Benzinga, a media and data provider bridging the gap between retail and institutional investors, will be bringing back its annual Global Fintech Awards event to New York City on Dec. 8, 2022.
Ahead of this recognition of disruptive innovators in finance and technology, Benzinga will periodically publish articles on those brands that it thinks are making a measurable impact.
Today’s conversation is with Priya Suhag, head of the strategy at CrossTower, a Web3 and financial ecosystem. The following text was edited for clarity and concision.
Benzinga: Hey Priya, nice to speak with you. Tell me a little bit about yourself.
Priya Suhag: I started in private equity with KKR & Co Inc (NYSE: KKR) and then went to work for Ernst and Young, where I was a management consultant.
I was focused on very traditional asset managers, as well as product strategy and distribution for off-the-shelf products to high net worth clients.
Tell me about your foray into crypto.
In 2017 EY started a crypto campaign, and it turned into one of its most thriving businesses.
In working with them, I saw a lot of types of projects from a risk and regulatory perspective.
Eventually, I was approached by a smaller firm – Capco – and they basically wanted me to lead their practice. It was about 10,000 people strong and used to be owned by Fidelity National Information Services Inc (NYSE: FIS).
There, I led a team of 23 which then grew to 40. I was the only girl on the team. And we did everything digital asset. So, tokenization, as well as bond issuance over distributed ledger technologies (DLTs), for instance.
So, in the past few years, there has been more interest in crypto from the higher net worth individuals and institutions. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
At Capco, I was trying to help CrossTower ascertain its target operating model for lending.
CrossTower said I was expensive, and so, eventually, they brought me in-house, where I became the head of strategy.
We have four pillars of business – exchange, lending, asset management, and NFT – with our exchanges focused on institutional in the U.S. and retail in India.
We’ve acquired half a million customers after going live in September.
Tell me some of the things you’re focused on at CrossTower? Lending and asset management. What’s that all about?
After China booted out the miners, there’s been a gap. So, we’re going after miners in places like Texas, Wyoming, New York, and Pennsylvania. We basically provide them with asset-backed loans.
For the asset management business, we have algorithmic and artificial intelligence and machine learning trading models.
We have leveraged a proprietary Algo trading model designed by our portfolio managers such that we can capture upward and downward momentum and hedge that exposure.
What’s the biggest business you have at CrossTower?
Lending and asset management. They’re doing well.
However, we see the biggest opportunity in India, among retail, with NFTs. We’re a marketplace that’s uniquely positioned because we’re not giving everybody access to mint and just dropping their stuff. We’re selective in what we list, so we actually are one of the few people, maybe the only ones, that take anything from ideation to actualization.
It’s a white-glove service, and we offer an advisory arm that takes whatever you have and turns it into entire NFT projects that have a whole metaverse and token economics component.
We’re partnering with multiple blockchains and building a whole developer community, too.
What are you most excited about?
Metaverse and the huge lending component that exists with the collateralization of artifacts. For example, a lot of the art dealers like Christie’s and Sotheby’s want to collateralize the digital form of a Picasso, and they want to be able to take loans out against it.
NFTs are a gateway into these metaverses, and it remains unfazed for us. We’ve done about $16 billion in sales in 2022, and our compounded annual growth rate is, for Web3, 40.3%.
What are your thoughts on this pullback in markets?
When it comes to exchanges, you’ll see consolidation because many are not built for longevity. They aren’t built to stand the test of time from a regulatory process and control standpoint.
There’ll be some that survive. Those who survive will thrive.
In terms of VC, the money has slowed, too. In crypto, you need that money to build.
Who is on your team?
One of our co-founders actually created what is BATS Global Markets and is an ex-Nasdaq Inc (NASDAQ: NDAQ) guy. The other one is an ex-CFTC and Guggenheim person. So, we have the expertise in-house.
Any last remarks before we close?
The way people consume and why they consume is different.
Celebrity-based NFTs are highly sought after in India. That’s not the case in the U.S., where people want to support the artists at a grassroots level.
A huge play we’re starting to see is around NFTs, and MFTs (music fungible tokens) securitized to artists’ intellectual property, also.
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