These are the skills you need to land a job in crypto trading and investing, according to 7 insiders from firms like Grayscale and Galaxy Digital
- Crypto trading firms are hiring at a fast clip, and they’re not only looking for candidates with finance backgrounds.
- Insider spoke with seven execs at firms like Grayscale, TD Ameritrade, and Galaxy to understand what they are looking for.
- Sunayna Tuteja, head of digital assets at TD Ameritrade, said candidates should be “relentless” and hone their quant skills.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
There are a wealth of job opportunities in the world of trading cryptocurrency.
Indeed, dealing in the emerging asset class provides a host of employment opportunities for both finance industry veterans and newcomers alike, insiders say. It’s little wonder why it’s been attracting increasing attention of late: Cryptocurrencies have been on a wild ride.
The price of Bitcoin, the most widely traded cryptocurrency, surpassed the $40,000 in early January, before losing a bit of its heat as the month unfolded. However, Bitcoin surged past $44,000 on Monday morning after Tesla disclosed in a regulatory filing it invested $1.5 billion into the cryptocurrency and will accept it as payment.
Mainstream investors interest is on the rise as well. BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, recently authorized two of its funds to invest in bitcoin futures, according to SEC filings.
And while Bitcoin has the largest market cap of any digital currency, other coins have also gained popularity among traditional players. The CME Group plans to roll out futures contracts this year tied to Ethereum, the industry’s second largest coin by market cap.
As a result, general interest for jobs in trading crypto remains high from those betting that they’ll find lucrative career prospects by pursuing a role working with currencies of the future.
And crypto jobs aren’t just for Bitcoin miners with whiz computing skills. Insiders at companies like Grayscale Investments and Galaxy Digital say that the cryptocurrency industry is looking for people with good judgment and the ability to assess and manage risk. Ultimately, it’s an industry seeking people with a collection of diverse backgrounds and perspectives.
See more: Cryptocurrency salaries revealed: From $60,000 to $400,000, here’s how much you could earn working in cryptocurrency
It’s also an industry that has become all the more lucrative as cryptocurrencies have grown in stature and price. Insider previously reported roles in cryptocurrency, either at startups or established firms, can pay as high as $400,000, according to an analysis of data from the US Office of Foreign Labor Certification.
Here’s the especially good news: They’re hiring.
Companies told Insider that they’re increasing their headcounts, with Grayscale saying it plans to double its workforce in 2021, and Galaxy noting that it will hire its first-ever analyst class starting later this year, creating 10 available positions. Firms are looking to recruit for roles in areas that range from sales and trading to engineering and marketing.
The bottom line is that landing a job in cryptocurrency has never looked quite so appealing. We asked seven industry insiders from top firms to spell out the job prep and interview tips you need to know to stand out from the crowd.
Grayscale's Michael Sonnenshein said candidates need to be ready to test their "curiosity" and "confidence" in cryptocurrencies.
Grayscale Investments, the world’s largest digital currency asset manager, began 2020 with $2 billion in assets under management and ended it with $20 billion in AUM, a remarkable increase and a testament to the surge in the price of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin this year.
Michael Sonnenshein, Grayscale’s CEO, said the firm doubled the size of its team in 2020 and is planning on doing the same in 2021.
Grayscale serves institutional investors, family offices, and some private investors, offering access to cryptocurrency markets via multiple different funds.
But Sonnenshein, who joined the firm in 2014 after working at Barclays and JPMorgan, said that the development of cryptocurrencies is still in its early phase. Job seekers have to be curious and comfortable with risk. An open mind and adaptability are also key requirements that the firm looks for when recruiting new employees given the pace of change in the world of digital currencies.
“People need to be kind of testing their own curiosity as well as their confidence in digital currencies as a whole. It is early days for the development of this asset class and we’re exceedingly excited about its prospects that ultimately are where we think it can go,” Sonnenshein said.
See more: The world’s largest digital currency asset manager took in $1 billion in new investment in the third quarter. Here’s why investors are feeling so bullish about bitcoin and ethereum.
Grayscale, based in New York, is one part of Barry Silbert’s Digital Currency Group. DCG investments in the space include digital-currency exchange Coinbase and crypto news site Coindesk.
The firm is currently actively recruiting for roles in digital marketing and social media, according to Linkedin.
Employees at the asset manager are “a tight-knit group,” Sonnenshein said. When interviewing, Grayscale prioritizes assessing how a candidate’s personality meshes with that of the broader team. But job-seekers can also expect to complete case studies that reveal how they might approach solving the problems they’d face in a crypto-focused role.
