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Crypto winter claims another victim as TD Cowen shutters crypto unit

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(Kitco News) - The crypto winter has claimed another victim as American independent investment bank TD Cowen has announced that it is shutting down its cryptocurrency unit – Cowen Digital.

Originally launched in March 2022, Cowen Digital was created to provide institutional clients with exposure to the digital asset market, with the service supporting 16 different cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH) and Solana (SOL).

According to a report from Bloomberg, the bank sent a letter to clients on Wednesday announcing the closure, saying “Today will be the last day for the team here at Cowen Digital.” The note listed at least 10 employees as part of the group’s team.

“Our entire team believes strongly in the need for trusted counterparties who understand the needs of institutional investors – through white-glove high and low touch execution, deep knowledge-driven content, corporate access and group educational events,” the email said. “We will continue to try and fulfill that endeavor, but will have to do so in a different home.”

Cowen Digital did not specify the exact reason why it decided to close up shop, but it’s been a rough go for firms across the cryptocurrency industry over the past year and a half as the onset of bear market conditions in early 2022 – which were exacerbated by the collapses of Terra/Luna and FTX – have left digital asset prices at a fraction of where they were during the bull market of 2021.

This has resulted in firms needing to tighten their belts and cut costs in an effort to survive the crypto winter, which is only now showing signs of thawing. Firms across the industry, including Coinbase, Binance, Bittrex, Chainalysis, ConsenSys, and Gemini, have all announced layoffs in 2023, and it's likely that more will be announced before the year is over.

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When it first launched, Cowen Digital teased that it would soon roll out additional services, including futures, derivatives and decentralized finance products, but those plans never materialized. The firm was hiring executives for its European operations as recently as December, so its closure took many by surprise.

In August, Cowen Bank was acquired by TD Bank Group for $1.3 billion, with the deal ultimately finalized in March. It is unknown to what degree the acquisition played a role in the shutdown of Cowen Digital.

This marks the second institutional crypto client unit to shut down in the space of a week. On May 25, the venture capital conglomerate Digital Currency Group (DCG) announced that it was shuttering its prime brokerage subsidiary TradeBlock, with the process starting on May 31.

“Due to the state of the broader economy and prolonged crypto winter, along with the challenging regulatory environment for digital assets in the US, we made the decision to sunset the institutional trading platform side of the business,” a DCG spokesperson said.

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