• Byworth ran derivative and equity linked product sales at Japanese investment bank Nomura for more than ten years
  • When he read the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari, his understanding of global financial systems began to change

In 2017, Richard Byworth walked away from his nearly two-decades-long investment banking career to help grow a crypto financial services firm. 

“Back then, a lot of people thought I was completely nuts,” said Byworth, who now serves as CEO of Diginex

Byworth ran derivative and equity linked product sales at Japanese investment bank Nomura for more than ten years. Prior to that, he worked as a trader in London and on sales in Tokyo. He spent 17 years with the bank. 

In 2009, Byworth was running the Tokyo trading desk when he first heard about bitcoin. 

“A few of the juniors on the desk were talking about bitcoin every day, but I dismissed it as some internet scam,” said Byworth. “Back then I didn’t really have a clue what bitcoin was or could be.” 

Then he read the book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari and his understanding of global financial systems began to change. 

“When I read Sapiens, it all began to fall into place,” said Byworth. “I had become increasingly concerned about the incredible amount of fiscal and monetary stimulus happening post-financial crisis and what this meant for our money. The book talked about bitcoin in conjunction with the societal belief system of money, and made me look at it again.” 

It was so compelling that he started investing in crypto. 

“I started studying bitcoin and what it was as an asset, and the more I understood it, the more I was just blown away by what it was,” said Byworth. “I got very, very excited about it, and ended up investing in Diginex, which back then was a cryptocurrency mining company.” 

Byworth began thinking about what would come next. He had been drawn to trading since college, and as an investor, he has always been passionate about emerging companies. The digital asset space was intriguing. 

“I was preparing my exit from banking and had planned to move into venture capital when I was approached by the founder of Diginex, also an ex-investment banker, who I knew well,” said Byworth. “He wanted to create a financial services firm addressing the entirety of the digital assets space, I found it a compelling proposition.”

Byworth became Diginex’s fifth employee. The company now offers an exchange, custody, asset management, capital markets and will soon include borrowing and lending. It was also the first Nasdaq-listed digital asset company. 

Byworth received mixed reactions from his banking peers when he decided to move to digital assets full time. Before deciding on Diginex, he had considered taking a job in traditional finance.

“One of my good friends who was running a large investment bank’s derivative business called me to ask if I was joining them as he had been trying to hire me for a while,” said Byworth. “When I told him I was joining a crypto start up to build the future of financial services for digital assets he was incredulous as to why I would walk away from the lucrative world of banking into the world of fake internet money. He has since become a large shareholder in Diginex.”

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  • Blockworks
    Reporter
    Casey Wagner is a New York-based business journalist covering digital assets and macro economics. Prior to joining Blockworks, she reported on markets at Bloomberg News. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in Media Studies.