A new cryptocurrency trading ecosystem is just around the corner

Citadel Securities veteran will lead the new cryptocurrency "trading ecosystem" whose backers are Sequoia and Charles Schwab.

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By Declan Harty

A veteran Citadel Securities executive is leaving the trading behemoth to lead Wall Street’s newest venture into the cryptocurrency space.

In an internal memo seen by the Fortune, Citadel Securities CEO Peng Zhao wrote that Jamil Nazarali, head of global business development, is leaving to run a recently unveiled cryptocurrency marketplace backed by some of the biggest names in finance and venture capital, including Virtu Financial, Charles Schwab, Sequoia, and Citadel Securities itself.

Originally described as a “cryptocurrency trading ecosystem,” the venture plans to create a marketplace where brokers can execute their clients’ orders to buy and sell cryptocurrencies from any of the dealers expected to be active on the platform, said Fortune a person involved in the process.

The idea is to concentrate more liquidity in the cryptocurrency markets so that investors’ orders can be executed on tighter margins than are currently available on more traditional cryptocurrency exchanges.

“Under Jamil’s leadership, this new marketplace will combine the best of what exists in the cryptocurrency space with what has been proven to create better results in traditional markets,” Zhao wrote in the note to prospective employees of the company.

From investment banks like Goldman Sachs to exchanges like IEX and custodian banks like BNY Mellon, financial giants have begun placing their money in cryptocurrencies over the past year in a concerted effort to bring a touch of legitimacy to the often wild world of digital assets as the cryptocurrency market falls further due to fears of a spreading crisis.

Citadel Securities seemingly began laying the groundwork for its own debut in the space in January when it began accepting outside investors for the first time, raising $1.15 billion from Sequoia and Paradigm, a venture capital firm focused on cryptocurrencies that is also participating in the new market. And while founder Ken Griffin may still have his reservations about the space, the billionaire acknowledges that “there are hundreds and millions of people in this world today who disagree,” he said in February, while adding that Citadel Securities is likely to start working on creating a cryptocurrency market “in the coming months.”

Citadel Securities’ chief operating officer Matt Culek will take over Nazarali’s post when he assumes the new role next week.

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