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Crypto bank Silvergate reports $1 billion loss as CEO insists ‘our mission has not changed’

January 17, 2023, 2:09 PM UTC
Silvergate's share price has declined almost 90% since mid-August.
Art by Fortune

The Crypto Winter has hit companies hard across the industry, but the crypto-focused Silvergate Capital has been one of the most significant victims, reporting on Tuesday a net loss of $1 billion for the fourth quarter of 2022.

The California-based bank was founded in 1988 as a savings and loan association, transitioning into one of the key players in the crypto ecosystem. With many traditional banks wary to work with crypto companies, Silvergate positioned itself around the industry, serving more than 1,500 digital currency and financial technology companies.

It created the Silvergate Exchange Network, allowing exchanges like Coinbase and Binance to transfer U.S. dollars between each other. Its assets under management and valuation exploded with the bull market, with its share price growing more than 1,500% between November 2019 and November 2021. By September 2022, 90% of the bank’s deposit base came from crypto firms.  

Its fortunes also fell with the crypto industry. One of the bank’s customers was FTX, which collapsed in November.

The company drew criticism from lawmakers. In a December letter, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), John Kennedy (R-La.), and Roger Marshall (R-Kans.) wrote to seek information about the relationship between Silvergate, FTX, and Alameda after allegations that Sam Bankman-Fried’s empire had been using customer funds for its own trades.

“We are concerned about Silvergate’s role in these activities because of reports suggesting that Silvergate facilitated the transfer of FTX customer funds to Alameda,” the senators wrote.  

With the plummeting industry, Silvergate’s outlook worsened. In the fourth quarter of 2022, Silvergate saw an outflow of $8.1 billion in digital asset deposits and laid off 40% of its staff, or about 200 employees, which it announced prior to its earnings report in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Jan. 5. It also sold assets at a loss of $718 million.

In a statement that accompanied the filing, Silvergate CEO Alan Lane said that the company was taking “commensurate steps to ensure that we were maintaining cash liquidity in order to satisfy potential deposit outflows.” Its share price has dropped nearly 90% from mid-August.

The new earnings report puts Silvergate’s full-year losses at $949 million, after posting net income of $75.5 million in 2021.

In the statement published on Monday, Lane defended the company’s business model, stating Silvergate still had 1,620 digital asset customers.

“Our mission has not changed,” he said. “We believe in the digital asset industry, and we remain focused on providing value-added services for our core institutional customers.”

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