Ripple hires Bloomberg TV's Cory Johnson as chief market strategist

  • Johnson will be working closely with Ripple CFO Ron Will.
  • His job will be to explain the company Ripple and the currency XRP to investors.
  • Ripple sold $91.6 million worth of XRP in the fourth quarter.
Ripple Chief Market Strategist Cory Johnson
David Paul Morris
Ripple Chief Market Strategist Cory Johnson

Ripple, the payments start-up that holds billions of dollars worth of digital currency XRP, has hired a chief market strategist to tell its complex story to investors.

Bloomberg Television's Cory Johnson confirmed to CNBC that he left the news network this week and started at Ripple on Thursday. A former hedge fund manager, Johnson spent eight years at Bloomberg, primarily covering technology on TV and for Bloomberg Radio.

He joins Ripple during a volatile period for the six-year-old company. Ripple is the majority owner of XRP, a digital asset along the lines of bitcoin and ethereum. While the company's holdings are currently worth an astonishing $49 billion, the price of XRP has fluctuated wildly this year, reaching a high of $3.84 in January before falling all the way to 83 cents on Thursday.

Ripple's challenge is to simultaneously build a business selling blockchain-based payments software to financial institutions, while also promoting the use of XRP, which remains a nascent currency. Critics of Ripple claim that its value as a company is built on a digital asset that's yet to show much utility and has attracted investor money because of the mad rush into cryptocurrencies.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse has heard it all and has frequently spoken of the "FUD" (fear, uncertainty and doubt) surrounding the company and the currency. It will be Johnson's job to make it all a little less confusing.

"The role of Ripple as a company and XRP as a currency in financial markets, to regulators, financial institutions and investors could use more explaining," Johnson said. "I'm going to try and explain, listen and set strategies to make it easy for Wall Street and the world of finance to understand what we're doing."

Johnson, who has spent 20 years in the Bay Area and worked at numerous news organizations, including as a correspondent for CNBC, will be working closely with Ripple's CFO Ron Will.

He's joining a start-up that's in a unique cash position. Every month Ripple is selling a tiny fraction of the 55 billion XRP that it put into an escrow account. Those small sales brought in $91.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017, the company said in January.

Johnson declined to say if he's receiving any XRP as part of his compensation. He did say that he's looking forward to the challenge of educating the market on a new way of sending money for a banking industry that is notoriously slow to embrace change.

XRP has started to gain some adoption of late. MoneyGram announced earlier this year that it's testing Ripple's xRapid technology and XRP currency for cross-border payments, and shortly after that Ripple said IDC Corporation and Mercury FX will use xRapid "to settle remittances and corporate transactions quickly."

It's still early, and XRP needs far more traction to justify its market price.

"There's this thing that the company doesn't really control that needs to flourish for the company to flourish," Johnson said. "It's a really interesting symbiotic relationship."

Johnson said he'll be splitting his time between San Francisco and New York. He's only been at the company for a few hours but already had one observation about his new co-workers: "These people move a thousand miles a minute around the globe like their pants are on fire."