Nomura taps City veteran Steven Ashley to run its crypto unit

abdelaziz Fathi

Japanese investment bank Nomura is relocating its most senior banker in London, Steven Ashley, to lead the lender’s new digital assets company.

Nomura to close derivatives business

Set to launch later this year, the new company has rebranded as Laser Digital and will be incorporated in Switzerland as a wholly-owned segregated entity of Nomura. Ashley will become chair of Nomura’s digital assets company, which provides institutional clients with access products and services tied to cryptocurrencies.

The firm, which already started offering Bitcoin derivatives to clients in Asia, will launch a range of products linked to stablecoins, decentralized finance (DeFi), non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and other assets.

“This is a major step forward as we look to scale-up our digital asset related businesses and investments. The new company will enable us to build an edge in providing institutional clients with access to a wide range of new products and services and contribute meaningfully towards responsible innovation in the digital asset ecosystem,” said Steve Ashley.

Japan’s biggest brokerage and investment bank will launch a venture capital arm in its first move and plans to relocate some of its specialist staff to the new company in addition to external hires, the statement said.

The news comes at a time when both start-ups and major financial institutions are rushing to get new crypto tools to Main Street investors. BNY Mellon and Bakkt have also set up a crypto-custody service, under which the Wall Street bank’s history of safeguarding the assets of institutional clients could be leveraged to store Bakkt’s digital assets.

Back in 2020, Nomura has gone live with its own cryptocurrency custody service for institutions in partnership with blockchain security firm Ledger and the fund manager CoinShares. The joint venture, named Komainu, has secured the regulatory approvals from the Jersey Financial Services Commission.

Komainu was first announced in 2018 to overcome barriers to institutional investment in digital assets through a compliant platform powered by a bespoke environment created by Ledger, creators of the Nano S wallet. The venture provides infrastructure and an operational framework to the wider investment management industry and enable investors to embed a set of best practice standards within their businesses.

In addition to Nomura’s vast experience, the parent company behind CoinShares, Global Advisors, has a wealth of experience in commodity trading, hedge funds, FX trading and exchange-traded products.

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