Avanti unveils advisors
Cryptocurrencies,  People

‘A new type of bank’: Avanti Financial Group moves forward

With a trio of influential advisors and an oversubscribed angel funding round, the Wyoming-based financial group is vowing ‘to serve the digital asset industry by offering solutions that can only be provided in the U.S. by a regulated bank’

Wall Street veteran turned Wyoming Blockchain Coalition co-founder Caitlin Long’s fledgling digital asset-focused bank has enlisted a veteran cryptographer, an experienced regulator, and Fidelity Digital Assets’ lead blockchain architect.

Avanti Financial Group is Long’s return to the private sector after pushing Wyoming into becoming a leader in creating a strong and supportive legal infrastructure for blockchain businesses. 

Wyoming-based Avanti, which aims to build “a new type of bank” and serve as a bridge between digital assets and U.S. dollar payments systems, has hired three advisors as it pushes ahead with plans to open its doors by early 2021.

Three new faces

Avanti Financial Group has enlisted the help of Christopher Allen, Katie Cox, and Bob McElrath—joining a leadership team who were appointed back in March.

Avanti unveils advisors
Christopher Allen (Photo: LinkedIn)

The company described Allen as a “pioneer in internet cryptography.” He co-authored the TLS security standard, a cryptographic protocol used to secure most of the internet’s traffic. As well as founding the nonprofit organization Blockchain Commons, he previously served as a principal architect at the infrastructure provider Blockstream.

Avanti’s announcement said: “Christopher’s recent emphasis has been on engines of trust such as blockchain, smart contracts, and smart signatures, in particular decentralized self-sovereign identity.”

He is joined by Katie Cox, who has over 30 years of bank regulatory experience. She spent 10 years on the board of governors at the Federal Reserve, overseeing its mergers and acquisitions section.

The final member of the trio, Bob McElrath, recently served as Fidelity Digital Assets’ lead blockchain architect—a role in which he was responsible for building a “secure, regulatory-compliant platform for custody of Bitcoin and related services.”

‘Forward’

“Avanti” is the Italian word for “forward”—and the company has been taking significant strides as it vies to offer a fully compliant custodian service. The business was first unveiled in February—and at the time, vowed to “to serve the digital asset industry by offering solutions that can only be provided in the U.S. by a regulated bank.” Avanti, which has a strategic technology partnership with Blockstream, said it wants to stop the U.S. “from falling behind other countries whose regulated banks are already serving institutions in this rapidly growing market.”

Avanti unveils advisors
Katie Cox (Photo: LinkedIn)

Wall Street veteran Long, Avanti’s CEO, has been an influential voice on blockchain and digital asset regulation, speaking frequently at industry events. She ranked No. 34 on Modern Consensus’ inaugural list of the 100 most influential people in crypto in 2019. 

“Many new potential institutional users of digital assets either must deal with a U.S. regulated bank—or for many reasons prefer to do so—and once such a bank exists, these institutions can finally gain confidence to enter the rapidly growing market,” Long said, explaining Avanti’s goal.

A veteran of the Wall Street pension solutions business, which she ran at Morgan Stanley for nine years. Long then jumped into fintech in 2016, after running Morgan Stanley’s pension solutions business for nine years. After years of interest in blockchain technology’s potential, she became chairman and president of enterprise blockchain firm Symbiont for two years.

Allen, Cox, and McElrath join Avanti’s leadership team, announced in March. Bitcoin Core developer Bryan Bishop was appointed as chief technology officer, with Wyoming banking executive Britney Reddy becoming chief financial officer. Zev Shimko, who previously headed corporate development at the crypto-backed lender SALT, was named Avanti’s chief operating officer. Finally, former Blockchain Consulting CEO Chuck Thompson secured the title of chief compliance officer.

Oversubscribed angel round

At the time, Long said: “We have assembled a team of all-stars who have significant experience in regulated financial institutions. We’re building a bridge that doesn’t yet exist between two different financial systems, and this team has top-quality execution skills to do it.”

Avanti unveils advisors
Bob McElrath (Photo: Perimeter Institute)

In June, Avanti announced it had closed its angel round of funding, enabling the company to continue with the process of applying for a bank charter. The University of Wyoming Foundation led the funding round, with Morgan Creek Digital and the Digital Currency Group among the other participants.

“Our round was significantly oversubscribed just from incoming inquiries alone, and I’m especially proud of the broad support Avanti received from Wyoming-based organizations and individuals,” Long added.

C Sephton is a journalist with an interest in cryptocurrencies, personal finance, and financial inclusion—as well as the challenges the crypto industry faces in achieving mainstream adoption. He owns cryptocurrencies.