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The 2016 Tech 50: Blythe Masters

The Digital Asset Holdings CEO debuts on our annual Tech 50 ranking at No. 17.

< The 2016 Tech 5017Blythe MastersChief Executive OfficerDigital Asset HoldingsPNR

Blythe Masters may at first blush seem an unlikely evangelist for the distributed ledger technology known as blockchain. A 1991 graduate of the University of Cambridge with a BA in economics, the U.K. native held a variety of management roles across JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s global capital markets businesses, including credit derivatives, asset-backed securities and commodities. “I grew up deep in the inner workings of the financial services industry,” says Masters, 47, CEO of New York–based blockchain start-up Digital Asset Holdings. “I couldn’t do what I’m doing now if it hadn’t been for the almost 30 years I spent at JPMorgan.” Masters became friends with Digital Asset co-founder Sunil Hirani when JPMorgan invested in his credit default swap brokerage, Creditex Group, in the late ’90s. She joined Hirani and his co-founder, Don Wilson (of Chicago’s DRW Trading Group), on the Digital Asset board in December 2014 and became CEO in March 2015. “In blockchain I saw a technology that had the potential to mutualize infrastructure in a way that has not been practically possible to do before,” Masters explains. Noting that blockchain had been best known for powering the controversial cryptocurrency Bitcoin, she says: “People started to assume that the tenets of the Bitcoin movement — anonymity, open to everyone, no central administrator — were inviolate features of the technology. But it turns out that you can change the assumptions.” Digital Asset is building “encrypted, distributed, straight-through processing tools” that will allow financial services companies to reduce costs, increase capital efficiency and strengthen cybersecurity. The 70-person company, which has offices in Budapest, London, San Francisco, Sydney, Tel Aviv and Zurich, intends to generate revenue through software licenses and contracts. It currently is working with ASX — which in June invested $7 million to raise its stake in Digital Asset to 8.5 percent — to develop a distributed-ledger-based posttrade infrastructure for the Australian cash equities market, and with Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. (see Michael Bodson, No. 14) on a new clearing and settlement system for U.S. Treasury repurchase agreements. “A lot of people say blockchain equals the avenue by which the natural intermediaries will be put out of business because you don’t need them anymore,” Masters says. “We have a very different view. We believe that blockchain will enable financial intermediaries to do a better job of providing the services they provide.”

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 The 2016 Tech 50 Click below to view profiles
1. Catherine
Bank of America Corp.2. Jeffrey SprecherIntercontinental Exchange3. Lance UgglaMarkit4. Phupinder GillCME Group5. Shawn Edwards and Vlad KliatchkoBloomberg6. R. Martin ChavezGoldman Sachs Group
7. Robert GoldsteinBlackRock8. Adena FriedmanNasdaq9. Deborah HopkinsCiti Ventures10. Daniel ColemanKCG Holdings11. Stephen NeffFidelity Investments12. David CraigThomson Reuters
13. Michael SpencerICAP14. Michael BodsonDepository Trust & Clearing Corp. 15. Charles LiHong Kong Exchanges and Clearing16. Chris ConcannonBATS Global Markets17. Blythe MastersDigital Asset Holdings18. David RutterR3CEV
19. Neil KatzD.E. Shaw & Co.20. Lee OleskyTradeweb Markets21. Richard McVeyMarketAxess Holdings22. Seth MerrinLiquidnet Holdings23. Robert AlexanderCapital One Financial Corp.24. Brad KatsuyamaIEX Group
25. Antoine ShagouryState Street Corp.26. David GledhillDBS Bank27. Lou EcclestonTMX Group28. Andreas PreussDeutsche BÖrse29. Dan SchulmanPayPal Holdings30. Scott DillonWells Fargo & Co.
31. Mike ChinnS&P Global Market Intelligence32. Craig DonohueOptions Clearing Corp.33. Gary NorcrossFidelity National Information Services34. Steven O'HanlonNumerix35. Sebastián CeriaAxioma36. Michael CooperBT Radianz
37. Tyler KimMaplesFS38. Neal PawarAQR Capital Management39. David HardingWinton Capital Management40. Chris CorradoLondon Stock Exchange Group41. Brian ConlonFirst Derivatives42. Jim MinnickeVestment
43. Stephane DuboisXignite44. Mazy DarOpenFin45. Yasuki OkaiNRI Holdings America46. Kim FournaisSaxo Bank47. Jock PercyPerseus48. Robert SchifelliteBroadridge Financial Solutions
49. Brian SentanceXenomorph Software50. Pieter van der DoesAdyen