Brett Harrison of FTX.US on challenging Robinhood and Coinbase while reshaping market structure

Episode 53 of Season 3 of The Scoop was recorded remotely with The Block’s Frank Chaparro and Brett Harrison, President at FTX.US.

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FTX.US President Brett Harrison wants the company to be the next Robinhood, and he says they’re listening to every customer's comments to expand their user base and untangle the complexities of building an exchange.

“The retail user base wants to be heard," said Harrison.

On this episode of The Scoop, Brett Harrison took a break from coding FTX.US to join host Frank Chaparro for a discussion on how the company is expanding its user base and the company's planned entrance into crypto derivatives.

Unlike FTX, which is a global business and closed its Series A round of funding in July to the tune of an $18 billion valuation, FTX.US is focused exclusively on the US market. FTX.US, however, stands to benefit from its namesake’s most recent round of funding, of which Harrison said FTX will be allocating an undisclosed portion toward the US business.

But Harrison noted that the US arm may eventually pursue its own rounds of funding. "I think it's also very possible that sometime in the not too distant future we do a separate raise for us."

Acknowledging a slump in the rebranding of Blockfolio to FTX.US (FTX acquired Blockfolio back in August of 2020), Harrison explained that some of that capital for FTX.US will be devoted to hiring, with their largest headcount in customer service and compliance.


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Harrison also noted that the company is pursuing engineering hires strategically to keep operations lean and maintain a low cost of doing business. "Sometimes if you're dealing with some huge existing company, you can get lost and you might not get that personal user experience. And maybe that's another place in which we can outcompete a lot of our potential competitors."

FTX.US is also focusing on M&A, with an eye to expand its suite of products next year and prepare to go head-to-head with the likes of publicly traded companies like Coinbase and Robinhood.

As Harrison put it: "It needs to have all the things that they want to trade." This includes the recent inroads FTX.US has made to unlocking derivatives, which Harrison explained its US arm cannot offer without a Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) license.

But the company has never shied from pushing the needle on regulation and wants to keep lines of direct communication with regulatory bodies, according to Harrison.

"We need to engage [regulatory bodies] in an ongoing way, and so in the cases that we've done that been doing that we've had very positive experiences." Earlier this week, FTX.US announced the acquisition of the long-running crypto derivatives exchange LedgerX and the firm has previously held meetings with CFTC leaders.

“For something like FTX, there's really one player and it's FTX," said Harrison. "We hold the money, we have the matching engine, we do the clearing, we do the settlements, we have the market data, the market is all free, all the connections are free, the API is free.” 

Disclaimer: Beginning in 2021, Michael McCaffrey, the former CEO and majority owner of The Block, took a series of loans from founder and former FTX and Alameda CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. McCaffrey resigned from the company in December 2022 after failing to disclose those transactions.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

Frank Chaparro is the Editor At Large at The Block. Chaparro started his career at Business Insider, where he specialized in the intersection of digital assets and Wall Street, market structure, and financial technology. Soon after joining Business Insider out of Fordham University, Chaparro was interviewing top finance and tech executives, including billionaire Mark Cuban, “Flash Boys” star Brad Katsuyama, Cboe Global Markets CEO Ed Tilly, and New York Stock Exchange President Tom Farley. In 2018, he become a sought after reporter in the crypto world, interviewing luminaries such as Tyler Winklevoss, the cofounder of Gemini, Jeremy Allaire, the CEO of Circle, and Fundstrat head Tom Lee. He runs his own podcast The Scoop and writes a biweekly eponymous newsletter. He leads special projects, including The Block's flagship podcast, The Scoop. Prior to The Block, he held roles at Business Insider, NPR, and Nasdaq. For inquiries or tips, email [email protected].