Brisbane crypto exchange Swyftx fires 90 staff, profits fall by 23%

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By Alex Turner-Cohen, news.com.au

6th December 2022 – (Brisbane) An Australian crypto exchange has laid off 35 per cent of its staff in a second round of brutal cuts as they anticipate tougher times to come.

Brisbane-based company Swyftx announced to employees late on Monday that 90 of them would be packing up their desks for good.

Swyftx’s joint CEOs, Alex Harper and Angus Goldman, informed workers of the “difficult decision” at a company-wide town hall and released a statement after.

Mr Harper blamed the mass sackings directly on the FTX collapse, when $32 billion cryptocurrency exchange FTX filed for bankruptcy amid bombshell revelations that the platform was poorly managed and little more than a Ponzi scheme.

FTX’s epic fall from grace has sent shockwaves around the cryptocurrency world, including at Swyftx.

According to ASIC documents filed last week, Swyftx’s profit has declined 23 per cent. At the same time, however, they did see a 55 per cent increase in trade volumes.

Swyftx, which announced a $1.5 billion merger with online share trading platform Superhero in June, admitted it had expanded too quickly.

“The truth is that Swyftx grew too fast,” Mr Harper conceded.

Mr Harper continued: “Our world was very different at the start of the year and our forecasts were for global trading volumes to carry on rising for at least six months longer than they did.

“The fact we are now making our costs more consistent with industry standards is, in no way at all, a reflection on our team members.

“But we understand how difficult this news will be for impacted team members and their families, especially at this time of the year.”

The Brisbane company hailed FTX’s failure as a “black swan-type event” and said the lay-offs were necessary to “prepare in advance’ for the deepening crypto winter to come.

“Our priority at this time is to emerge from the current market in a position of strength,” Mr Harper continued.

Swyftx acknowledged the entire tech industry, especially those in crypto, were facing a crisis that many would not recover from.

“Every tech business in the world right now is scrutinising their costs and Swyftx is no different,” Mr Harper said.

“Investors expect discipline and our new normal will be to aggressively explore options for efficiencies and cost reductions, regardless of market conditions.”

In a statement to news.com.au, a spokesperson said FTX’s “casual indifference to its customers” was to blame for the shockwaves being sent around the crypto world.

“The reality is that every exchange in the world right now is preparing for a continued slowdown in the trading environment next year,” the spokesperson added.

In August, Swyftx also cut down its work force drastically, laying off one in five employees as fears of a global recession mounted.

A total of 20 per cent got the chop, which was 74 employees.

At the time, an employee who worked as a sales manager, revealed she had celebrated her one-year anniversary with the company only to find out she had lost her job while on her honeymoon in Hawaii.

“It’s been an incredible year, filled with goal setting, strategy, problem solving, upskilling, mentoring, innovation, networking, and I got a taste for what it is like working for a start-up/scale-up fintech company. Very different to corporate,” she shared on LinkedIn.

“I believe in the Swyftx vision, and look forward to cheering from the sidelines watching the remaining team deliver an unrivalled product and customer experience.”

Another staff member in August said her job loss had come at an “interesting time”.

“I’m getting married on Saturday followed by a honeymoon. I’m going to take this time to decompress and think about what’s next,” the sponsorship manager wrote on LinkedIn.

Over the weekend, Singapore crypto exchange Bybit, which is ranked in the top 10 for cryptocurrency exchanges worldwide, laid off 30 per cent of its staff.

Like Swyftx, the firm cited the “deepening” bear market and the crypto winter brought on by FTX’s collapse.

Another crypto platform Immutable, which was valued at $3.5 billion faced a fierce backlash over sacking 17 per cent of its staff from its gaming division, while continuing to “hire aggressively” after raising $280 million in funding in March.

It generally hasn’t been a good year for Australian start-ups, with dozens shedding staff at alarming rates this year.

An Australian social media start-up called Linktree that was recently valued at $1.78 billion sacked 17 per cent of staff from its global operations.

Then there was Australian healthcare start-up Eucalyptus that provides treatments for obesity, acne and erectile dysfunction, which fired up to 20 per cent of staff after an investment firm pulled its funding at the last minute.

Debt collection start-up Indebted let go of 40 of its employees just before the end of the financial year, despite its valuation soaring to more than $200 million, with most of the redundancies made across sales and marketing.

The growing list of redundancies also included Australian buy now, pay later provider Brighte, that offers money for home improvements and solar power, which let go of 15 per cent of its staff in June, with roles primarily based in corporate and new product development.

Another buy now, pay later provider with offices in Sydney called BizPay made 30 per cent of its workforce redundant blaming market conditions for the huge cut to staffing in May.

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