Crypto bank SEBA hires ex-JPMorgan banker as Asia Pacific CEO

SEBA Bank, a crypto bank backed by Julius Baer Group, hired an ex-JPMorgan Chase banker as its Asia Pacific chief executive.

The executive, Amy Yu, 38, previously helped build out JPMorgan’s prime services division in the Asia Pacific market. She joined the crypto industry in 2018, first working for BitMex, where she was hired for global institutional sales. She subsequently joined Genesis — which filed for bankruptcy earlier this year.

The crypto industry has been roiled by a cascade of blowups, including the epic unraveling of the FTX crypto exchange in November. The events eroded the trust of more mainstream investors who were eager to capitalize on rising interest in bitcoin and the vision of decentralized finance.

“What we have seen in the last few months has been painful for most market participants in crypto but probably very necessary, so I think a lot of great lessons,” Yu said in an interview, adding that clients will likely increasingly seek regulated counterparties.

The Swiss bank, founded in 2018 and headquartered in Zug, is licensed by the Finma, the Swiss banking regulator. SEBA is “currently exploring licensing” in both Singapore and Hong Kong, according to Yu, who’s based in Singapore initially.

“Depending on how our licenses and conversations progress with the regulators that will probably determine where I spend most of my time,” she said.

The bank currently had around seven staff in Hong Kong and three in Singapore and according to Yu, any hiring plans will go hand in hand with the progress on licensing.

After initially being slower to embrace crypto, Hong Kong is pushing to attract digital-assets businesses, and Financial Secretary Paul Chan last month said the city remains committed to becoming a regional crypto hub.

In contrast, Singapore has been hit by blowups amid last year’s rout including the Three Arrows Capital hedge fund and the crypto lender Hodlnaut, and has been retreating from offering crypto to retail investors.

“Singapore seemed to be a bit clearer with welcoming crypto businesses earlier on,” said Yu. “It feels like they’re reviewing perhaps their stance on the industry right now.”

Yu said that in the last two months, Hong Kong has “really come out with a bang” and is looking like it wants to set up a regulatory framework to welcome businesses. But she added that she didn’t see crypto as a zero-sum game between the two hubs, and the firm has a presence in both cities.

SEBA Bank mainly provides consultancy services, market research and manages reverse inquiries out of its Hong Kong and Singapore offices, according to Yu. Clients can be onboarded with the Zug entity, she said.

Alameda Research previously participated in a funding round in SEBA Bank. According to Yu, its stake in SEBA is less than 1%, with no voting rights, and the company had no other dealings with Alameda or FTX.

“Our relationship with FTX was nonexistent and with Alameda was only that investment,” she said.

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