Anchorage Digital’s New Engineering Head Focused on Scaling Team, Security

Blockworks exclusive: CJ Jouhal seeks to bridge gap between digital assets and TradFi across multiple industries

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CJ Jouhal; Source: Anchorage Digital

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key takeaways

  • Anchorage’s new executive was most recently the chief technology officer at tech company Clear
  • Allowing institutions to keep assets away from potential attackers while still participating in on-chain activities is critical, Jouhal says

Anchorage Digital hired a new head of engineering who is focused on scaling the team, as the crypto platform seeks to target “more sophisticated” institutions looking for secure crypto infrastructure.

CJ Jouhal was most recently chief technology officer at tech company Clear, where he led the engineering team as it went public in June 2021. Jouhal has also worked in senior leadership positions at other tech companies, including Zocdoc, Audible, and eBay. 

Anchorage, which sought to triple the size of its engineering team this year, has so far doubled the unit’s headcount in 2022, a company spokesperson told Blockworks.

The company, founded in 2017, focuses on custodying digital assets. It seeks to support new cryptocurrencies and continue building client partnerships using its application programming interfaces (APIs).

Keep reading for excerpts from Blockworks’ interview with Jouhal. 

Blockworks: Why did you choose to jump into crypto from Clear?

Jouhal: My time at Clear was centered around scaling the technology stack and enhancing the platforms to safely and securely use biometrics.

While there are differences between Anchorage and Clear, I see parallels between the two. Anchorage is also focused on unlocking new efficiencies by bridging the world of Wall Street and crypto. Anchorage is leading the way for safe and secure institutional participation in the crypto economy.

So being able to dive into a world where I can make a tremendous impact at bridging those two worlds was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, to be honest.

I am new to the crypto industry. I have been diving into books and learning. A challenge on its own is becoming a domain expert, which I want to do very, very quickly.

Blockworks: What will you be most focused on in your new role?

Jouhal: My top priority is going to be to carefully scale the engineering organization by attracting and retaining the top talent. Anchorage set a goal of hiring 100 people in one year, and we’re on track to meet that goal…so for me, it’s important to continue on that path.

When you grow at this scale, it’s key to make sure that as everyone’s onboarding and joining, they can become efficient and impactful immediately without feeling isolated, especially in this world of hybrid [working].

Blockworks: What type of talent are you looking for?

Jouhal: When I look at who we’re targeting, the skill sets definitely vary; we have back-end engineers [and] front-end engineers.

We’re definitely going with a very broad brush with who we’re targeting, and we’re seeing a lot of inbounds too, which shows the interest still lies in the technology world of entering the crypto space. It’s not necessarily industry-focused when we’re looking at talent.

Blockworks: What other priorities do you have in the new position?

Jouhal: What really makes us different is taking a security-first approach to proving custody and making sure it’s done in a very scalable manner as well. That to me drives a lot of what we’re building for institutions to adopt, because this is a hard problem.

We’re working with every type of institutional partner…We want to build [our product] so it’s not just secure, but it scales to what the financial institutions need and want. If you keep your assets offline in cold storage, it restricts your ability to participate on-chain, and our goal is to bridge that gap so that you can safely and securely keep your assets out of potential attackers while still participating in on-chain activities.

Blockworks: What do you make of some of the crypto hacks this year?

Jouhal:  Hacks are a top-of-mind concern for the industry. That’s precisely why Anchorage has a robust review process for new assets. If a security issue comes up for a new protocol, Anchorage is there to help as a trusted, time-tested, and regulated partner.

Blockworks: What are you keeping your eye on in the coming months?

Jouhal: We are a regulated digital asset platform, and from that perspective we are leading in the industry of ensuring that regulations are adhered to and helping define some of those regulations too. I am closely watching that to understand how the government moves forward with some of the plans…and hopefully quickly.

The second thing is that continuing to bridge the gap between digital assets and what would be traditional fintech and traditional financial services in a manner where we can have an impact across multiple industries is important for me.

Understanding the crypto and blockchain space and seeing how we can leverage our offering to break into more industries and continue to bridge the gap between what traditional technology does — even something such as mortgages, real estate or deeds.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.


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