‘Crypto Deserves a Good Bank’ — Investor Santos Says He’s Building It

Is there a better way to gauge public sentiment these days than by Twitter poll? It seems to work pretty well for Elon Musk, anyway.

In a recent tweet, seed investor Santiago R. Santos pitched investment possibilities to followers, asking what he should build in order to “have the most impact” in the crypto industry. The preferred choice won by a landslide.

The large majority — 77% of the more than 2,000 votes — were in support of building a new “crypto-friendly bank.”

I have a growing desire to build something in crypto beyond investing my own capital and education thru the Empire podcast. I have a few ideas and thought it would be good to open source the process of what I do next by gathering external input. This is the commencement of that…

— Santiago R Santos | #9159 (@santiagoroel) May 30, 2023

The recent collapses of Silicon Valley Bank, Signature and Silvergate, the most prominent crypto-friendly banks in America, left a vacuum in the space for industry clients. Santos spoke to Blockworks on the Empire podcast about his plans to fill the void.

Santos prefaces the conversation by confiding he’s not “a good builder,” but is a “better investor.” He chuckles as he says this is “probably the worst time” to start up a crypto-friendly bank, “given everything that’s going on.”

“Every small bank is collapsing.”

“It’s really hard,” he says, “specifically if you want to do crypto stuff — Signature’s down, Silvergate’s down,” along with a number of traditional banks.

Rebuilding something that actually works

But Santos says when he looks at the current precarious situation, he is inspired to build.

The investor admits that he has no interest in directly running a bank. “There are smarter, more competent people to do that,” he says. His role would be to assemble a team and guide it with everything that he’s lived through “over the years in crypto” and from his experiences in traditional finance.

“Someone’s gonna pick up the ashes and rebuild something that actually works.”

Asked whether he’s envisioning a business or consumer-focused banking service, Santos replies that he imagines building “an everything bank,” servicing individuals who are on and off-boarding from crypto, as well as businesses and institutions.

“This is a huge, Herculean effort,” he says. “It might not work.”

Santos says he would likely start the venture in Europe. He understands “how banks operate” on the continent, “whether it’s in the UK, France, or Switzerland.” The recently established MiCA framework opens up more possibilities, he says.

JP Morgan quality

Podcast host Jason Yanowitz pauses and asks Santos, “How serious are you about this?”

He replies, “Pretty serious. I’ve been in ongoing discussions for the last three months.”

Santos says he would hire executives from both crypto and traditional capital markets to run the show. “If Jamie Dimon doesn’t run for President of the United States,” Yanowitz smiles, “maybe go talk to him.”

Santos laughs, replying “someone like that, plus also someone in the regulatory policy side that really understands crypto.”

The key to moving forward, Santos says, is to get a banking license, “and part of getting the license is having a good team.”

Yanowitz suggests buying a license from a distressed business as a shortcut, but Santos promptly shuts down the idea. “I want a clean slate and to make this splash because I’ve hired the top executives and a serious team.”

“I want JP Morgan quality,” he says, adding that he wants to build with “high quality, talented individuals” to dominate the market, starting in Europe and building out from there.

“Crypto deserves a good bank and a serious team.”



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