Crypto firms fight for top talent with hundreds of job openings

Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, is advertising for some 370 positions globally.
Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, is advertising for some 370 positions globally.PHOTO: BUSINESS TIMES

SINGAPORE (BLOOMBERG) - Booming cryptocurrency firms say they are struggling to find the right candidates to fill hundreds of positions as a frenzy of interest in digital currencies and other assets pits them against some of the world's biggest financial institutions.

Despite a rout in May, cryptocurrencies' total market value is up 400 per cent over the past year to about US$1.4 trillion (S$1.88 trillion), and traditional financial firms such as Goldman Sachs Group, Bank of New York Mellon and DBS Group Holdings are starting to offer services and trading. Meanwhile, the likes of CME Group are expanding crypto derivatives offerings - all of which is helping the asset class to mature.

That is leaving fewer candidates for crypto firms who need dozens or hundreds of new workers to expand their business.

Binance, the world's largest crypto exchange, is advertising for some 370 positions globally, according to its LinkedIn recruitment portal. New York-based Gemini plans to boost its Singapore headcount to 50 from 30 by December. Hong Kong-based Crypto.com currently lists more than 200 openings, with over half of them based in Asia.

"We are hiring aggressively," Binance chief executive officer Changpeng "CZ" Zhao said by e-mail. "We see the industry growing exponentially on a year-to-year basis, and we need to scale our team to cope with it." He added, "We are a geo-equal-opportunity employer. We don't mind where people are, as long as they produce results."

Hundreds of applicants

For potential candidates, interest in crypto jobs has risen by about five to 10 times in the past nine months, according to Mr Neil Dundon, the founder of recruitment agency Crypto Recruit. A single job posting can attract hundreds of applicants, he said.

Despite the boom, finding candidates with relevant experience can be difficult, meaning that some companies are lowering their expectations or changing job criteria.

"In terms of length of experience, one or two years is good enough these days," said Mr Dundon. "The skills shortage is so bad at the moment that companies are casting a wider net."

Both Gemini's Asia-Pacific head Jeremy Ng and Crypto.com's director of talent acquisition, Tom Lau, agree that experience is a major challenge.

"If you want to find someone with strong crypto knowledge, that wouldn't be easy to come by," said Mr Ng, an alumnus of Goldman Sachs Group and Deutsche Bank.

Gemini is considering expanding into markets such as Hong Kong and Australia over the next 12 months and is offering benefits including unlimited vacation and a profit-sharing programme to attract talent globally, Mr Ng said.

Mr Ng and Binance's Mr Zhao like candidates with expertise in banking and fintech because such skills can be transferred to a new position.

"Developers and customer support are the two larger teams in our organisation, and typically have the highest demand from a recruiting perspective," Mr Zhao said. "Luckily, these are the same skill sets used by large Internet companies. We see a lot of interest from people in Internet companies and other crypto projects."

Remote roles

Mr Bobby Ong, the co-founder and chief operating officer of crypto-data firm CoinGecko.com, said recently on Twitter that it is getting increasingly hard to find the right people in Malaysia. The firm made internal adjustments and is now offering some roles that can be fully remote anywhere around the globe, he said.

Despite the rush, some job offers may fall through if the prospective employee decides the leap to crypto is not worth it. Some compensation packages include a token component - and deals may have to be renegotiated particularly if the token price plunges during the hiring process, Mr Dundon said.

Still, Crypto.com's Mr Lau, who claims that its pay packages are better than those at banks, does not expect the crypto hiring boom to die down anytime soon.

"We are competing with companies like investment banks or major technology companies, so we have to pay on a par or a premium," he said. "This is going to make the market even hotter."