Crypto-friendly bank Silvergate to scale down after FTX explosion

by Ana Lopez

Silvergate Capital Corporation, the holding company of the crypto-focused Silvergate Bank, announced Wednesday his intention to wind down operations and voluntarily liquidate the banking unit.

The move came days after Silvergate shocked the industry with news that it faced a financial crisis. The institution, which was one of the few banks to act as an intermediary for institutional crypto, is yet another victim of the “crypto winter” following the implosion of FTX, which the bank used to transfer client funds.

The bank was founded in California three decades ago as a small local lender, but in recent years had grown into a major player in the crypto industry. Fortune also rose and fell with market volatility. As token prices soared, deposits at Silvergate rose from about $2 billion in 2020 to more than $10 billion in 2021. But by the end of 2022deposits fell to $6.3 billion, down more than 50% from just three months earlier.

At the time of FTX’s collapse last fall, Silvergate was trying to reassure investors and regulators that its exposure to the digital asset exchange was limited.

“As of September 30, 2022, Silvergate’s total deposits from all digital asset customers totaled $11.9 billion, of which FTX accounted for less than 10%. Silvergate has no outstanding loans to or investments in FTX, and FTX is not a custodian for Silvergate’s bitcoin-collateralized SEN Leverage loans. To be clear, our relationship with FTX is limited to deposits,” Silvergate CEO Alan Lane wrote in a rack in November.

But the government looked elsewhere. US prosecutors from the Justice Department’s fraud unit investigated Silvergate’s dealings with FTX and Alameda Research, Bloomberg reported in February.

The closure of Silvergate will deal a major blow to the way money moves in and out of the crypto world. On March 3, the bank announced that it would do so quit the Silvergate Exchange Network (SEN), its crypto payment network that facilitated 24/7 dollar transfers between investors and crypto exchanges. The volatile nature of cryptocurrencies means that very few financial institutions want to touch crypto.

It seems that at least Silvergate’s customers are getting their deposits back. As the company said in its latest statement:

“In light of recent industry and regulatory developments, Silvergate believes that an orderly wind-down of banking operations and a voluntary liquidation of the bank is the best way forward. The Bank’s run-down and liquidation plan includes the full repayment of all deposits. The company is also considering how best to resolve claims and preserve the residual value of its assets, including its proprietary technology and tax assets.”

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