Wall Street veteran Jamie Selway departs Blockchain.com as institutional wave fails to materialize

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  • Wall St. veteran Jamie Selway has left Blockchain.com
  • Selway, previously an exec at ITG, was building out the firm’s institutional business

Jamie Selway, the Wall Street trading veteran, has left his post at Blockchain.com as global head of institutional markets, The Block has learned. He had joined the firm in August.

Count this as another sign that firms and executives across the crypto market are finding building institutional-aimed businesses a tough egg to crack.

Selway joined Blockchain.com, which operates over 32 million crypto wallets, with a grand vision to build out a business aimed at luring large investors and proprietary traders to its platform, as The Financial Times reported. The plan was to build out an over-the-counter trading business, institutional custody and an exchange business aimed at serving larger investing firms and trading shops. The OTC desk, which launched earlier this year, counts former derivatives trader Vince Machi as a team member. Still, the firm’s plans to build out an exchange and integrate the OTC desk with an institutional custody solution is behind schedule, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The client focus for its institutional business lines have also changed, the source said. As institutional interest has waned, the firm is handing the reins over to execs with deeper crypto backgrounds and targeting crypto-native firms, another person familiar with the business said. The firm’s custody offering has a number of crypto firms as clients. Xen Baynham-Herd, a former UBS executive and long-time Blockchain employee, has taken on Selway’s role.

“Jamie has deep expertise in the institutional market and is a leader in that field,” the firm said in a statement. “However, that segment has been slower to develop while the needs of professional investors have grown over the last year. Our team is focused on supporting clients by offering best execution on trades, custody solutions, and managed products. Xen Baynham-Herd, our longtime head of markets, will continue to lead the team with support from former Goldman partner, Charlie McGarraugh.”

At crypto exchange Coinbase, it’s a similar story. The firm has shifted its strategy away from Wall Street and back to crypto hedge funds and projects. That shift led to the firm not bringing on Jonathan Kellner, former CEO of Instinet, who originally was set to join to build out the institutional business.

Peter Smith, CEO of Blockchain, said in an interview with The Block last week that the firm was focusing more on professionals rather than institutions. “We think it’s much more likely that large family offices, high-net-worth individuals, and other crypto companies or projects are the end-state constituents,” Smith said. “Our sales and go-to-market approach since we launched the institutional product has been to focus on those three…It’s going to continue to be retail-led and ecosystem-led, even after the first wave of institutions join.”

Selway joined from Wall Street broker ITG, where he was the head of electronic brokerage and execution services. At ITG, Selway oversaw businesses spanning its global electronic products and portfolio execution business. A well-known figure in U.S. market structure debates, Selway has worked alongside the likes of Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman while he was a researcher at the firm, as well as Christine Sandler, Coinbase’s head of institutional sales, with whom he worked during his days at NYSE Arca. He started his career in 1993 at Economists Incorporated.

As for Blockchain.com, the firm still has a number of Wall Streeters working on the firm’s institutional offerings, including Breanne Madigan, formerly of Goldman Sachs.