Over the past three years, Hodl has grown significantly as a brand and correspondingly, our team has also considerably expanded. The team of Hodl consists of 25+ team members with different backgrounds and experiences, all story-worthy, however, we want to highlight a few key members who made Hodl as we know Hodl today. The sixth individual in this series is our Chief Legal Officer (CLO): Axel Macro.
In the first years of his career, Axel explored various jobs and companies till he decided to start his law studies in Leiden. Once successfully completed law school, he started working at Pels Rijcken and Droogleever Fortuyn, the state attorney, in 1990. Next to being a lawyer for the past 33 years, he has also been a lecturer at the Bar Association and published various legal books.
Axel first came in touch with the Hodl founders in 2019. In 2020, our CEO Maurice Mureau and our COO Nick Friedrich asked Axel to meet for some counseling. “We're starting Hodl, an investment fund. Would you like to help us with that?", this is how it started, says Axel. What initially started as an occasional collaboration, turned into a joint business cooperation, when Axel was asked to become a board member.
In over three decades of being a lawyer, I have become a generalist having explored a multitude of fields. As you gain more experience as a lawyer, your expertise becomes more important than deep knowledge. Nowadays, I act more as a seasoned generalist and advisor. To trace back my path in the legal field, when I first started at Pels Rijcken, I became a specialist in soil contamination cases, specifically cases involving Article 21 IBS, which included incidents like Shell Lekkerkerk and Gouderak.
In the five next years, I went on to broaden my work towards other fields, such as defense, nearly all government ministries, and various areas of law like criminal and family law to name some. It was only after this initial period that I became more interested in corporate law. Over the years, I've assisted many companies, including startups, and helped them find the right structures. I particularly enjoy assisting companies in their startup phase due to the fast-paced dynamics and the growth they can experience, and that's how the Hodl adventure began.
At first, having no experience in cryptocurrency was a challenge. It was a completely new and fascinating world for me. I must say, I was well-equipped for it; lawyers excel at immersing themselves and acquiring knowledge! The more time I spent at Hodl, the faster I embraced the industry. Among the very first challenges I had was drafting the employee's contracts, taking care of lease agreements and setting up the needed private companies. However, one of the biggest challenges was being actively involved in the expansion into new markets. Since the bull market, we experienced an influx of international investors who resonated with Hodl’s strategy and performance, so we concluded that an international expansion was the next logical step. So, we started evaluating our possibilities where to expand. This led to us establishing various digital asset funds in Luxembourg, Spain, and ultimately Gibraltar.
In Hodl’s case, I think the secure storage of digital assets represents one of the main challenges. For instance, as we have seen with FTX, in the blink of an eye, exchanges and other institutions cease to exist. It really puts the responsibility back on the owner, which I found fantastic for many reasons such as cutting the middleman for instance. This responsibility and ownership indeed come with some implications: digital assets need to be stored securely. It is not uncommon for people to lose access to their wallets or face cybersecurity attacks. On this note, Hodl offers the best-in-class solutions for that. We partner with industry leaders and we take care of the holdings, freeing the investors from any burden. Another challenge can be tracing back the origin of certain positions. The blockchain is transparent and publicly available but this doesn’t make it easier. There is a level of expertise required to use these tools and for both institutions such as banks or the holder, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of assets.
Regulations in the digital assets industry are quite exciting in my opinion. As a lawyer, I find it interesting to navigate this playing field that is in constant evolution and it is not defined yet. While I make sure that Hodl complies with current regulations, I also try to anticipate the direction of future ones, guiding the company on being at the forefront of regulations. Since anticipating what can come next in terms of regulations is challenging, we are in constant talk with the AFM (Dutch Authority for the Financial Markets). In this way, thanks to our very open policy, we ensure a dialogue with authorities and we assure the company is ready to adapt.
Hopefully, the whole industry and all the professionals that revolve around it will be more acquainted with all the rapid developments digital assets face on a constant basis. When I spoke to fellow lawyers about legal entities such as a DAO (Decentralized Autonomous Organization) they quite often have no clue of how they function. But they do exist and I find it fascinating that everything is still quite explorative. I could say the same for institutions. Sometimes there is a misalignment between the knowledge of industry players and regulators. I don't think this has ever happened in history, where there's a whole financial system that's not well-regulated.
The location of funds creates a primary difference in terms of regulations. For example, in the Netherlands, we are registered with the AFM, the Dutch Authority for Financial Markets, and what is in place in the Netherlands and generally in the European Union, is different to what is being applied in Gibraltar. Furthermore, while Gibraltar doesn’t enforce European Union law, Hodl underwent a rigorous regulatory process to establish itself as a regulated investment fund. As I mentioned earlier, this is an industry in constant evolution. As I said previously, it is an ever-evolving industry.
Managing risks is quite straightforward because we outsource this to true specialists. In this way, I ensure that my knowledge is being complemented by experts in the field. We are a relatively young organization, I don't aspire to delve deeply into compliance knowledge myself when there are great professionals who do that for a living. We have third-party specialists who are the best in the field to handle this. For example, when we expanded to Gibraltar, we engaged top law firms and accounting firms to assist us because we are fully regulated there. Increasingly, digital assets funds are being entrusted to third parties as they need to be independent.
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