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Crypto and Wall Street “don’t speak the same language”

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Crypto and Wall Street “don’t speak the same language”
  • Dozens of once-high-flying crypto firms have suspended hiring entirely and laid off large chunks of employees in recent months
  • Eskow has nonetheless managed to land a number of notable hires

The past few months have not been kind to job seekers looking to get into crypto.

Rounds of layoffs – including blue-chip companies from Coinbase at BlockFi at Genesis — induced by the dual collapse of Terra stablecoin UST and the digital asset lending market have become the norm. Would-be Web3 jumpers from cushy traditional finance seats suddenly found fundamental equity valuations and the rating of mezzanine debt tranches much more attractive. And stable.

But a growing number of wealthy opportunistic playersby Sam Bankman-Fried of crypto exchange FTX at powers of hedge funds, including Steve Cohen of Point72 Asset Management, have recruited high-level talent in spades.

Dan Eskow of his New York-based recruiting firm Up Top Search has recently made a number of high profile placements, adjusting a business model honed in the halls of Wall Street to the new realities of crypto. Change starts, Eskow told Blockworks, with “setting realistic expectations,” especially when “there is now a level of competition that this industry has never seen.”

Eskow, who previously created his own quantitative headhunting division at another store, which he spun off into Up Top Search in August 2021, said he had to hone his soft skills and learn to trade language quantitative against the nuances of crypto jargon.

The veteran headhunter, who has gone “all-in” on crypto, spoke to Blockworks about resisting the highs and lows of two very different cycles — including the inherent challenges of “building in a bear.”

Blockages: We have reached an inflection point in crypto, following the Terra debacle on the heels of the Celsius and Voyager bankruptcies and corresponding bailouts. There have been a lot of layoffs. A lot of news is sad. What does it take at this point in crypto history to get hired? And how do you approach that from a headhunter’s perspective? And how did it go from a bull market where everything is good?

Eskow: When talking to candidates, the most important thing, in my opinion, is to set realistic expectations. Because my goal is not just to get them hired immediately, but to build a relationship that they will trust me with when it comes to hiring for the rest of their careers. So, it starts with setting realistic expectations in this market and not overly promising. And the reality is that the layoffs and the stock market crash have affected different skill sets in different ways.

I’ve seen the greatest influx into the market of layoffs on the institutional sales and business development side. So it seems the easiest people to fire for these companies were sales, marketing, and partnerships. And there are still sales opportunities and [business development] opportunities, in terms of hiring, but it has become extremely competitive.

So I always lead with the truth. And what does it take to get hired? Across all skill sets right now, everyone is very cautious about hiring. So interviews are still happening, much like they were before, but right now they’re looking for 10 out of 10 matches.

Unless you’re that person, most likely they won’t hire you. But building those relationships is certainly important. Clients, hiring companies, see this too – that it is important to build relationships with candidates for future hires.

Blockages: There was once a strong argument that fledgling crypto firms needed Wall Street talent to be taken seriously by skeptical potential institutional investors. But crypto natives are landing big checks from traditional finance (TradFi). What are people looking for on this spectrum? Macro-wise, how has this evolved over time?

Eskow: It’s an interesting question.

These times have led to an interesting crossroads between TradFi and crypto natives, where you have in TradFi stable organizations that can take advantage of all the crypto native talent that comes to market and use that to figure out how to create a larger footprint in space.

Crypto natives recognize – what they have learned – that they also need to be more aligned with the institutional guys.

We see that line getting very gray right now. These two types of people are so different that I think they have a lot of trouble communicating with each other. And, if there’s one major positive that’s come out of this crash, it’s that it’s kind of forcing institutional and crypto natives to come together and work together, in a way. And I hope that this cultural barrier will be lowered a little.

But right now I see this major communication barrier, almost like they don’t speak the same language at all.

Blockages: How do you solve this?

Eskow: The way to solve this problem is through relationships. The main driver of this problem is the ego.

And the only thing that could convince someone to let go of their ego and open up to the other side is to meet someone on the other side. That’s all that will make you change your mind. So, we will have to communicate. That’s it.

Well, relationships, not just communication, but actually real relationships, because there has to be trust. Each side has such different views on things. And they don’t want – it’s not natural for them – to want to trust each other. And that just creates a gap where they really can’t accomplish anything together. And that’s what we need to see improve.

Blockages: Is it a good time to quit your cozy seven-figure job on Wall Street for crypto?

Eskow: Absolutely not. No no no.

You are not one to enter a bear market. Almost no one is. You are not.

I’m building in a fucking bear market. I’m building in a bear market, but if you had a comfortable seven-figure job on The Street and you were passionate about it, you would have been here already.

If you haven’t bought 1000% and are still clinging to your traditional work, I think this is the time to stick with it.


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  • Chief Editor

    Michael Bodley is a New York-based editor for Blockworks, where he focuses on the intersection of Wall Street and digital assets. He previously worked for the institutional investor newsletter Hedge Fund Alert. His work has appeared in The Boston Globe, NBC News, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Washington Post. Contact Michael by email at [email protected]

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