Eric Richmond Is Heading up Canada’s First Crypto Bank

The CEO of Tetra Trust on how his company is filling a void in the Canadian market
Eric Richmond, CEO, Tetra Trust (Illustration by Jordan Andrew Carter)

As a securities lawyer, Eric Richmond was fascinated by the emerging crypto market. His company, Tetra Trust, is Canada’s first regulated crypto custodian—basically a bank for your Bitcoin.

I have always had an entrepreneurial bent. I started my first business in high school, arranging bus trips from Toronto to Buffalo Bills games. In my 20s, after earning a combined MBA and JD degree at Western, I became a corporate and securities lawyer at Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP, a large law firm in Toronto. When I first heard about cryptocurrency, I was fascinated: There are so many legal implications surrounding digital-asset tokens. In my spare time, I became a crypto expert, attending conferences and reading everything I could about it.

In early 2016, I took a job running the legal department at Coinsquare, a platform that allows Canadians to exchange their traditional funds for crypto; it had just closed its first round of funding and was valued at $400 million. This was the height of the crypto bubble, and in the next few months, the market fell off a cliff. That period was known as the crypto winter, but it presented an opportunity for Coinsquare. The company used the time to acquire other firms and build a better user experience.

At Coinsquare, for the first time, I had a sense of ownership over my work. I had the chance to grow a business—and an industry—from the ground up. Working at a start-up is go go go, but it was so rewarding that I didn’t mind the pace.

Almost as soon as I joined the company, we realized the Canadian space was missing a dedicated crypto custodian—essentially a company that holds crypto in trust for its clients. We’d all heard stories about people losing their private key, which is a code you need to access your funds. If it’s gone, so is your crypto. A crypto custodian removes that risk. At the time, Canadians had three options for storing their crypto: They could store it themselves in a special device, they could use an unregulated custodian or they could use a foreign custodian. At Coinsquare, we wanted to create the first crypto custodian regulated by Canadian law. We decided it would be called Tetra Trust, and in mid-2019, I was appointed CEO.

At Tetra Trust, we use military-grade hardware security modules—also used to secure traditional banking—to store digital currencies. Coinsquare hit a rough patch in 2020, when the OSC alleged a securities breach. The CEO stepped down, and the company paid a $2.2-million settlement. It turned out to be a huge opportunity for me: The new CEO and the board asked me to take on the role of COO at Coinsquare, in addition to my position at Tetra. How do I manage both roles? I’m really good at context switching. At Tetra, which is still a start-up, I wear more hats, doing everything from quality assurance to product and user-interface changes. I work from around 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and go back online between 8 p.m. and midnight. In between, I help my wife as much as I can—we have a newborn son, which of course makes juggling these responsibilities even harder.

I’m able to work from home now, and in that sense, COVID has been a blessing. Recently, I was on a call holding my son, who wouldn’t stop screaming. The person on the other end said, “Don’t worry—I have four kids, so I don’t even hear it.” You juggle, but you make it work.

Liza Agrba
Liza Agrba
Liza Agrba is an award-winning freelance writer based in Toronto with over a decade of experience covering food, business and culture. Her work regularly appears in The Globe and Mail, Maclean’s, and Toronto Life, among others.