Sonnenshein said that the goal of the case studies is to “see how someone thinks versus whether product is right or wrong. It’s more what their process is and trying to understand how they approach and kind of tackle problems.”
Galaxy Digital's Veronica Baird said that candidates shouldn't be afraid to embrace their non-traditional backgrounds.
Galaxy Digital, founded and run by former Fortress partner and president Mike Novogratz, is an investment management firm that deals in an array of crypto- and blockchain-related offerings. The company has four key business lines including trading, asset management, investment banking, and principal investments.
Galaxy aims to position itself as “the bridge between the institutional and the crypto world,” Veronica Baird, the firm’s director of human resources, told Insider.
That means that the firm is comfortable hiring and promoting talent who have both prior cryptocurrency experience or experience from different financial services sectors, she said.
“We’ve had interns and analysts who have fallen in love with crypto and have decided to forego the traditional four-year college program and just get right into hands-on work experience and learn as much as they can about this field,” she said. “There’s room for people who have that traditional background … and also that non-traditional background.”
Getting hired at Galaxy also doesn’t depend on studying engineering, computer science, or math in college — or even going to college at all.
Candidates can thrive at Galaxy even if they come from non-traditional backgrounds, she explained.
“Sometimes one of our businesses might be looking for someone who didn’t necessarily go to college, or didn’t necessarily major in one of the majors that you would traditionally think would fit into a financial institution,” Baird said.
As far as hard skills to show off, some crypto roles in industries like investment-banking or asset management might benefit from strong proficiency with tools like PowerPoint or Excel, Baird said, but other positions in areas like cryptocurrency mining require their own unique set of knowledge.
“There’s opportunities to do things that don’t have you tied to an Excel spreadsheet or financial modeling or putting together a presentation,” she said.
The firm told Insider that it grew from 80 to a total 115 full-time employees in 2020 through its acquisitions of Draw Bridge Lending, a lender that issues loans secured by cryptocurrency, and Blue Fire Capital, a crypto-focused trading firm.
Going forward, Galaxy expects the growth to continue by an additional 40%, with primary areas including client-facing personnel in its sales, advisory, and asset management businesses, a Galaxy spokesperson said. What’s more, the firm is planning to bring on its first analyst class with 10 full-time analyst positions.
Genesis Capital's Leon Marshall recommended that job seekers think about how their own skill sets fit into the broader crypto marketplace.
Leon Marshall, the head of Genesis Capital’s global institutional sales desk, told Insider he was drawn to the crypto world in 2017 while he was an MBA student at London Business School during the run-up in Bitcoin that saw the digital currency’s price rise to nearly $20,000.
Genesis Capital, which is also backed by Digital Currency Group, allows institutions to borrow digital currencies for market-making, hedging, or speculation. Marshall said the firm is actively hiring for roles from sales and trading to marketing and engineering.
Marshall began his career at UBS before moving on to portfolio management roles at commodities trading firm Trafigura and Apollo Global Management.
He said his experience has taught him that there are “skills that I can teach and skills that I can’t teach” when assessing candidates applying to positions at Genesis. Market structure, aspects of trading, and the terminology of the crypto world all can be developed, he said, but work ethic, integrity, and passion for digital currencies can’t.
Marshall also said that candidates thinking of entering the institutional space for digital currencies should first assess the market and its characteristics. This includes learning about major players and market size, and understanding new products and potential regulatory challenges coming down the road.
“Once you figure out where your skill set fits in, and once you actually understand the space that you want to move into, then I think you just do a ton of networking,” Marshall said of landing a job in the industry.
LinkedIn might be the preferred networking site in traditional finance, Marshall said. But for crypto, Twitter, Telegram, and Discord are also useful networking tools for jobs.
One way to stand out, according to Marshall, is to be proactive about entering the crypto world even before you begin applying to jobs.
“Volunteer for a company for free or write a Medium post or set up a society in your university, take some initiative. So that when you’re doing that networking, when you get that interview, you can point to something unique,” Marshall said.
Marshall also said he still remembers the advice provided by a mentor when he was first getting into digital currencies. It’s a lesson he thinks candidates can take to heart as well.
“Don’t think about where you are now, but think about where the space is going five years by this time and position yourself for that.”
Polychain's Aurora Harshner said young applicants can participate in hackathons and online forum discussions to increase their chances of landing a job.
Polychain Capital is a crypto venture and hedge fund set up to support and invest in blockchain startups. Backed by venture capital firms like Sequoia Capital and Andreessen Horowitz, Polychain has 37 staffers total, nine of which were hired in 2020.
