Singapore-based digital asset manager Amber Group has cut its Hong Kong staff by half to 40, shedding jobs in risk management, audit and compliance, to try and weather a slump in cryptocurrency prices and a cascade of bankruptcies in the industry, according to a report by the South China Morning Post on Wednesday that cited a person familiar with the developments.

See related article: Amber Group launches CreatorFi NFT initiative to bridge traditional, crypto worlds

Fast facts

  • The SCMP report said Amber had cut its compliance workforce in Hong Kong to five from 20 people and made their entire auditing team redundant. It did not mention the Singapore headquarter operations or the total number of staff at Amber. 
  • Payments to many of the company’s third-party vendors have been delayed, in some cases by up to six months, the report said, citing a person who declined to be identified as they are not authorized to talk with the media.
  • The report said Amber, which was founded in 2017 in Hong Kong and later moved its head office to Singapore, had told the SCMP on Jan. 13 that it had 100 employees in Hong Kong and that it was “preparing itself for an extremely conservative position.”
  • Amber, whose inventors include Sequoia Capital China and Singapore’s Temasek Holdings, had moved its local offices from Hong Kong’s central business district to lower priced facilities in Causeway Bay to reduce costs, according to the report. 
  • Amber shut its crypto exchange WhaleFin in December, and canceled the exchange’s £20 million ($25 million) a year advertising deal with the English Premier League soccer team Chelsea FC for the 2022-23 season, according to an earlier Bloomberg report.
  • Amber became a unicorn, a privately-owned startup with a valuation of over US$1 billion, in June 2021 after closing a US$100 million Series B fundraising round and stating plans to go public within a few years.
  • Following the failure of the Bahamas-based FTX cryptocurrency exchange in November, the BlockFi Inc. exchange declared bankruptcy, and around the same time Hong Kong-based exchange AAX shut down customer services with reports it is unlikely to open again. On Thursday morning it was reported that U.S.-based crypto lender Genesis was preparing to file for bankruptcy.
  • Last week, the largest U.S.-based crypto exchange Coinbase Global Inc., cut its remaining workforce by a further 20%.
  • The total crypto market capitalization has slumped 56% from a year ago to US$966 billion.

See related article: Hong Kong arrests two for suspected involvement in digital asset fraud on AAX