You are a co-founder of Sygnum, Switzerland's first crypto bank. Why are so many women into crypto? Men have a very hard time with it.
(Laughs.) In the background, men are definitely active and mining ("making digital coins", editor's note) ... You see, I get your format. But seriously, the crypto world is sometimes misunderstood. I think it's more balanced than people think.
Only seven percent of women own cryptocurrencies.
Anyway, we have a lot of female clients, especially from wealthy families and their investment companies. Women have also invested in Sygnum themselves. They are just as interested and invested as our male clients.
So you want to dispute these low numbers from CNBC?
No. It's clearly the case that many more men attend crypto meetings and conferences and are on stage. Crypto is still considered "nerdy" and "techy." And there are still few women in the tech world, unfortunately.
But maybe the scene is just too hostile to men?
What do you mean?
I'm sure you've also been accused by a crypto-influencer on YouTube of sleeping your way up (happened to the interviewer)?
No, that has never happened to me. But I get what you're referring to. Of course this is a no-go. I don't even think about things like that. It's so absurd.
So this interview is the first time you've thought about it?
Yes, I have never been confronted with such questions. At Sygnum, the gender crypto gap is not an issue. For example, we have 40 percent women on the team.
But not on the executive board, where there is only one woman among the ten members.
You're right about that, and I would be happy if it was five out of ten. I invite all crypto-interested and ambitious women to take a look at Sygnum and apply if they are interested. It is important to us to attract the best people for the position.
So it is to elleXX. Women and men are equally intelligent on average, so we want 50:50 in management as well.
Yes, that's true. I think our industry seems too technical and there are many unconscious biases. These roles and jobs may seem less attractive to many women.
Or the bro culture is to blame ...
We are as far from a bro culture as you can get.
You own a crypto bank. FTX, a crypto exchange, just went down with a vengeance.* Was that just the beginning, or is there more to come?
We're still in the middle of the cascade. The bigger dominoes have probably fallen for now. But we will feel the effects at least until the first quarter of 2023.* More funds will stumble and exchanges will go bust.
The mismanagement at FTX was big. Do you know how many people you have working for you and what your cash flow is?
I'm doing my best. Seriously, I know that to a tee. I also know how many contractors we have...
We have 220 people in Switzerland, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and at least virtually in the Metaverse. We generate several million francs in revenue each month and have over two billion francs in assets under management. With new inflows, we have more than compensated for the decline in value of digital currencies. In November alone, there were over 550 million francs of new money inflows.
But let's be honest: Are you already releasing expenditure with emojis (that's what happened with FTX)?
(Laughs out loud.) No, we're less creative than FTX in that respect. We have a boring spending policy and a boring, very strict chief financial officer.
So you don't celebrate your successes with strippers, escort boys and drugs?
Rest assured, we are very down-to-earth Swiss. We might have a toast, even sometimes non-alcoholic, and play ping-pong tournaments.
Women receive 98 percent of the start-up capital. How were you able to get money and finance yourselves in the first place? You've always raised an insane amount of funding.
(Looks puzzled, takes a deep breath.) Whew, is it really the case that female founders receive 98 percent less money?
There's probably a lot that happens unconsciously. Most of the investment heads of the funds are men and probably feel more attracted to the business ideas of male founders. I used to be a venture capitalist for the large Indian entrepreneur Ratan Tata. But I was also able to invest in many female founders.
I see. Would FTXX have gone bankrupt, too?
How about now? XX? So if women had run the stock exchange?
After the financial crisis, the consensus was that Lehman Sisters would not have happened. More women at the top level correlate with better risk management.
Clearly, it doesn't happen to good teams with good intentions. But in my opinion, it could have happened to a female-led crypto exchange. It doesn't help the women's movement if women are generally viewed as more moral.
How have you personally weathered the crypto winter? After all, prices have currently plummeted by up to 90 percent ...
For me, these fluctuations are normal. I have already experienced several "crypto cycles" and always try to stay grounded - both in the hype and in the crisis. It's way too emotionally charged, fueled by media and especially Twitter. I stay relaxed and focus on the long-term vision.
Men, after all, are leading the climate movement and are very environmentally conscious. How do you deal with this crypto energy waste?
This issue is important. The extraction of Bitcoin is clearly energy consuming. So in our Bitcoin lending business, we only work with miners who use renewable energy. And Ethereum, the second largest cryptocurrency, achieved energy savings of 99.9 percent a few months ago. So it's not a general blockchain problem.
But Bitcoin is still the number one traded cryptocurrency in the world.
The market is still about 35 to 40 percent Bitcoins. However, in Sygnum, Ethereum's share is higher than Bitcoin's.
Do you really have a PhD?
Really awesome. Chapeau. And nothing copied and pasted together?
(Slightly unnerved.) No, I analyzed within the Indian Tata Group how the composition of the top management teams affects the internationalization strategy. To this day, I'm a big fan of India.
Aha - a diversity doctoral thesis, then.
(Smiles.) Something like that.
I bet you have a kids' corner in your CEO office, since you're a young father?
No, I don't have a kids' corner. My daughter is only eleven months old. She's not in the office. My partner and I both work. We have found a good setup for us and enjoy being parents.
What soft skills do you teach your daughter?
I try all kinds of things, but she just doesn't respond yet...I want to teach her self-confidence and independent thinking above all. I want her to have courage. That she says when she sees something differently - even if everyone else says the opposite.
But what I've been asking myself all along is this: Given your looks, why did you decide to start a business in the first place? Why not a Mister Switzerland career?
Are you really confronted with such questions as a woman? I have always done what I enjoyed doing. I am rather introverted. As you know, I'm doing this interview mainly for your sake.
Is that a threat? It's not over yet. You're 40, do you actually cover up your real age?
I'll leave that to your imagination.
Does it bother you when you are called a wilted flower in comments, already since you are 35?
I know that women are confronted with such issues. I am sorry about that. Men have to take a hit too. Let us condemn and dismiss it while continuing to work constructively and collaboratively.
That's why we have the elleXX "Ask Men" rubric, so you can practice taking a hit, too. It was my pleasure.
*Interview was first published on December 16th 2022