Eight Questions: Rawan Abdelrazek, COO, Anchorage Digital Bank
Welcome to Eight Questions, where we profile individual members of the Anchorage Digital team, diving into their career paths, what brought them to crypto, and what makes them tick. Why eight? Because it’s the number of decimal places a bitcoin can be divided into. It’s also the last single digit number in a Fibonacci Sequence, and we like that.
Next in our series, meet Rawan Abdelrazek, who joined Anchorage Digital as Chief Operating Officer of the nation’s first crypto bank, Anchorage Digital Bank. Prior to Anchorage, Rawan served as a COO in Compliance at BlackRock and assisted a variety of clients on compliance issues at Promontory. She’s also served as an Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and Rawan is helping Anchorage scale its processes to match the rigor expected of national banks.
- We’re now an OCC regulated bank. What are your key priorities as the COO to help us maintain compliance with their regulatory requirements?
We received our OCC charter in January and are actively building out our operations, reporting, compliance and governance functions in line with the roadmap our regulators laid out for us. I have three key priorities to execute in partnership with our teams.
- One, we need to build and mature a best-in-class digital bank that meets and exceeds the expectations of both the OCC and our clients. That means risk-based processes that are compliant, commercial, and scalable.
- Two, we need to ensure that we consistently deliver the best client experience, especially as we onboard more traditional institutional investors.
- Lastly, we want to continue building our relationship with our regulators as their trusted partner, ensuring we execute meeting their expectations, maintaining an open dialogue, and seeking their guidance as we grow.
2. What got you interested in crypto and Anchorage?
It’s rare you get an opportunity not only to be a COO of a great company, but also for it to be a best-in-class bank in a rapidly changing industry. This really resonated with me since I love to build and execute programs and teams. Just recently I helped build the Financial Crime compliance function at BlackRock and prior to that, I played a leading role in developing the U.S. Treasury’s TARP program from the ground up. Additionally, I’ve always been a student of the markets, so crypto presents an immense intellectual and professional challenge. Finally, I was so excited to work with such a passionate team.
3. As a former senior government official at the US Treasury Department and the OCC, what are some lessons learned that a company like Anchorage should consider?
The most effective financial sector policies are designed when policymakers and industry actively engage with one other. I’ve seen that across a number of initiatives, from rules for foreign banks operating in the US, to liberalization of foreign financial markets and the redesigning of capital and liquidity rules. The effectiveness of dialogue most vividly played out during the 2008 Financial Crisis. Our government’s ability to stabilize the financial system was based, in large part, on our very active dialogue with financial institutions, industry associations, and foreign regulators. The other key lesson I learned, again from 2008, is the focus of policy makers and regulators on financial stability- which no doubt is guiding their approach to regulating the crypto space.
So for Anchorage, as a new bank in a rapidly growing sector, we need to continue building strong dialogues with our regulators and policy makers as they shape the new regulatory landscape and even out the playing field globally. It is incumbent on us to engage constructively to help shape a framework that is fit for purpose for this industry.
4. On the other side, what should regulatory bodies and governmental agencies understand about digital assets and firms like Anchorage?
Regulators and government agencies globally should know that Anchorage embraces regulation, clear rules of the road, and an even playing field for the industry. As the first OCC nationally chartered digital bank, we are committed to building a respected trust bank that ensures we always maintain safety and soundness of operations as we innovate and grow our business and client base.
5. You’re a long-time New Yorker, what is it about this city that inspires you?
My career has been divided between NYC and Washington DC. Both cities are equally compelling depending on your professional and personal path. I came back to NYC about ten years ago because of the energy, pace, diversity, and professional opportunities. The city and its people are resilient, driven and hard charging. On a more personal note- I know it sounds cliche, but I love the restaurants (I don’t cook!) and running in Central Park.
6. What advice do you have for women looking to enter into the financial services space?
There is no shortage of opportunities in traditional finance, fintech, or crypto. Finance is no longer an old boys club — there’s plenty of room to play in the sandbox. The financial services industry is constantly evolving and innovating, which means that success increasingly depends on being resilient and flexible. Be open to where your career takes you, take risks along the way, and always be a student of the market. It’s important to take on challenges and stretch roles — don’t worry about what you don’t know and focus on what value you can add. I also recommend considering a stint in the government. There’s a deep bench of female leadership and the responsibilities and exposure are unparalleled. I felt honored and proud every day that I walked the halls of the Treasury Department.
7. Anchorage Digital Bank is scaling up. As COO, what are some of the key criteria you look for in a candidate?
We are hiring across multiple functional areas from operations to risk management and marketing. We are always excited about candidates who have relevant experience in a regulated financial service company and are passionate about this space. Personally, I always look for “athletes” — individuals who are hungry, hard-working, agile, and team players. Someone who can get up the scale quickly, roll up their sleeves-will run through walls for the team.
8. What is a key lesson you learned in your career that still guides your day to day at Anchorage?
I don’t have just one. Work really really hard. View nothing as grunt work. Lead by example. Be resilient, you never know what life throws at you. Flex your communication style for different organizations and audiences. Manage your stakeholders. Pay attention to details. Don’t try to boil the ocean. Identify the goal and set tasks to get there. Build strong relationships.
Interested in working with Rawan and the Anchorage teams? Anchorage is hiring for a variety of roles, check our job opportunities here.
Disclaimer: Holdings of cryptocurrencies and other digital assets are speculative and involve a substantial degree of risk, including the risk of complete loss. There can be no assurance that any cryptocurrency, token, coin, or other crypto asset will be viable, liquid, or solvent. Nothing in this communication is intended to imply that any asset held in custody by Anchorage is low-risk or risk-free. Digital assets held in custody are not guaranteed by Anchorage Digital Bank National Association and are not FDIC-insured.