Crypto Custody Tech Firm Metaco Taps IBM Execs to Revamp Institutional Push

Metaco, a provider of crypto custody technology, has hired former-IBM digital asset specialist Peter DeMeo and made several other key appointments as the company shrugs off tough market conditions and prepares to drive the next phase of big-business crypto adoption.

Reliable safekeeping of crypto assets is where the rubber has met the road for banks and institutions over the past couple of years. Custody has shot to prominence again in the wake of the FTX crypto exchange collapse and the failures of crypto lending platforms Celsius Network and CoinDesk sister company Genesis, among others.

DeMeo’s appointment as chief product officer matters because IBM, where he was head of digital assets infrastructure, has been quietly building out bank-grade digital assets custody and key management. (Big Blue was previously best known in the industry for its forays into supply chain applications of permissioned blockchains and the like.)

However, Metaco’s gain isn’t necessarily IBM’s loss, as DeMeo explains, because the move cements an existing working relationship between the two companies.

“It's really a win-win because IBM’s strongest partner in digital assets over the last several years has been Metaco, and now we have a real opportunity to collaborate and take things to the next level,” DeMeo said in an interview. “Metaco is agnostic and of course will be working with other cloud and hardware providers as well. So, it’s a mutually beneficial relationship, but not necessarily an exclusive relationship.”

Metaco also took on former IBM lead architect, Angel Nunez Mencias, who joins as chief customer officer. Other hires include former Accenture executive Katrin Koller as head of advisory; former PayPal and Unbound Security exec Rebecca Aspler as head of product; and Citi alum Mei Li Powell as head of marketing.

“Last year was very much about scaling the team and bringing on as much talent and seniority as we could,” CEO Adrien Treccani said in an interview. “We have tripled the size of the team and are still planning to double the size of the company this year. The hires are mainly between Europe, Southeast Asia and North America, but we do have more regions appearing with our growing user base of clients.”

Treccani and DeMeo also pointed to the newly formed research and development division, Metaco Labs. That will work on cutting edge developments to bring key sharding technology called multiparty computation (MPC) inside a hardware security module (HSM), a kind of physical computing and storage lockbox that big banks are familiar with.

“We’re going to be running MPC in the safest place on earth: a hardware security module,” said DeMeo. “Typically, you would have keys being signed off in HSMs and stored in HSMs. Now, instead of single keys, HSM’s would create and store key shards, which means those shards would never come together to create a key outside the HSM.”

This development is relevant to Metaco clients, who generally want to know whether they should opt for an MPC or an HSM solution, noted Teccani. In addition, the complexity of MPC leads many users toward the “absolute disaster” scenario, where all the key shards are stored in the same data center, he added.

“Our clients are large banks and custodians and want to have full control over the key material. This makes MPC very complex for them to use, because it means they have to deploy different key shards in completely separate data centers,” Treccani said. “In practice, we know the market is going to converge on the best of both worlds; it’s about having the decentralization of MPC, and having the minimal attack surface of HSMs.”