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They're a hot commodity, just not for banks

So you left finance for crypto... will they take you back?

It seems almost inevitable now that the crypto giant run by the Winklevoss twins, Genesis, will file for bankruptcy. Not only that, blockchain development fintech ConsenSys is reportedly cutting 11% of its workforce. It's safe to say this week hasn't been a stellar one for diehard crypto advocates.

Those in crypto with a bit less dedication might be feeling tentative urges to come back hat in hand to their former employers. However, while many people left traditional finance for crypto, far fewer have come back.

Take Gemini, for instance, Genesis' sister company. There are a number of engineers still at the firm that joined from Goldman Sachs, like senior engineer Izabela Litwin or lead engineer Neal Whittingdon. But there's only one engineer who left Goldman for Gemini and then returned to GS -  Frank Moskal left Goldman in 2021 for Gemini and returned last September. 

Vax Bahram, partner at headhunting firm Durlston Partners, says there are likely to be plenty more Moskals retreading their footsteps in 2023. "As the crypto winter rages on, even the most fervent crypto advocates are "likely to go back to TradFi for six months," says Bahram.

Will they be wanted? Bahram predicts they will, and not just at banks. Two Sigma has just hired Chris Meier, a former software engineer at Citadel and AQR whose year at Coinbase doesn't seem to have damaged his job prospects. In a measure of the similarities between crypto exchanges and electronic trading firms, Citadel Securities hired Mike Smith, the former head of talent at Genesis as its lateral recruiting lead in December. Paul Howard, a former director at both Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan joined BlockFi and has just gone to Standard Chartered to help establish Zodia Markets.

Bahram says crypto firms are full of desirable self-starters who excel in flat structures. Established firms want these kinds of people - or they think they do. 

Whether engineers, in particular, will want to come back is questionable, though. Crypto firms use popular languages like Rust, which tend to be less common in banks. The work they offer is often more interesting. "In crypto, systems are built from scratch and you don't spend 80% of your time fixing bugs," reflects Bahram. 

There's also another reason why crypto types might decide TradFi is their best option for a while. Like hedge funds, most crypto firms impose strict non-compete periods. Bahram says these don't always apply if you go back to your old TradFi role. At the very least, therefore, you could go back for six months and reappear when the crypto winter is (hopefully) over. 

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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