Barclays halts work on cryptocurrency trading project

Barclays has halted work on a cryptocurrency trading project, according to two people familiar with the situation, in the latest twist for banks hoping to tap into the burgeoning sector.

The investment bank put together a senior team earlier this year to look at how it could incorporate the trading of digital assets into its markets business. The initiative, however, has been put “on ice”, one of the people said.

Chris Tyrer, the bank’s former head of energy trading, moved into a full time role leading the so-called ‘digital assets project’ earlier this year but left the bank in September after the decision was taken to shelve the cryptocurrency trading project.

Tyrer could not be reached for comment. Barclays declined to comment.

Tyrer worked alongside Marvin Barth, head of FX and emerging markets macro strategy at Barclays, on the project. Lee Braine, a senior technologist at investment bank, and consultant Matthieu Jobbe Duval also worked on the venture.

The four were exploring whether cryptocurrencies could be a viable long term asset class, whether there was an appetite among Barclays’ clients for it and what IT infrastructure would be required, the people said.

Barclays’ chief executive Jes Staley told the bank’s annual general meeting in May that Barclays remained wary of the regulatory and compliance issues surrounding the asset class. “There is the possibility of cryptocurrencies being used for activities that the bank wants to have no part of,” he said.

The decision to shelve the project will be of interest to the UK’s lender’s rivals, many of which have been exploring ways to profit from the explosion of interest in cryptocurrencies.

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JPMorgan transferred Oliver Harris into the newly-created position of head of crypto-strategy in May, while Goldman Sachs said it is looking into opening a desk for trading cryptocurrencies.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Paul Clarke

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