Oct 02, 2020
Crypto and Coffee Q&A with Gemini: Blair Halliday
Welcome back to Crypto & Coffee with Team Gemini! In today’s Q&A we chatted with Blair Halliday, our Chief Compliance Officer for Europe. This month we announced our expansion into the UK market, which marks a very exciting time for us. Blair gave us some insights into the process of expansion, his life in and out of crypto, and what motivates him throughout this globally challenging time.
Grab a cup of coffee (or tea) and enjoy!
How long have you been at Gemini? I joined Gemini in January 2020, and this week marks my eight month anniversary - cakes for Blair.
What made you want to join Gemini? I worked in the financial services sector until the banking crash of 2008, which certainly challenged some of the faith I had in the traditional banking system. Over time I grew more aware of alternative payment types and the potential they represent. The opportunity to be at the edge of this new frontier excited me. I started my journey in crypto a couple of years ago, and Gemini always stood out as a company that was a cut above the rest. From the elegance and simplicity of the products, the proactive and positive approach to working with regulators and law enforcement, and the foundational pillars that underpin the way the company conducts itself, I knew I wanted to be a part of that. So I did!
Eight months in, I have come to realise that it's been an even better decision than I had imagined.
What is the most exciting part of your job? This is an exciting time for us generally — in August, Gemini secured its Electronic Money Institution (EMI) licence from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). We are also one of the first cryptocurrency exchanges and custodians that the regulator has registered under the Fifth Money Laundering Directive (5MLD).
It is really apparent to me that the emphasis of the business has always been on compliance and doing things the right way, even if it takes longer. While launching a European presence is a new direction for the business, from a compliance perspective, it is about building on and refining this existing focus for the local market.
Aside from my immediate compliance focus, the best thing is the interaction with people and the opportunities that creates. The talent at the company is exceptional, at the leadership level through to the more junior staff just commencing their careers.
What is something you learned from working in the crypto industry? The crypto community is passionate! And that passion definitely starts to become your passion. The longer you’re in, the more you just get it. From coins, protocols and exchanges, there is a real feeling of building something for the future. With that ethos, comes a real desire for product and services to retain the true intent of their design.
Being in the industry has also really confirmed to me that in order for the crypto world to fulfil its potential there needs to be a concerted focus on regulation, safety, and security surrounding customers’ digital assets, funds, and data.
How do you see crypto benefitting people globally? Crypto is a borderless medium, without restriction of the governments or central banks that are not always aligned with the wider interests of the population they serve. Crypto enables anyone with an internet connection to transfer and store their assets in a medium that is agnostic of the behaviours of a governmental regime that you may not have trust in, and which can influence the value of your money.
What excites you the most about the future of crypto? The thing that excites me is that although we’re already making great headway, we’re only scratching the surface of the amount of people that we can appeal to. The opportunities and the value proposition for those not already familiar with crypto is substantial.
What have you been doing to keep yourself entertained while you’re WFH? I definitely am grateful that Netflix is not a pay per play, or I’d be in trouble. Other than that, I’ve just tried to keep fit and active, enjoy the lack of commute to spend more time with my wife or have the odd virtual night out with friends.
What motivates you during this time period? It's very easy to be motivated at Gemini. The last eight months have been so heavily focussed on getting ourselves into a position to launch into the UK, and now we’re finally there. It's probably been one of my favourite moments in my career to date.
We were the second firm to achieve that, which I think is a testament to the fantastic program we have here, and the incredible hard work that goes into these application processes.
What is your proudest life moment? In 2014 I ran the London Marathon for the first time. What made that mean so much is that four years previously I was largely bed ridden for six months due to illness and pain. So I fought back from that and over the years I went from barely being able to walk down the street, to running a six-mile, then a half marathon. Then I took the plunge and ran the London Marathon, raising money for the St Johns Ambulance charity in the UK, and completed it in under four hours and 30 minutes. Not exactly Olympic threatening, but I was very happy.
So that is probably the proudest moment I have, and also the moment that best encapsulates my personal drive.
What would you say to our new customers onboarding in the UK? I would say welcome to you all — congratulations on making a great choice!
We’re excited to offer you our services in the UK, so you can upload and withdraw funds in GBP, and use your debit cards now too! So please look around, enjoy our app and website, and keep an eye out for even more things to come. We’re happy to have you with us on our journey.
Our team is growing! If you’re interested in joining us — check out our careers page!
Onward and Upward,
Blair Halliday, Chief Compliance Officer for Europe