Matthew Chamberlain, who has led the London Metal Exchange since 2017, is stepping down. His next job will be startup Komainu, a digital asset custody company backed by Nomura and billionaire hedge fund manager Alan Howard, which on Friday named Chamberlain as its new chief executive.
Many bank and fund managers are interested in learning how to trade cryptocurrencies, but they don't like the responsibility of keeping their own digital assets safe.
Companies like Komainu promise to store Bitcoin, Ether and other cryptocurrencies on behalf of their owners. Named after the stone idols that guard the entrance to Shinto shrines, the startup was founded in 2018 as a joint venture between Nomura, blockchain company Ledger and crypto investor CoinShares.
Explaining his decision to switch commodities to cryptocurrencies, Chamberlain said he strongly believes in the transformative power of a blockchain-based world.
But such technologies only reach their true potential when there is a robust infrastructure that makes them easily and securely available to all those who wish to participate in this unprecedented financial democratization," he said.
While working on the London Metal Exchange in 2012, Chamberlain rose to prominence after reforming a complex warehousing system that all investors berated, complaining about long queues to access purchased metals.
Five years later, he was appointed chief executive of the exchange, becoming the youngest head of the LME in its history.
He was largely successful in trying to modernize a 145-year-old stock exchange known for its open-air trading floor, where traders use shouts and hand movements to fill individual orders for industrial metals such as copper, nickel, lead and zinc.
He also launched the Responsible Sourcing Initiative, and under his leadership, the exchange banned on-floor traders and their support staff from drinking alcohol during business hours.
However, activity on the LME remained subdued, with volumes declining for the third year in a row in 2021, despite the fact that the index of six major metals rose by more than 30% by the end of the year, the highest since 2009.
Chamberlain was never able to permanently close the rare LME Ring trading floor and remove the famous red sofas from the stock exchange building after brokers and industrial traders put up a worthy resistance to the transition to a fully electronic market.
After overcoming the pandemic, Chamberlain, a Cambridge computer science graduate, decided it was time to move on and take on a new challenge.