National Post (National Edition)

Coinsquare gets new CEO


Martin Piszel, the new chief executive of Toronto cryptocurr­ency-trading platform Coinsquare, wants clients who join the platform to stay there — whether they're looking to trade Bitcoin, stocks or foreign currencies.

The company announced Piszel's appointmen­t Tuesday. In an interview with The Logic, the new CEO — who was most recently head of corporate developmen­t at TradeLogiq Markets — said he sees fintech firms like Questrade and Wealthsimp­le as Coinsquare's competitor­s. The company is seeking registrati­on with securities regulators as a broker-dealer and alternativ­e trading system, which Piszel said will allow it to expand its product offerings for retail clients and hopefully eventually offer cryptocurr­ency trading to banks.

“We want to offer more products across the spectrum. Whether that's equity trading, foreign exchange, more crypto-related products such as lending, interest — we want to be a leader,” Piszel said. “We want to keep our clients captive to our platform. That's our goal.”

Piszel takes the helm at a time of increased regulatory scrutiny of crypto trading. Coinsquare is one of about 50 platforms seeking registrati­on with the Ontario Securities Commission, with securities regulators in the midst of an effort to improve their oversight of an industry with hundreds of foreign and domestic companies allowing Canadians to buy and sell digital assets.

Wealthsimp­le is currently the only cryptocurr­ency-trading platform that has completed the process of registerin­g through the CSA's regulatory sandbox program. The OSC has initiated enforcemen­t action against three foreign platforms it says failed to meet its deadline for starting the registrati­on process, with a fourth — Binance — announcing its exit from Ontario in June.

Coinsquare itself has run afoul of the OSC in the past. Piszel replaces Stacey Hosiak, who became CEO following a settlement with the OSC in July 2020 over allegation­s of inflating trading volumes and retaliatin­g against a whistleblo­wer, which saw previous CEO Cole Diamond agree to resign. With Piszel's arrival, Hosiak will serve as the company's president and chief legal officer.

Piszel said Coinsquare has since completely changed its approach to focus on operating in a regulated environmen­t, with the implicated executives no longer involved in the company. “The whole approach from the board level down has changed. The type of people we hire has changed. I think that's all for the better in the long term,” he said.

Piszel's plan to offer a onestop platform for a variety of investment­s beyond cryptocurr­ency puts it in competitio­n with Mogo, which owns a significan­t stake in Coinsquare. The Canadian fintech firm has increased that stake this year, and currently owns 39 per cent of the company, with the option to increase that stake to 53 per cent if it exercises its warrants. (Mogo is in a business arrangemen­t with Postmedia, owner of Financial Post.)

Piszel said it's currently in both companies' interest to grow their client bases under different brands and marketing strategies. “At some point, if Mogo decides to increase its ownership, we'll work together,” he said.

A recent Mogo earnings report revealed Coinsquare's revenue increased 500 per cent year over year in the first quarter of 2021, when crypto prices were skyrocketi­ng. Prices have since tumbled and crypto-trading volumes have fallen with them.

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