A cryptocurrency exchange celebrated the opening of its new headquarters in Fulton Market on Tuesday.
“This is a mechanism and tool to bring traditionally underrepresented and ignored populations into the world of crypto so that they can take ownership and control of their own financial destiny,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot at FTX US’ new offices, 137 N. Green St. “I guess the sky’s the limit.”
FTX US, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges, was operating out of a small Chicago hotel a few months ago but soon realized the need to expand, said Brett Harrison, the firm’s president, though the firm didn’t disclose the number of employees at its headquarters .
“Chicago has some of the largest exchanges, trading firms, hedge funds, technology companies… and we’re thrilled to be a part of them,” Harrison said.
Harrison said the city’s history of public-private partnerships is why FTX not only wanted to be based in Chicago, but also wanted to help give back to the city’s underserved communities through a small guaranteed basic income program.
FTX US has partnered with Equity and Transformation to launch its year-long pilot, which will generate $500 per month for 100 Chicago residents. Participants in the program, which begins in the fall, will also receive financial instruction, a fee-free bank account, and a Visa debit card.
The program focuses on Austin, Englewood and West Garfield Park.
According to Lightfoot, the FTX program complements two other guaranteed basic income initiatives: Equity and Transformation’s Chicago Future Fund and the city’s Chicago Resilient Communities program, which will provide $500 a month to 5,000 people.
“I can’t stress enough how important these investments are to our residents,” Lightfoot said. “And [for] really showing them that they matter, that they are seen, that they are heard and that we are doing everything we can to reach out and support them.”
Richard Wallace, founder and chief executive officer of Equity and Transformation, said the rising cost of living in Chicago has made it harder for people to stay in the city.
“We’re a city that excels at being diverse, and so part of that commitment to diversity is a commitment to making sure your neighbors can stay,” Wallace said. “So, with this program, we have the opportunity … to actually bring in interventions that actually create justice.”