Jesse Powell to Step Down as Kraken CEO and Move on to Board Chairmanship

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Jesse Powell, the co-founder and CEO of crypto exchange Kraken, has announced his intention to step down from his role within the company. According to the official announcement published earlier this week, Powell will soon be stepping down from his role to focus on broader industry activity.

Growing Responsibilities Force Powell to Tap Out

While Kraken’s announcement didn’t explain the rationale for Powell’s decision, it is rumored that the crypto executive had become more weighed down by the demands of his role. Powell has overseen Kraken’s transformation into one of the largest exchanges in the United States and the fourth largest in the world by daily trading volumes.

Powell was also reportedly dissatisfied with the workload of managing a growing company that continues to lead in its industry. The CEO position has become “less fun,” and he believes this will be the best time to hand it over to someone else.

According to the official statement, Kraken chief operating officer Dave Ripley will take over as CEO in Powell’s stead. The soon-to-be former CEO plans to remain engaged with his company, taking a role as chairman of its board and with continued input in product development. However, he plans to branch out, focusing more on broader industry advocacy and regulatory engagements.

Jesse Powell, Agitator-in-Chief

Powell’s tenure as Kraken’s CEO has been relatively controversial. He has led the exchange since 2011, taking it through the market’s early days and establishing it as one of the biggest household names for traders to invest in cryptocurrency.

However, the crypto exchange has also been through some relatively challenging times. About a year ago, a $1.25 million fine was imposed on the exchange by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) after being accused of violating the Commodity Exchange Act. At the time, the financial watchdog claimed that Kraken – which operated under the name Payward Ventures – had failed to register as a futures commission merchant and was illegally offering margined retail commodity transactions in cryptocurrencies between June 2020 and July 2021.

In July 2022, the New York Times stated that the Treasury Department had been investigating the exchange based on suspicions that it had allowed Iranians to access its services – a direct violation of federal sanctions.

The United States government uses sanctions to block specific individuals or countries from accessing services in the country. However, in line with the libertarian views of the crypto industry, Powell has always been willing to challenge sanctions and laws. In February this year, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Powell pushed back against calls to block Russians from using Kraken, explaining that the company’s mission is to spread the application of digital assets everywhere.

In a company culture memo released in June, Kraken was described as an organization that views the “weaponization of the financial system” as evil. While they are committed to engaging with regulators and lawmakers, they believe some of the steps taken are too far.

That same month, Jesse Powell made headlines after criticizing a small contingent of Kraken employees for sowing discord in the company. Powell especially railed against these “woke activists,” explaining that while they had a great deal of talent, they tended to focus more on ”minor sights” and “first world problems” as opposed to the company’s mission to improve financial inclusion for billions worldwide. For these people, he explained, Kraken wasn’t a good fit.

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