Blythe Masters, Wall Street's best-known blockchain cheerleader, resigns from Digital Asset Holdings

Key Points
  • The former J.P. Morgan executive joined Digital Asset Holdings in 2015 and helped bring much-needed credibility to the industry.
  • Masters is stepping down as CEO, but will remain a board member, strategic advisor and a shareholder.
  • Her exit coincides with the an ugly year for cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin itself is down 72 percent year to date.
Blythe Masters
Joe Amon | The Denver Post | Getty Images

Blythe Masters, the first and most notable Wall Street banker to go blockchain, is stepping down as CEO of the technology start-up Digital Asset Holdings.

Masters joined the blockchain company as CEO in 2015, bringing credibility to what at the time was an almost unheard of emerging technology. She is stepping down for person reasons, the company said in a statement, but will remain involved as a board member, strategic advisor and shareholder.

The bitcoin mania of 2017 also brought attention to its underlying technology, blockchain. Masters and other Wall Street executives have praised the technology and its disruptive potential, and companies from Amazon to J. P. Morgan are exploring how to use it in their own lines of business. But most have stayed away from embracing cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin itself has tumbled more than 80 percent from its high near $20,000 last December, and was trading near $3,826 on Wednesday.

Masters spent roughly two decades on Wall Street, most recently at J.P. Morgan as head of global commodities. She was a key pioneer behind the credit-default swap, a derivative designed for risk management that later took heat for being a toxic contributor to the 2008 financial crisis.

In moving to blockchain, she was also a pioneer. Former Uber executive AG Gangadhar, who joined Digital Asset's board in April, was recently appointed as chairman and will serve as acting CEO while the firm searches for a new looks for a new leader.

"Digital Asset has evolved from an ambitious idea to a truly global software engineering firm," Masters said in a statement. "We are fortunate to have a deep bench of accomplished executives on the management team and Board, including AG, who have the requisite experience to take the company to the next level."

Digital Asset Holdings has raised $107 million to date from venture investors including Goldman Sachs Principal Strategic Investments, Citigroup, CME Ventures and DRW, according to data from Pitchbook.