"Leaving Goldman Sachs was hard but also a no-brainer"
Henry Howell has done it all: Goldman Sachs (MD), hedge funds (Eisler) and crypto (CEO). For a youthful English graduate in his early 40s, it's been a varied and illustrious career and one which he still professes to be "excited", despite the wobbles in the digital asset edifice.
Howell today is CEO of Skolem Technologies, a London-based decentralized trading platform for institutional customers. "Crypto is a lot of things," says Howell. "It's very fast moving, is made up of some very brilliant people. But it may equally have people who don't have the best intentions." Skolem is designed to reassure nervous institutional clients with concerns around best execution, back office integrations and compliance and risk considerations. "We're not creating blockchains; we're creating a platform for institutional customers to access and trade on the blockchain," explains Howell.
Selling trading systems at Goldman Sachs
It's a practice Howell knows well. After graduating from liberal arts-focused Wesleyan University in Connecticut, he spent 16 years at Goldman Sachs, where he became global head of electronic futures. He managed teams in Asia, Europe and the US and was responsible for everything from covering to clients to ensuring that Goldman had the best platform to trade on. "Execution traders on the client side have a choice of platforms, and what differentiates you is partly quantitative - do you have the right algorithms and the best tech stack for exchange connectivity? But do you also have the right relationships?," says Howell. "It's about having everything in harmony - the relationships maintained by the salespeople and sales traders are important, but if you don't have the algorithms to sell, then those relationships won't matter.|
When he left Goldman in 2019, Howell says it was one of the hardest decisions of his life, but also a 'no-brainer.' "I was just ready to see a different side of the business," he says. "You learn a lot about hard work and the definition of team work at Goldman Sachs. I was ready to apply that in a different situation."
What's a business development job in a hedge fund?
Initially, the different situation was at Eisler, the hedge fund currently in the process of transforming into a multistrategy fund. Howell worked in business development there, a role that he says means different things at different places.
"If you work in business development somewhere like Millennium, your main objective will be hiring portfolio managers," he says. "At other funds, it can be more about raising assets or looking after existing limited partners. For me, it was about selling the fund to new investors, which was something I really enjoyed."
Selling a hedge fund is a relationship building process that necessitates getting to know each other, but is less complex than selling an entire futures platform, says Howell. He left Eisler for a similar role for crypto hedge fund Nickel Digital Asset Management, and then left Nickel Digital to become chief revenue officer and then chief executive of Skolem.
"2022 was a challenging year for very single player in the crypto industry," admits Howell. "And until both the macroeconomic and the crypto backdrop begins to improve, many players in the industry are in a hunker- down and build mentality and we share that. We're excited about the medium and long term. These periods when markets are challenging are an opportunity to prepare."
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