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State Street veterans launch cryptocurrency trading platform

Two State Street Corp. veterans are launching a cryptocurrency trading platform for institutional investors.

John Burnett and Hu Liang said they’ve formed Omniex Holdings Inc., which aims to work with exchanges, over-the-counter venues, and fund accountants to fill growing demand for trading services as digital currencies gain more mainstream acceptance.

‘‘There’s a ton of institutional investment waiting on the sidelines,’’ Burnett said. ‘‘There are a lot of gaps in this market right now, that when traditional asset managers want to get involved, these gaps would prevent them from doing so effectively,’’ noting that quantitative hedge funds and crypto funds will be among the first clients, though he declined to name specific firms.


Big banks have been trying to figure out how to keep up with the influx of client interest in digital currencies while also complying with rules and keeping up to date on the sector’s changing regulatory environment. Many financial institutions are concerned about the so-called know-your-customer guidelines that inevitably come up when dealing with virtual coins. Goldman has reportedly been looking into bitcoin trading and JPMorgan has debated offering futures to customers.

The San Francisco-area-based startup, which has fewer than 10 employees, has raised $5 million in seed money, they said. The funding was provided by Wicklow Capital, with additional investors including Sierra Ventures, DCG, Clocktower Ventures, and ThirdStream Partners. They are joined by a third cofounder, Kamal Mokeddem, formerly of Crabel Capital Management.

Liang and Burnett both worked in the emerging-technologies division of State Street, a venture that was formed to go after new tech that the firm wanted to experiment with. They looked at blockchain, artificial intelligence, and different computing technologies while they were there.

‘‘Everything was going well at State Street and I loved the entire experience, but this opportunity was something I saw and had to jump on to,’’ Burnett, 37, said. ‘‘If you’d asked me or Hu two years ago if we’d be starting a company in this space, we would have probably laughed a bit,’’ he noted, pointing out the traction the space has received in just the past 12 to 18 months.


The worlds of digital currencies and blockchain has attracted high profile Wall Street executives such as Blythe Masters, formally of JPMorgan Chase, Tom Jessop of Goldman Sachs, and Jason Raziano, who held a variety of positions before joining Galaxy Digital Assets.