In the evolving landscape of digital assets, Komainu has emerged not merely as a custodial entity, but as a strategic bridge between traditional financial institutions and the expanding realm of cryptocurrencies.
During an exclusive interview with UNLOCK Blockchain, Sebastian Widmann, Head of Strategy at Komainu, shared comprehensive insights into the company’s inception, philosophy, and its pivotal role in the market.
A Strategic Vision from Inception
Founded in 2018 through a collaboration between Nomura, Ledger, and CoinShares, Komainu embarked on a mission to address a crucial void in the market. Widmann emphasized their objective: “We aimed to craft a custodial solution catering to the needs of traditional institutional investors venturing into the digital asset ecosystem.”
From its inception, Komainu made regulatory compliance and security its foremost priorities. Over time, the company expanded to a team of about 50 individuals and secured regulatory approvals in multiple jurisdictions, including the UK and Italy, and notably being among the pioneering custodians regulated under Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA).
Independent Yet Supported
Regarding its association with Nomura, Widmann clarified Komainu’s independent operational stance. “While Nomura provides substantial support, Komainu functions as an independent entity. Our primary goal revolves around bridging the gap between decentralized and traditional finance.”
Purposeful Evolution, Blockchain Expansion and Support
Reflecting on Komainu’s evolution, Widmann stressed their deliberate approach: “Our goal wasn’t immediate dominance but sustained evolution, aligning with the spectrum of digital assets—ranging from security tokens to stable coins and Central Bank Digital Currencies.”
Widmann also highlighted Komainu’s leveraging of blockchain technologies, stating, “We extend our services leveraging blockchain’s unique characteristics. Our custody services extend beyond securing assets to regulated end-to-end staking for assets in custody, ensuring security across the trade life cycle.”
The collaboration with Ledger was underscored by Widmann as pivotal for technological advancements. He elaborated, “Since 2018, we’ve collaborated closely on enterprise-grade technologies utilizing Hardware Security Modules, tailored for institutional custodians like us.”
Clarifying Misconceptions: Fireblocks as a Service Provider
Addressing misconceptions, Widmann distinguished Fireblocks’ technology from custodial services, outlining Komainu’s commitment to a regulated custodial operation.
He explained that Fireblocks is often perceived as a custodian when, in fact, Komainu employs Fireblocks as a service provider. Sebastian clarified this distinction, emphasizing that while Fireblocks offers a robust technology usable for custodial operations by funds or retail investors, having sophisticated tools doesn’t inherently confer custodial status. Instead, it enhances self-custody methods by enabling secure key management and transaction approval protocols.
Komainu differentiates itself by deploying this technology in a regulated setting, holding essential certifications from security and regulatory perspectives. These certifications ensure adherence to stringent policies and procedures, enabling Komainu to function as a regulated custodian, setting it apart from simply using institutional-grade technology in a non-regulated context.
Regulatory Dynamics in the UAE, Market Evolution & Adoption
During the interview, questions surfaced regarding the swift developments in the UAE’s landscape, witnessing a surge in exchanges and projects, yet regulators seem content without enforcing a strict segregation between trading activities and custody.
In response to whether regulators should mandate this segregation, Sebastian emphasized the ongoing evolution of infrastructure, acknowledging the benefits of exchanges holding wallets for direct withdrawals to their clients.
He emphasized the preference for a majority of assets to be stored in third-party regulated custodial services. Rather than direct enforcement by regulators, Sebastian suggested that the industry should request this segregation from the infrastructure they engage with.
He highlighted the growing demand from institutional players, especially after the challenges faced during FTX bankruptcies last year, urging their liquidity venues to integrate third-party custodians. Sebastian pointed out the substantial traction seen in their platform, enabling clients to manage assets in a collateral wallet within Komainu, providing access to exchange liquidity without the need to hold assets directly on the exchange.
This development was showcased through a recent milestone announcement allowing CoinShares, a significant shareholder and client, to trade various products, including derivatives on OKX, directly from their collateral wallet within Komainu during settlement procedures.
Moreover, Widmann outlined the ongoing journey of user education and institutional adoption, envisioning a market shift towards increased asset segregation by exchanges to offer clients confidence and transparency.
He expressed optimism about traditional banks entering the custody space, seeing it as a testament to increased institutional adoption and positive market growth.
Bridging Traditional and Decentralized Finance
Concluding, Widmann reiterated Komainu’s focus on bridging traditional and decentralized finance while actively engaging with institutions seeking to navigate the digital asset landscape.
In the expansive realm of digital assets, Komainu stands as a guardian fostering a seamless transition for traditional finance into the ever-evolving digital space. It remains committed not just to safeguarding assets but transforming the institutional landscape and maturing the digital asset market.