Crypto Person of the Year: Kelly Loeffler
It has been incredibly hard to pick just one person who played the most significant impact on the cryptocurrency ecosystem in 2019. After all, so much has happened in the blockchain and crypto space over the last twelve months, from Facebook announcing the launch of its digital currency Libra and China shifting its stance on blockchain development and regulation to Jack Dorsey’s exploration of the crypto markets in Africa. With several great candidates in mind, our finalist this year is Kelly Loeffler.
As a CEO of Bakkt, Loeffler played a critical role in one of the key crypto milestones this year, which was the highly-anticipated launch of Bakkt’s Bitcoin futures product in September 2019. Bakkt exchange and its new products are notable for a variety of reasons. Bitcoin futures contracts settled in Bitcoin, not in cash, are one of the means to create a global and regulated environment for digital assets. The exchange was launched by one of the most reputable financial institutions in the world – Intercontinental Exchange that owns the NYSE – and its industry heavy-weight partners, including Starbucks and Microsoft. When the new financial products, exchange – traded funds (ETFs), launched, they opened the door for institutional investors to take positions on cryptocurrency in a federally regulated venue, giving the much-needed confidence and access to a variety of potential market participants that were hesitant before.
While it remained unimpressive during the first few weeks of trading, Bakkt Bitcoin transaction volume picked up in December and has been growing exponentially, demonstrating mounting institutional interest. As Bakkt continues to roll out new Bitcoin products that may appeal to a wider breadth of investors, the exchange is very clear about its mission “to serve as a scalable on-ramp for institutional, merchant, and consumer participation in digital assets by promoting greater efficiency, security, and utility,” according to Loeffler. That is exactly what the cryptocurrency ecosystem needs – a push towards mianstream adoption. And that is why ABakkt is the game changer in the industry.
What Bakkt can do for the industry is remarkable, but let’s talk more about Kelly Loeffler. She is not a typical influential person in crypto. A tall and striking successful businesswoman, Loeffler has deep Wall Street ties. Born in Illinois and raised on a local farm, she earned an MBA from DePaul University and worked her way up to serve as a Chief Communications and Marketing Officer and Head of Investor Relations for the Intercontinental Exchange, a financial trading platform that owns the New York Stock Exchange, the company founded by her husband, Jeff Sprecher. Since 2018, she has served as the CEO of Bakkt. According to the Intercontinental Exchange, Kelly Loeffler “played a key role at each stage of the growth of the company since joining the team in 2002.”
Loeffler has been also active in politics, over the years contributing funds to many different political campaigns. In November 2019, Georgia Governor, Brian Kemp picked Kelly Loeffler to fill an upcoming vacancy in the U.S. Senate. Her candidacy has been rapidly supported by Senate GOP leadership, signaling that it will be hard for another Republican candidate to challenge Loeffler for the seat. The special election will be held in November 2020 and is expected to be won by a republican candidate based on Politico’s and Sabato’s forecasts, making Loeffler only the second woman in US history to represent Georgia in the Senate. Although no longer focusing on Bakkt, as a U.S. Senator, Kelly Loeffler can influence the blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem through policy-making. Her unique tech background will be instrumental to exploring the crucial tech questions that lawmakers have been struggling with this year. She may be among those in the U.S. Senate who are willing to tackle domestic blockchain and cryptocurrency policy, which is critical for the industry.
On a more personal note, Loeffler is very athletic and passionate about sports. At Olympia High School that she attended in Stanford, IL she was on several varsity teams, including the basketball team. It is not surprising then that she co-owns Atlanta Dream – the city’s Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) franchise. “I circled back to the roots that combined my passions in life,” says Loeffler about her decision to invest in the team.
To conclude, Kelly Loeffler is a unique jack-of-all-trades. She is a true business and political leader with a tech and crypto background and a variety of interests, including sports. As she continues on her newest – this time political – journey, it will be exciting to see if she can help transform the cryptocurrency space and what her political career will mean for the ecosystem going forward.
@LordCatoshi and Maria Birger