Crypto exchange Binance on hunt for new CEO amid rising regulatory scrutiny

Company plans to change its mindset from being a tech start-up to acting as a financial institution, its founder says

Zhao Changpeng, chief executive officer of Binance, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018. The world’s biggest cryptocurrency exchange keeps getting bigger. Binance.com is adding “a couple of million” registered users every week, with 240,000 people signing up in just an hour on Wednesday, said Zhao. Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

The world’s biggest crypto exchange, Binance, is looking for a new chief executive as it is retooling to address concerns of regulators from around the world, current chief executive Changpeng “CZ” Zhao said in a news conference call on Tuesday.

Facing a series of probes and consumer warnings, Binance plans to change its mindset from being a tech start-up to acting as a financial institution, with all related licensing and compliance procedures in place, Mr Zhao said.

The company, which previously said it is not based anywhere, also plans to establish several headquarters around the world and to appoint senior people steeped in compliance as regional chief executives, Mr Zhao said.

It is also applying for licences “everywhere”, he said.

The strategy shift comes as Binance is being scrutinised by the US Justice Department, the Internal Revenue Service and other agencies. This month, Thailand’s Securities and Exchange Commission filed a criminal complaint against Binance. The Cayman Islands’ financial regulator said Binance was not authorised to operate in the territory.

“Longer term, playing within the rules, 100 per cent compliant, it’s much better to play within the confines of that,” Mr Zhao said. “That trade-off is very, very clear.”

Founded in 2017, much later than many other exchanges, Binance has quickly gained market share by being more aggressive and paying less attention to regulations than rivals such as Coinbase Global.

It is now the world’s biggest crypto spot as well as derivatives exchange. It also issues its own coins, such as Binance Coin, which has a $52 billion market cap — making it the fourth-largest cryptocurrency in the world.

While the company already has a compliance department with several hundred people, it is planning to further boost compliance hires, especially of senior people with high-level knowledge of the subject.

Updated: September 21st 2021, 7:57 AM
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