Tim Neill, Group Chief Risk Officer of Copper.co

Tim Neill’s career began in the heart of London at Goldman Sachs, where the demands of a security role laid the foundation for what would become a remarkable career. However, this wasn’t the Goldman Sachs of today; it was an era when security had different contours, and the industry was on the cusp of transformation.

“I recognized fairly early on that technology through the early 2000s would transform the financial services industry,” Tim reflects. This foresight propelled him through the realms of ‘resiliency and business continuity,’ a domain that gradually morphed into a technology-centric landscape. It was this journey that seamlessly guided him toward risk management, where he witnessed the convergence of technology and financial prudence.

As Tim traversed through risk-based consulting roles in various banks and even ventured into the energy sector, a seismic shift was underway. Legislation began catching up with the imperative for risk-based decision-making, paving the way for the emergence of the Chief Risk Officer role at the zenith of Executive Committees and Board levels. In certain industries, this role transformed from a strategic imperative to a regulatory necessity. Against this backdrop of change, Tim’s trajectory intersects with the disruptive force that is Copper.co.

The allure of Copper.co for Tim was multifold—advanced technology, an exceptional leadership team, and a disruptive opportunity poised to reshape the financial services industry. After experiencing the significant impacts of electronic trading and real-time payments, Tim foresees an even more profound transformation facilitated by blockchain technologies and tokenization.

“At Copper, our custody services, especially the ClearLoop product, have provided tangible solutions to institutional crypto businesses navigating a poorly governed market,” Tim explains. In an industry where legislation is playing catch-up, Copper.co stands as a bastion of reliability, offering real solutions rooted in traditional banking benchmarks and standards.

Leading the 2nd Line Function: A ‘Critical Friend’ Engagement

Tim holds the position of Group Chief Risk Officer (CRO) at Copper.co, where he manages risk and and is Managing Director for the UK business, and most recently appointed as interim-CEO & Chair of the recently launched Copper Securities (ME) Ltd.. His role extends beyond just overseeing the company’s day-to-day risk management and UK & UAE operations, but involves acting as a “critical friend” to all of the international businesses.

“As CRO, I lead the 2nd line function within Copper.co, reporting directly to our CEO and sitting on the Executive Committee,” Tim begins. The 2nd line, as he describes it, plays a pivotal role in the business dynamics. While the 1st line forges ahead in making business decisions, the 2nd line is the vigilant ‘checker.’ This symbiotic ‘maker/checker’ relationship operates against a backdrop of risk appetite and  taxonomy, set within a risk governance framework agreed by the CEO Executive Committee and the Group Board.The rhythm of this intricate dance is maintained through a meaningful and effective 2nd line risk programme. Regular reporting and assessments, channeled through a Risk & Compliance Committee reporting quarterly, offer a business-led risk approach. This allows the risk function to provide critical assessment and challenge to the business, with a sharp focus on day-to-day operations.

Within the purview of the 2nd line operations lies the Compliance function, adding another layer of specificity to the risk and financial crime framework. Tim highlights the crucial role Compliance plays in aligning the business with legal and regulatory obligations, tailoring its approach to the specific territory or jurisdiction it operates within.

And then, there’s the 3rd line—Audit—an independent entity reporting directly to the Chair of the Board. This layer provides an additional level of scrutiny and assurance, completing the tripartite of risk oversight within Copper.co.

Aligning Risk with Strategy

Beyond the meticulous structures of risk oversight, Tim, as an Executive Committee member, seamlessly intertwines his role with the broader strategy and operations of Copper.co. This means being in lockstep with the business’s strategic intent and offering real-time assessment and guidance on its undertakings.

“At times, this can mean somewhat contentious and challenging discussions – which is precisely our purpose as a risk function,” Tim notes. Positioned at the executive level, the CRO role fosters relationships at a peer engagement level, a crucial aspect of providing beneficial risk-led guidance. Understanding the business operations at a profound level, Tim interprets this against the risk appetite, risk framework, and, often, regulatory and legal positions.

Early engagement in strategic discussions becomes a linchpin, significantly reducing losses through the foresight of early identification, avoidance, or remediation. Tim’s role transcends the traditional confines of risk management; it becomes a strategic partner in Copper’s journey, steering through challenges and opportunities alike.

ClearLoop: A Game-Changing Off-Exchange Custodial Solution

Copper.co is changing the game in the world of digital asset technology. The company is focused on providing institutional clients with secure off-exchange custodial services, which makes them unique in their industry. Their products have been designed with great care and attention to detail, and they are committed to offering the best possible services to their clients.

“We’ve managed to design, build, and deploy products that offer very secure off-exchange custodial services, protecting our client’s assets unlike anyone else,” Tim emphasizes. In the last 12 months, this distinctive offering, known as ClearLoop, has not only positioned Copper.co at the forefront but has also led many competitors to forge partnerships, acknowledging the unparalleled security it provides.

ClearLoop is more than a solution; it’s a gateway to liquidity on centralized exchanges through Copper’s off-exchange management and settlement architecture. Clients can seamlessly delegate funds and execute trades on multiple exchanges, with settlement occurring within Copper.co’s secure infrastructure. This approach significantly mitigates risks related to counterparties, collateral monitoring, and insolvency, ensuring a robust and secure trading environment.

A noteworthy aspect of Copper.co’s custodial offering is the establishment of an account structure dedicated to ClearLoop, fortified by an English Law Trust. “Having a Trust structure in place offers a unique level of surety to clients,” states Tim. It becomes a fortress of confidence, underpinning the security of assets in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Multi-Party Computation (MPC): A Citadel of Security

At the core of Copper.co’s custody offering lies Multi-Party Computation (MPC) technology, a sophisticated process designed to fortify the security of client assets. Through a shrad creation process, Copper.co ensures a distributed approach, where only one-third of the shards are held by Copper.co, one-third by the client, and the remaining third by a trusted third party nominated by the client—specialist security vendors with proven expertise.

