StanChart startup accelerates US plans on high institutional demand, even amid uncertainty

Quick Take

  • Zodia Markets started building in Europe, but quickly saw demand from the U.S. and pivoted.

The U.S. market is in the midst of regulatory mayhem, so when Zodia Markets decided to kick off business, it looked anywhere else, namely Europe and the Middle East.

Zodia Markets, which aims to be an institutional crypto trading partner, is already registered by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and is in late stage conversations with the central bank of Ireland, which with new EU regulation means a passport to Europe.

Still, the institutional demand for crypto trading is becoming so pronounced in the U.S., even without knowing where crypto will stand in coming years, Zodia’s accelerating plans in the country.

“There's a number of firms that we would like to partner with and like to work with who have said, ‘we need you to be present in the United States,’” said Chief Executive Officer Usman Ahmad. “We have accelerated the strategy to access the U.S. markets. We're in conversations with advisers here. We're going through our registration processes in certain states where we're talking to regulators as well to look at how we could establish ourselves and respond to that client demand.”

Backed by SC Ventures


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Zodia Markets is backed by SC Ventures, the innovation and ventures unit of Standard Chartered Bank, and BC Technology Group, a digital asset company and parent of digital asset platform OSL.

The firm is non-custodial and instead has a sister company name Zodia Custody for that purpose, Ahmad told The Block’s Frank Chaparro in a podcast recording.

“We deliberately set up the businesses that way,” Ahmad said. “The fully integrated, vertically integrated crypto asset firms that offer custody of a trading offer, prop trading, the whole kind of gamut as it related to institutional adoption, that wouldn't necessarily work for institutions looking to get into digital assets or scale them like they trade other asset classes. So we very clearly set up two businesses that are distinct in nature, legally distinct, separate shareholdings.”

For more of Chaparro’s interview with Ahmad, watch out for an upcoming episode of The Scoop podcast.

© 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

Christiana is a long-time journalist who has written about markets in the Americas, politicians who stashed cash in their underwear and high-end heels, to name just a few. She previously spent six years at Bloomberg, and her work has appeared in the WSJ, LA Times, Insider, Vogue Business and more. Christiana has a bachelor's degree in English from Pace University and a master's degree in journalism from New York University. She completed a master's degree in media psychology for fun.


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