Coinbase expands its European presence beyond the UK as Brexit looms

Key Points
  • Digital currency exchange Coinbase has opened a new office in Dublin as part of a contingency plan to continue to have access to the EU post-Brexit.
  • Zeeshan Feroz, Coinbase's U.K. boss, said the EU was the cryptocurrency firm's "most significant market outside the U.S."
  • The firm is currently hiring a number of customer support roles and a regulatory compliance position in the Irish capital.
Coinbase co-founder and CEO Brian Armstrong speaking at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2018.
Steve Jennings | Getty Images for TechCrunch

Coinbase has opened a new office in Dublin, the firm said Tuesday, as it looks to broaden its European reach.

The U.S. cryptocurrency exchange operator was founded in 2012 and used to have just one office in London to serve its European Union users.

As Britain edges closer toward an exit from the EU, Coinbase has chosen Ireland to host its second European base as part of a contingency plan to continue to have access to the bloc post-Brexit.

Zeeshan Feroz, the CEO of Coinbase U.K., said the expansion to Ireland's capital was about "looking for ways to better service our customers."

"The EU is our most significant market outside the U.S.," he told CNBC in a phone interview. Coinbase says the group of 28 — and soon to be 27 — countries was its fastest-growing market last year.

While it isn't moving resources away from the U.K. to prioritize Ireland, Coinbase's expansion echoes the sentiment among some big banks that are trying to increase their presence across Europe to offset the impact of Brexit.

"I think that played some part in the decision," Feroz said of uncertainty surrounding Brexit. He added that Ireland was a good fit for the firm, being an English-speaking country that is home to a diverse range of talent and a growing technology sector.

Coinbase is currently hiring a number of customer support roles and a regulatory compliance position in the Irish capital, according to a job listing page on its website.

Michael D'Arcy, minister of state at the department of finance in Ireland, said he was "delighted" the firm was opening an office in Dublin. "This decision highlights the competitive offering and attractiveness of Ireland for financial services," he said in a statement.

The London office is the company's headquarters for Europe, as well as other international operations beyond the U.S. With a presence in Tokyo as well, the Dublin facility will be the start-up's third office outside the U.S.

"Dublin is a talent hotspot for companies like Coinbase as they scale and internationalize critical businesses operations," Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland, the Irish state agency tasked with attracting overseas investment, said in a statement.

"We look forward to welcoming Coinbase into the Irish economy, and helping them access our talented pool of young professionals from the technology and financial services sectors."

The start-up saw a surge in users amid a rally in cryptocurrency prices late last year. In October 2017, it had 11.7 million users, representing an increase of almost 150 percent from the previous year. A month later, the firm acquired an additional 1.6 million users, lifting the total number of users to 13.3 million.

Coinbase Chief Executive Brian Armstrong said in August that the company was growing by 50,000 customers every day in 2017.

Earlier this month, Recode, citing unnamed sources, said the firm was looking to raise up to $500 million from Tiger Global and existing investors, in an investment that would value it at $8 billion. Feroz declined to comment on that report.

In December, bitcoin, the world's largest digital coin by market value, surged to a record high near $20,000. However, the prices of major virtual currencies, as well as trading volumes, have plunged following last year's surge.

Bitcoin has fallen almost 70 percent against the dollar since its all-time high, ether is off by 85 percent and XRP — a cryptocurrency promoted by blockchain firm Ripple — has shed nearly 90 percent, according to industry website CoinMarketCap.

Huge volatility in the cryptocurrency market has drawn the attention of governments, bankers and serious investors, and heightened concerns around the speculative nature of the market.

While Feroz said he doesn't comment on market speculation, he said it is a "young industry still finding its feet."