900.
It is hard to predict when the layoff trend will subside, but one exchange is holding out: Binance. After hiring 5,000 workers last year, CEO Changpeng Zhao told the Crypto Finance Conference in Switzerland on Jan. 11 that he expects to grow Binance’s workforce by 15-30% this year.
“We will continue to build and hopefully pick up again before the next bull market,” he said.
That could be a while. The average crypto winter lasts four years, according to Forbes. And since Bitcoin’s mysterious inventor, Satoshi Nakamoto, only released it 14 years ago, that’s no short time. The last crypto winter lasted three, from late 2017 to late 2020, before coin prices soared to all-time highs in November 2021.
In traditional securities, bear markets occur when a market index falls 20%. And while there is no official definition for the industry’s analogue crypto winter, 2022 was frigid. In May, one of the most prominent stablecoins de-pegged from the US dollar, sending the market into turmoil. Throughout the year, many of the most prominent exchanges—Celsius, Voyager Digital, FTX, and BlockFi—failed. The price of Bitcoin fell, at least temporarily, by 77%.
But in the last few weeks, Bitcoin has rallied a bit. As of January 25, it is above $23,000 for the first time since August.
Bradley Duke, co-CEO of ETC Group, said this month that Bitcoin’s jump was mainly driven by “some macro fears… subsiding with positive economic data in the US, including lower inflation statistics and strong numbers.” employment growth”.
In fact, the consumer price index posted its most significant drop since the beginning of the COVID era. Yet bank CEOs have stuck to their fall recession predictions. Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan told investors on January 13 that he is preparing for a “mild recession” and that the bank is instituting a partial hiring freeze.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs named Bitcoin the top performing asset of 2023 on January 23, with 27% in total returns and a risk-adjusted ratio of 3:1. In December, it was revealed that the bank planned to spend tens of millions of dollars to buy or invest in crypto companies after the collapse of FTX.
Matthew McDermott, Goldman’s head of digital assets told Reuters the collapse “increased the need for more reliable, regulated cryptocurrency players, and that the big banks see an opportunity to resume business”.
In his December Wall Street Journal op-ed, CEO David Solomon echoed the sentiment, at least for the technology that powers cryptocurrency. The benefit of regulated financial institutions developing blockchain applications, he said, is that they are “accustomed to high standards of regulatory oversight… [and] You can work with regulators and policy makers to find the right balance between regulation and innovation.”
the fall of FTX and its ensuing contagion “should not distract us from the opportunity we have,” Solomon wrote. “Investors large and small can win from blockchain innovations led by established and experienced institutions.”
Is Solomon’s support enough to keep other banks interested in cryptocurrencies, despite the challenges of the past year? JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is not sold. But then again, he never really was. (However, they do have that crypto wallet trademark.)
Metropolitan Community Bank announced its exit from the crypto space this month; and crypto-friendly Signature Bank is in the midst of offloading $8 to $10 billion in digital assets to significantly reduce its cryptocurrency portfolio.
Acting Comptroller of the Currency Michael Hsu told Bloomberg in December that most banks’ cryptocuriosity “disappeared” in 2022 when the value of tokens plummeted and that he would be “astonished” if banks began to express interest in the asset class now. .
However, BNY Mellon CEO Robin Vince said on an earnings call this month that since the launch of crypto custody services in October, digital assets have been and will continue to be a focus for the bank.
In a December Financial Times op-ed, Vince stressed the importance of developing a regulatory framework for digital assets like cryptocurrencies, noting that “much of the foundation already exists and can be extended from asset regulation.” traditional”.
“We should embrace digital asset innovation and align it with established rules and measured regulatory principles to protect customers and promote resilience,” Vince wrote. “In doing so, we also protect the most precious asset of all: confidence in our financial system.”
Crypto regulation was a hot topic before FTX faltered. The exchange’s now-bankrupt founder, Sam Bankman-Fried, testified before Congress in 2021 and tweeted afterwards that he was “excited” to involve the powers that be in refining the regulatory landscape. While any regulatory construction legislation associated with it is almost certainly impossible at this point, lawmakers and consumers now want crypto regulation more than ever.
Without offering anything hard and fast, regulators have offered a lot of guidance of late. In December, the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation issued a joint warning about the risks of bank-cryptocurrency ties. The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision released guidelines around the same time for banks playing in the digital asset space. The New York Department of Financial Services also announced in December that any banks it supervises must seek pre-approval before engaging in any cryptocurrency-related activity, and those already involved must contact the regulator immediately.
NYDFS Superintendent Adrienne Harris said the new guidance “is critical to ensuring that consumers’ hard-earned money is protected, that New York-regulated banking organizations remain resilient and competitive, and that expectations are clear for those who wish to Submit virtual currency proposals. -related activity.”
However, regulators continue to disagree on who makes the decisions in crypto, perhaps contributing to the delay. Last week, Hester Peirce, commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, said that the SEC should regulate digital assets like cryptocurrencies through rulemaking.
“If we were to continue our regulation-by-compliance approach at our current pace, we would be approaching 400 years before we outgrow tokens that are supposed to be securities,” he said at a conference at Duke University on Jan. 20, according to Pensions & Investments. “By contrast, an SEC rule would have universal, though not retroactive, coverage as soon as it takes effect.”
Also at Duke, Kristin Johnson, commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, implored Congress to include in any new legislation “statutory authority for the CFTC to conduct effective due diligence” on businesses, including crypto firms. who wish to purchase products regulated by the CFTC. entities.
No matter what else happens in 2023, the fallout from last year will be addressed little by little. Bankruptcy hearings for the FTX case are scheduled through April. Claims against Celsius, which has just received court approval to grant some customer withdrawals and also has court dates scheduled, must be filed by February 9.
New York Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit against former Celsius CEO Alex Mashinsky for alleged fraud will be developed.
And in October, barring a plea agreement, Bankman-Fried will go on trial in federal court on charges including wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Former FTX executives Caroline Ellison, Gary Wang and Nishad Singh are cooperating with authorities in the case against Bankman-Fried. Bankman-Fried has pleaded not guilty to eight charges.