“We operate a robust process of controls regarding the movement of assets, visible in real-time for our clients. This not only enhances transparency but also mitigates single points of failure from any involved party,” Tim explains. The integration of MPC technology exemplifies Copper.co’s unwavering commitment to setting new standards in security within the digital asset landscape.

Copper.co’s tagline, “Building the institutional standard for digital assets,” encapsulates its pivotal role in contributing to the growth and adoption of digital assets in financial markets. “We recognize that our success is pegged to the level of trust we have with our clients. Therefore, we work hard to maintain robust standards that are auditable and defensible for the long term,” Tim affirms. This commitment has not only carved out a formidable position for Copper in the rapidly growing market but also serves as a benchmark for peer organizations, setting a precedent for standards that can be emulated.

A Risk-Led Approach: Weaving Strategy and Security

Copper.co has a business led risk management approach that weaves its strategic planning with robust risk management. “We operate a business led risk approach to our strategic planning,” Tim states. At the heart of this approach lies a meticulous process and operations framework pinned against a risk appetite. This framework is not static; it undergoes routine reviews to ensure compliance and benchmarks itself against rigorous financial services standards. The regulatory landscape is navigated with precision, ensuring perpetual compliance, and a high level of client engagement forms an integral part of Copper’s risk program. Active involvement of the Board in the risk process and reporting underscores the emphasis on guiding the business within the defined risk appetite during discussions on strategic program development.

Copper.co’s reputation for robust security measures is not merely a claim but a testament to the company’s relentless commitment to safety. “We hold a number of certifications and maintain a very active assurance program,” Tim notes. This commitment extends to annual externally managed audits, culminating in industry benchmarks of best practice. Copper.co proudly holds the SOC 2 Type II certification, a notable achievement given the typical progression from Type I to Type II. The ISO27001 certification further solidifies Copper’s commitment to industry standards, setting a high bar for security operations.

Beyond certifications, Copper.co’s security arsenal includes the Cyber Essential certification in the UK, reaffirming its dedication to maintaining a secure digital landscape. The company’s Security and Risk teams take pride in achieving these milestones, showcasing a commitment to excellence in securing client assets.

Insurance Coverage: An Extra Layer of Protection

Insurance forms an additional layer of protection in Copper’s comprehensive risk management approach. “Besides standard insurances expected for an established business, Copper ensures we have suitable insurance policies for risk transfer appropriate to our sector,” Tim explains. A bespoke crypto-crime insurance policy safeguards digital asset, and a market-leading Specie policy of $500 million covers material backups used to access digital assets. This policy includes coverage for a named third party responsible for client assets, held in a particular manner—a pioneering approach in the sector.

Collaborating with AON as the global broker, Copper’s policies are written in the prestigious Lloyd’s of London insurance market by leading underwriters. The constant expansion of the Copper proposition ensures that insurance coverage remains extant, reflecting the company’s commitment to adapt to new client operations and needs.

While Copper.co’s technology and security procedures have resulted in no losses and no claims made, the presence of insurance serves as both a testament to their risk measures and a confidence-building element for clients. The stamp of approval from Lloyd’s insurers resonates with the industry, further reinforcing Copper’s commitment to safeguarding the assets entrusted to its care.

Engineering Excellence: Navigating the Frontiers of Technology

In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital assets, Copper.co stands out with its commitment to technological advancement. “Copper has a deep understanding and a set of capabilities in technology development in both digital assets and tokenization,” Tim Neill asserts. A key pillar of Copper’s technological prowess lies in its engineering teams, which he describes as the most impressive he has ever worked with. The speed at which these teams design and build best-in-class solutions is nothing short of impressive, creating a culture of positive innovation.

The unique leadership style of Copper’s CEO, Dimitry Tokarev, stands out as a driving force behind this culture. Dimitry actively collaborates with engineering teams, contributing directly to the building process. “I don’t know many CEO’s that can perform at that level, and sit down and code with their teams, and then meet with clients & regulators and talk about their products which they’ve had direct build involvement in,” shares Tim.

Copper.co’s commitment to innovation is not just a statement; it’s backed by concrete actions. Recently, the company acquired Securrency Capital UAE, now known as Copper Securities (ME) Ltd. This strategic move is pivotal to Copper’s expansion into the UAE and beyond. “Copper Securities ME is a regulated blockchain-enabled brokerage firm offering digital securities trading in the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM),” Tim shares. This acquisition not only expands Copper’s global footprint but also opens avenues for tokenizing traditional securities and streamlining value chain management through automation.

Tokenization, in Tim’s view, holds immense promise due to the efficiencies and transparency it brings. Whether applied to traditional securities or cross-border payments, it has the potential to revolutionize existing models, offering tangible benefits to consumers and businesses. Looking ahead, Tim Neill points to significant upcoming events in the crypto space. He shares, “Apart from upcoming legislation releases in the US, we’re also eagerly awaiting the bitcoin halving, due in March / April. This will prove incredibly interesting to follow, as the last halving event saw a very positive market move.”

In reflecting on the future of digital assets and crypto, Tim sees a transformative period ahead. He underscores the pivotal role of upcoming events, such as legislative releases and the bitcoin halving, in shaping the trajectory of the industry. Copper.co, positioned at the forefront of these changes, is aligning itself strategically to embrace upcoming trends. “I think block-chain-enabled transactions and tokenization of assets will be massive game changers in the short term. We are living in a really exciting time for technology!” concludes Tim.

For More Info: https://copper.co/

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