Sebastian Widmann's career is going pretty well. Last time we wrote about him, in May 2021, Widmann was a VP at Nomura in London. Now, he's head of strategy for Komainu, a digital asset custody solution that's part-owned by Nomura and is embarking upon a significant expansion.
"We currently have 25 people and are looking to hire around 75 people in a phased expansion," says Widmann. Komainu is headquartered in London and Jersey, but he says the new hires are likely to be in dispersed across APAC, Europe and the U.S..
Some of Komainu's recruits will be developers, but not all: "We're a service business, not a technology business," adds Widmann. "We will also be hiring across compliance, legal, product, strategy and sales."
Widmann himself comes from a Trad-Fi background, although his time there wasn't very trad. "I joined Nomura's graduate scheme in 2017 and initially joined the traditional rotations," he says. "But then Nomura were setting up a new client ecosystem team with a mandate to leverage third party fintech tools for the digital transformation of the front office, and I went to work there."
As a student at UCL, Widmann wrote a thesis on distributed ledger technology in banks. When Nomura hired ex-NatWest Markets trader Jez Mohideen as its global digital officer in 2018, Widmann asked Mohideen if he could join his team. He became the first member of Nomura's digital assets group.
Komainu was conceived that same year as Nomura's own digital assets custodian in partnership with Ledger, a security and infrastructure provider for cryptocurrencies, and with Global Advisors, a bitcoin-specialist investment manager. It spun out in September 2021.
"We're trying to become the one-stop shop for institutions that want to move into the crypto market," says Widmann. Activities like crypto staking mean that crypto custody is more complicated than standard custody, Widmann adds; regulated institutions need a trusted provider to help navigate this.
Many of the people interested in crypto jobs come from traditional finance backgrounds, and Widmann says this is fine. "It's difficult to have real experience of digital assets custody, and we are working with institutional clients, so finance experience is relevant." Crypto is still a big growth area, says Widmann: "Less than 1% of the total addressable market has moved into this asset class."
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