Aurora Harshner, the firm’s head of talent, explained that you don’t need a four-year degree to land a job at Polychain. In fact, recruiters have successfully found quite a few high-quality candidates who dropped out of college — and even high school — for full-time positions at the firm, she said.
Applicants without a four-year degree often completed open-source work in the blockchain and crypto space, she said. For example, successful candidates participated and won several hackathons, and they’re active in online discussions and forums for this kind of work, the talent head added.
“You don’t need a college degree to do this,” Harshner said. “You can do this at any age, frankly. Crypto as an industry just attracts a very innovative group of people, and young people have the access to learn and grow in these areas.”
In some cases, Polychain’s recruiters would ask candidates to write a four-page reflection of different projects they’re excited about and why.
See more: Andreessen Horowitz is backing a crypto-powered ‘internet computer’ that could be the future of cloud computing
And that’s one of the reasons why good writing skills can help you stand out among the applicant pool, Niraj Pant, a general partner for the investment team at Polychain, told Insider.
Pant dropped out of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2017 to become one of Polychain’s early employees. He thought the benefits of leaving school massively outweighed a college diploma, as he was already spending most his time studying cryptocurrencies and finding industry-related projects to work on.
Whether it be investment memos or partnership proposals, writing is something that the firm’s employees do a lot, he told Business Insider.
“It can show that you have a depth and clarity of thought when it comes to things that we look for in applicants,” the partner said. “It’s also a great way for someone to get deeper about why they’re excited about crypto.”
TD Ameritrade's Sunayna Tuteja advised job seekers to accentuate their qualitative skills.
Traditional brokerages involvement in crypto trading has been a slow build compared to their startup counterparts. And while TD Ameritrade doesn’t currently offering crypto trading, it has shown interest in the asset class, investing in crypto exchange ErisX.
Sunayna Tuteja, managing director and head of digital assets and distributed ledger technology (DLT) at TD Ameritrade, has spent six years working on the firm’s digital strategy.
Tuteja told Insider there’s a spot for everyone in crypto, regardless of their career background, because the industry is still in its building-out phase. Employers aren’t looking for “experts” because there are none, and she recommended that applicants focus on honing their qualitative skills instead.
“I can give you a lot of reading material and build up your learning curve around digital assets, but what I can’t teach you is that insatiable curiosity,” Tuteja said.
In November 2019, Charles Schwab announced plans to acquire TD Ameritrade in an all-stock deal valued at $26 billion at the time. The deal closed in October 2020.
In general, hiring managers are on the lookout for three candidate qualities better known as the 3R’s — relentlessness, resilience, and resourcefulness.
Whether you’re working a crypto job at a startup or a bigger company, you need a relentless attitude because there’s a lot of grit and grind that goes behind the scenes, Tuteja said.
While resilience speaks to your ability to overcome criticism and the trial-and-error nature of the industry, your resourcefulness is measured by how well you can work with a limited budget, team, or data, she added.
“You have to be somebody who can deliver a lot with very little,” Tuteja said. “And you have to be resourceful in order to put wins on the board.”
Cumberland's Brian Melville said candidates should be prepared to complete a quiz, project, or a coding problem during the interview.
Cumberland, a subsidiary of Chicago-based trading firm DRW, started dealing in crypto in 2014. The firm has grown into one of the largest liquidity providers for trading digital currencies.
Cumberland’s strategy director Brian Melville told Insider via email his prior finance job as an analyst at trading firm Susquehanna International Group served as a building block for his growth at Cumberland.
When it comes to hiring, Cumberland doesn’t require candidates to be experts, or to know much about crypto. In fact, the firm is looking for “self-starters” who are eager to learn and thrive in fast-paced environments.
Good sportsmanship and problem-solving skills also serve as key employee attributes at Cumberland, Melville said.
“The candidates that are most successful here are those who are curious and seek opportunities to really dive into a subject,” he wrote. “Those are skills that, in our experience, transcend specific disciplines.”
Throughout the application process, candidates should expect to go through several rounds of interviews in which they’d likely meet the company’s global head at least once, Melville added. After a general assessment with someone from HR, promising candidates would complete quizzes, projects, coding problems, or a review of their past work during interviews.
Current open positions on Cumberland’s website include roles in DevOps, research and software engineering.
“We’ve always had the approach of hiring the best candidate rather than just hiring for the sake of hiring,” Melville wrote. “This means that it may take us a bit longer than most to fill open roles, but we believe hiring the right people maximizes our chances of success in the long run.”
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