Libra hires former HSBC executive as CEO of crypto payments unit

Last modified September 17, 2020. Published September 17, 2020.

The Facebook-backed Libra Association said on Thursday that it appointed former executive James Emmett as the CEO and managing director of Libra Networks, the unit tasked with developing and operating the company’s cryptocurrency payments system.

Emmett, who will take up his new role on Oct. 1, left HSBC earlier this year amid a leadership revamp, after being with the London-based bank for 25 years. He most recently served as the chief executive of HSBC Bank and Europe and was previously the chief operating officer of HSBC Bank, overseeing technology and operations across the firm. 

“I am fascinated by the intersection between finance and technology and am hugely excited at the opportunity to work with the talented team at Libra together with our members, partners, users, regulators and stakeholders to deliver on Libra’s mission through a network that is inclusive, innovative, and supportive of the economies and societies in which we operate,” Emmett said on his LinkedIn page Thursday. 

He will work under Stuart Levey, who is the current and first CEO of the Libra Association and former chief legal officer of HSBC. Levey joined Libra in May from the British bank and is also the former undersecretary of the U.S. Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence during the Bush and Obama Administrations, where he was responsible for implementing U.S. and international policy to fight illicit financing.

Levey said on the new hire, "James is a first-class financial services executive with deep substantive expertise and operational experience. I am excited that he is joining us and confident that his leadership will help make Libra's vision a reality."

The Libra Association has been on a hiring spree this year, after formally applying for a payment system license with the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority in April. 

In June, it appointed Sterling Daines as its chief compliance officer, who previously served as the global head of financial crime compliance at Credit Suisse, and then in August, it hired Steve Bunnell as its chief legal officer, who replaced the company’s former general counsel Robert Werner who left the position after three months. Bunnell is a former general counsel of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a former head of the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.  

In April, the Geneva-based Libra Association revamped its cryptocurrency plans to appease financial watchdogs, unveiling various stablecoins linked to different national currencies. This was scaled back from its original plans, which were unveiled in June 2019, to create a single global digital currency. 

Global regulators had raised concerns that the company’s original intention to create a single coin backed by various currencies and government debt could help increase money laundering crimes and undermine monetary policy if adopted by Facebook’s billions of users.