Coinbase, a digital currency exchange based in San Francisco, has opened a Chicago office to be close to burgeoning digital currency markets, big investors and what its leaders say is a vast pool of local talent. The appetite for bitcoin and other digital currencies has grown exponentially in recent years as they’ve gained legitimacy across the world.

And while digital currency is still not widely used or understood by many average consumers, Chicago’s two main exchanges, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange, became the first traditional exchanges to trade the financial products late last year, lending credibility to bitcoin and its lesser-known digital brethren. Coinbase is already one of the largest digital currency exchanges around the world.

Coinbase’s Chicago office will serve as a central hub for some back-office technology behind the company’s products, said Paul Bauerschmidt, a former CME executive, who is leading the Chicago office. “It’s similar to an exchange that you’d see with ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) or CME or CBOE,” he said.

Recruiting people who are able to build and maintain these complicated systems, especially with financial experience, is difficult in other cities, Bauerschmidt said. “The talent that’s here in Chicago, you can’t find anywhere else,” he said.

“And especially getting as many of the key staff as we need. It’s really exciting to be able to build it here.” The Chicago office also will focus on courting institutional investors, which manage assets on others’ behalf, like banks, hedge funds, mutual funds or pension funds, Bauerschmidt said. Read more from chicagotribune.com…

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