A representation of the Binance cryptocurrency is seen in this illustration taken August 6, 2021.
Dado Ruvic | Reuters
Crypto giant Binance is bolstering its presence in France after a turbulent year of regulatory scrutiny.
The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange is funding a €100 million ($113 million) initiative with industry group France FinTech to support the cryptocurrency and blockchain sector in France.
The initiative, announced in November and dubbed Objective Moon, will see Binance establish a research and development office in France and collaborate on an incubator program for start-ups and training programs.
“The goal of Objective Moon is really to grow an ecosystem and nurture and accelerate an ecosystem. You can’t do it alone,” David Princay, French managing director of Binance, told CNBC.
“We also need to be able to capture talent and have more capacity to grow,” he said of plans to open an R&D office. “Having an R&D center is a step we need to take for our next evolution.”
Ledger, the recently $1.5 billion French crypto hardware company, and edtech company OpenClassroom are also involved in Objective Moon on developing educational programs.
France could prove to be fertile ground for the initiative given its growing fintech scene. According to figures from Dealroomfintech investments in France have exploded this year with exceptional financing rounds for Lydia and Qonto.
Binance has had a rocky year in its dealings with regulators around the world. Among his headaches were a ban by UK Financial Conduct Authority and investigation by the United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The company has also ceased trading in its digital equity tokens and more recently shut down its trading platform in Singapore.
Although its roots are in China, Binance has been notoriously shy about settling in one place, leaning into the decentralization maxims associated with the crypto industry.
However, Binance has recently changed its tone on this front, as CEO Changpeng Zhao has come out in favor of regulation and a willingness to work with regulators while expressing an interest in France as an official base of operations.
Princay was mum on whether the company’s significant investment in France was a precursor to establishing its official headquarters there; “We don’t have anything to add on that yet,” he said.
However, the company’s moves around the country have not gone unnoticed by watchdogs. Last month, the governor of The French central bank said that Binance needs to have strong anti-money laundering controls in place if it wants to set up operations in the country.
Meanwhile, French digital minister Cedric O was present with Binance and France FinTech at the Objective Moon announcement.
“Cedric O has been very clear with us, they’re welcome to see us and have us, but they’re also very demanding and that’s for the best,” Princay told CNBC. He added that Binance is in talks with regulators. in France on licenses.
“It’s a very positive sign for innovation,” he said of crypto regulation in France and Europe in general. “We need to be fully vetted and audited to be successful and that’s for the best because when we go through it will be a sign of trust, of compliance.”
“Our goal is to be 100% compliant in every business and country where we operate.”
Regulation often catches up with cryptocurrency businesses. At the European level, the next big challenge for the industry will be the European regulation of crypto asset markets (MiCA).
The MiCA, which was recently approved by the European Council, will introduce greater investor protections and expand licenses and passports for crypto businesses in the bloc. It should be debated in the European Parliament in the coming months.
To raise awareness
Ariel Wengroff is an editor at Ledger and leads the company’s educational content efforts.
She told CNBC that Ledger signed on to the initiative with Binance to increase awareness of crypto, blockchain, and Web3 — a broad concept of decentralized web services based on blockchain technologies – in its home market. She said providing educational programs is “for the greater good” of the industry because it has evolved much faster than traditional programs.
“We’re still at a stage of mainstream curiosity and if we’re going to get to mainstream adoption and individuals get the education they deserve – so that it’s a safe, transparent, open source future – then we need to come together as businesses to provide that now,” she said.
“Education in web3 shouldn’t be siled or oppositional, it should be open to anyone who wants to learn more about this space.”