Binance founder Changpeng Zhao willing to step down as pressure mounts

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Binance is seen on their exhibition stand at the Delta Summit, Malta's official Blockchain and Digital Innovation event promoting cryptocurrency, in St Julian's, Malta October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Binance founder Changpeng Zhao said he was willing to step down whenever he finds a successor who can do a “better job”, as one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchanges, under pressure from regulators around the world, sought to reinvent itself.

Governments and financial watchdogs are paying closer attention to the cryptocurrency industry, often putting in place rules that pose a challenge for exchanges like Binance that have thrived in a mostly unregulated environment.

Zhao made the remarks after Binance came under concerted scrutiny from regulators worried that its cryptocurrency exchanges could be used for money laundering or that investors fall victim to scams and runaway bets.

Financial authorities in Britain, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Lithuania and Thailand have all recently raised concerns about Binance.

Speaking to journalists, Zhao gave a frank assessment of the challenges, saying that he wanted to improve relations with regulators. He said Binance would seek their approval and establish regional headquarters, breaking with its decentralised structure.

While emphasising that he did not intend to leave immediately, Zhao also said he was open to handing over the reins to a successor.

“This is not a situation where I am forced to step down,” Zhao told journalists, adding that he was willing to pass control to someone who could do a “better job”.

“I’m a technology entrepreneur. We are doing this pivot to be a regulated financial institution and I would be very open to look for a leader with a strong regulatory background.”

Separately, he said Binance would seek approval by regulators. “We want to be licensed everywhere … From now on, we’re going to be a financial institution,” Zhao said, adding this would mark a maturation from its startup origins.

Binance offers a wide range of services to users across the globe, including crypto spot and derivatives trading.

It also runs an exchange that allows users to trade directly with each other. Its own cryptocurrency, Binance Coin, is the fourth-biggest in the world.

Responding to regulatory pressure, Binance curbed some services on cryptocurrency bets, highly leveraged positions and trading with tokens linked to shares.

Binance has grown its trading volumes almost tenfold in the last year to $668 billion last month, data from UK researcher CryptoCompare shows.

It is growing in popularity in Britain, for example, where its app has been downloaded 1.8 million times in 2021, and 2.2 million times in total, according to mobile data firm Sensor Tower.

Recently, however, Britain’s financial watchdog barred Binance from carrying out regulated activities.

Reuters

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Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.