Alexandre Stachtchenko (Paymium): "Having a French exchange platform is a sovereignty issue".

Alexandre Stachtchenko (Paymium): "Having a French exchange platform is a sovereignty issue".

Much sought-after since leaving KPMG in 2023, Alexandre Stachtchenko has just joined Paymium as Director of Strategy. Here he tells us why he made the move, and what he hopes to achieve as one of France's few exchange platforms continues to grow.

The Big Whale: In the year since you left KPMG, you've done a lot of things. You've written a book, published dozens of opinion pieces, taken part in numerous conferences, and finally today you've decided to join a company. Why have you done this? Did you get bored of your freedom?

Alexandre Stachtchenko: After leaving KPMG, I needed to write and say a lot about everything I've observed over the last 10 years, whether in industry, the media, start-ups or even public funding. I've been able to do all that and I had set myself the goal of remaining open to opportunities while staying true to my core beliefs.

Hence the choice of Paymium?

Many people know that I'm not a big fan of metavers or 'layers 42' and other new competitors to Ethereum, so the number of companies I could bounce into wasn't huge. Especially as I'm also very attached to the idea of sovereignty, which narrows the spectrum even further and made Paymium almost a no-brainer.

How did the negotiations go with Paymium?

A bit by chance really. It all started during a discussion with Laetitia (Laetitia Zito is Paymium's CEO, editor's note) on the set of BFM Crypto. I told her what I thought of Paymium, the fact that it is a historic exchange platform that has been visionary, but that this precedence and vision are not reflected in Paymium's marketing and sales dynamic.

As the conversation progressed, we talked openly about Paymium, about what we could do together, and pretty soon I had a sort of "Eureka" moment when I said to myself that Paymium ticked all the boxes: it's an exchange platform and, what's more, it's French, and I've been saying for years that France needs its own exchange platform.

Why does France need a French player?

Because it's a question of sovereignty. On a subject as important as tomorrow's finance and currency. It's inconceivable that France wouldn't have its own exchange platform.

People don't make enough of a distinction between exchange platforms and brokers who are simply resellers and who buy their assets on these platforms. I have nothing against brokers, but if we have 35 brokers in France and no exchange platforms, that means we have 35 companies that depend on foreign players for access to tomorrow's currency and assets.

What country would accept that? There's a reason why the Americans and the other major powers have their own platforms. I've been saying it for years: France needs to be sovereign over platforms, mining and digital wallets.

How do you explain the fact that few people are aware of this issue?

Many people think that sovereignty is synonymous with autarky, whereas sovereignty is synonymous with autonomy. If France can't make toasters, we'll get over it. If, on the other hand, France doesn't have an army or energy, it will be much more complicated.

Do you consider bitcoin to be as important a subject as the army or energy?

I'm not yet putting bitcoin on the same level as the army, but I think that given the importance that these subjects are set to take, France needs to be equipped at that level. Without a player capable of managing access to the market infrastructure, it means that we are dependent on foreign countries on issues as important as currency and finance.

You talk about French sovereignty. Why not talk about European sovereignty?

I understand the idea, but European sovereignty is much more complicated to exercise in practice. There are a lot of divergent interests in Europe. It's better to have a European platform than a non-European one, but it's even better to have a French platform.

Paymium only allows you to buy bitcoin (and a handful of other cryptos but via a broker service, ed. note). Are you going to pursue this path?

I also like to point out that Paymium is "Bitcoin First" and not "Bitcoin Only". Paymium also provides access to other digital assets, but for us there's bitcoin and the rest (we recorded around $150,000 in daily volume on the bitcoin-euro pair at Paymium, editor's note).

That is?

If I'm talking to you about saving, I'm going to think about bitcoin, whereas if I'm talking about investing, I'm going to think about cryptos. Cryptos are an investment and tech topic, not a monetary topic with political issues.

Today, fewer than 10 cryptocurrencies are available for purchase on Paymium. Isn't that a problem?

We've just changed our trading engine to see how we can broaden the base of cryptos we'll be listing on the platform. It's a subtle balance we have to strike between our DNA and customer demand.

What will your role be at Paymium?

My job will essentially be to determine Paymium's positioning. Who are we talking to? Who are our customers? What offers work? My role will focus on acquisition, retention, customer satisfaction and, more generally, strategy. The aim is to strengthen both our legs, both the one on individuals, but also on businesses.

When you announced your arrival on social networks, many people congratulated you, but many also pointed out problems relating to costs or the user experience. How do you see things?

Yes indeed, but I'm here to improve things. In fact, I ended the announcement of my arrival at Paymium by asking what we could improve on rates or the user experience part.

We were a little late on certain subjects because of difficulties with the banks, but now that things are behind us, we'll be able to move forward. I've already started to bring things up, but not everything will be perfect in a fortnight' time. It's a long-term job.

One of the major criticisms levelled at Paymium concerns the retention fees that apply in the event of inactivity on the account. What do you think about this?

We've obviously had a lot of feedback on the fees, some of it very violent, but you have to understand that there is a rationale behind them. Unlike other players, Paymium does not lend its customers' money to go and make 4% or more on yield products.

From the outset, we have done our own custody and we guarantee 100% of our customers' money. When you take over custody, it has a cost and since Paymium has a model based on exchange fees, if someone doesn't do any transactions for a year, the business model doesn't hold.

So you're not going to change?

We understand that this is a sensitive issue for customers, so we're currently discussing it. I wouldn't say that we've made a decision, but we're thinking about it.

I'm well aware that it's an important issue, even if we have to remember that there's a real rationale behind this model. It's not like the traditional world where there's just a ledger with inputs and outputs. In this world, if you lose your cryptos, you lose them permanently, so the stakes are colossal.

What is Paymium's objective?

We see ourselves as a partner of crypto players, and in particular brokers (Coinhouse or Meria are brokers, ed. note) to whom we supply cryptos. As far as exchange platforms are concerned, we have no direct French competitor (apart from Zebitex, but its activity is anecdotal, editor's note), but there are plenty of foreign competitors. France is a well-identified market, particularly with the MiCA regulations that provide a framework for players in Europe.

Markets have made good progress since the start of the year. How is Paymium doing?

The trend is very positive. In the first four months of the year, Paymium has already done the volume for 2023. The number of customers is also up sharply. We've doubled the number of registrations in a year.

Do you have any targets in this area?

I've only just arrived, so things will gradually fall into place and we'll be communicating about them in due course. To date, we have more than 230,000 customers, and the aim is to have millions.

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