Citywealth Crypto Focus: A Chat with Sean Kiernan

Date: 04 May 2022

Karen Jones

Citywealth interviews Sean Kiernan, CEO at Greengage, to talk about crypto investments and tech start ups as he walks us through what led him to crypto, learning more about his role and background.

Sean Kiernan, Greengage

What led you to crypto?

I first got into banking within Credit Suisse, and my last role was at the first bank in the world to offer crypto products to clients. There’s what I call a “whiff of freedom” in crypto that brings together fascinating people and ground-breaking innovation – it’s great fun as an industry and, as a technology, offers huge potential to transform financial services from the ground up.

Tell us about your business and background.

Greengage aspires to be a digital merchant bank that provides a platform of relationship-based banking services to digital companies, SMEs, and HNWIs. We currently facilitate wholesale crypto into fiat loans and bespoke Salesforce-based solutions for financial services firms. Imminently, we will also be offering E-money solutions to facilitate £, € and thereafter $ payments and cards for our target clients. Greengage aims to obtain a full banking licence and add crypto-native solutions and additional technological solutions in due course.

Is it wise to invest in crypto start-ups? Is it the same as any tech start up?

I wouldn’t deign to give investment advice but, if the sheer volume of venture capital attention to the crypto industry is any indication ($31 billion of VC investment in 2021), this is a space worth looking at. There are some unique regulatory considerations specific to crypto (as well as the underlying technology of blockchain / DLT) which present both challenges and opportunities and are worth understanding within the context of the broader tech start up space.

Why are you in it, because of a belief in technology or more?

I think re-designing the plumbing of financial services (for me, the most straightforward use case for the technology) is a strong driver for why I am in the space but not the only one. If the back-end of finance can be digitized a whole suite of things can happen on those rails which could democratize access to finance and spark a wave of innovation, ultimately empowering the consumer with more choice. There are dangers along the way obviously and so we’re keen to engage with policymakers and regulators wherever possible. This will help shape a sensible way forward, protecting freedoms and supporting consumer protection.

If you sold your bitcoin or Ethereum stakes or businesses in Crypto, are you out? Or switching to something else or going back in?

For me personally, I think I will always be invested in the space. At the moment, I’m quite long in exposure to crypto and I think diversification into the sector (and also out, where relevant, should outsize gains materialise) is always a healthy thing to minimise downside risk.

Will bitcoin change the world?

In a way it already has. I have been fascinated to see the growth of institutional acceptance to the level that almost every national central bank is now exploring the potential of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) as well as exploring how best to engage in a proper regulatory framework with the crypto industry. I do think it’s just the start of the story though and I can’t pretend to have a crystal ball to see how the change will unfold.

Thinking about news stories like Ottawa and now Mexico looking to accept bitcoin, is this part of global adoption or just a store of value?

It seems that certain jurisdictions have more actively engaged with the space for various reasons, either to support geopolitical aims or to engage and develop local industry (most countries would be very keen to incubate the next Coinbase). We’ve been trying to get the message out around the potential of the UK, particularly post-Brexit, to embrace “Blockchain Britain” and were delighted to see the recent support from government to create a crypto centre in this country (we’ve supported research with the UK Parliament’s APPG Blockchain to this effect). I think the broader story is much more than crypto as a simple store of value, not that there isn’t an argument for that in itself, but more for the economic potential of digitizing finance and creating the next generation of market participants who can engage with and bridge that sector with traditional business.

In percentage terms what is the institutional adoption in your view? And is adoption just custody (the basics) or fully fledged investment?

I think we’re at the start of increased institutional adoption of cryptocurrrency and digital assets as an asset class, and also of use of the underlying distributed ledger technology by institutional participants. The coming years will undoubtedly bring surprises (I, for one, hadn’t seen Non-Fungible Tokens coming) but I am fairly confident that the digitization of finance will impact the full value chain in financial services from custody to transactional flows including investment activity, not to mention the effects these technologies will have on a host of sectors outside of finance. We really are just at the beginning of this next wave of innovation.

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