By John McCrank
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority plans to increase its resources to understand and monitor cryptocurrencies as more of the Wall Street watchdog's members trade digital assets, Chief Executive Officer Robert Cook said on Tuesday.
"We are already having to be engaged in the space and we think that as a result it's appropriate for us to bulk up our capabilities there," Cook said at a trading industry conference.
FINRA has several dozen members that have been approved to trade digital asset securities, as well as members who allow customers to access crypto products, and members with registered representatives who have outside business activities around crypto, Cook said.
The regulator is also developing digital asset verification techniques and is looking at whether it can do cross market surveillance on various blockchains, he said.
Cryptocurrencies prices have dropped sharply in recent weeks, with bitcoin hitting an 18-month low on Tuesday after major crypto lender Celsius Network froze withdrawals and the prospect of sharp U.S. interest rate rises shook the volatile asset class.
Crypto exchange Coinbase Global Inc said on Tuesday it will cut about 1,100 jobs, or 18% of its workforce to ride out the downturn in the cryptosphere. Companies like BlockFi and Crypto.com have also slashed hundreds of jobs, while top firms including Meta Platforms and Intel Corp have tapped the brakes on hiring.
While federal agencies jockey for position to be the primary regulator for digital assets, regardless of the outcome, FINRA will most likely have a role to play, Cook said.
"We're going to need to be engaged and prepared to have the resources to do that, so anybody who is getting laid off from a crypto platform and wants to work for FINRA, give me a call," he said.
(Reporting by John McCrank; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)