Binance is a cryptocurrency exchange founded in 2017 by developer-turned-billionaire Changpeng Zhao. He made his fortune creating Binance back when the crypto scene was in its infancy.
The company has since become a major player in the crypto space. In 2019, it launched its Singapore crypto exchange, allowing users to buy and sell crypto assets like Bitcoin using the Singapore dollar through the Fast and Secure Transfers (FAST) electronic funds transfer system.
The company’s Singapore arm, Binance Asia Services, was launched the same year in 2019, backed by the Temasek Vertex Holdings unit.
Binance Asia Services was exempt from holding a license under the Payment Services Act to provide digital payment token services, as authorities wanted to enable innovation in the crypto space for crypto companies. The exemptee worked while his license application was being reviewed.
Fast forward to December 2021, in a sudden announcement, Binance said it had withdrawn its license application and was leaving Singapore. The move has baffled investors and observers who never thought it would happen.
Investors in Singapore were given a deadline to exit their positions and withdraw their assets.
What is Binance?
Binance is one of the world’s largest exchanges in the crypto industry. It offers a wide range of services to users around the world – from spot trading and derivatives to tokenized versions of stocks.
According to Glassdoor, the company has grown to reach a annual revenue nearly US$1 billion. In 2021, it generated at least $20 billion in revenue, according to a Bloomberg analysis of its trading volume and fees.
Its own cryptocurrency, Binance Coin, is the fifth largest in the world by market capitalization. Its website says it has more than 2,000 employees at more than 20 locations around the world.
Binance’s corporate structure is said to be opaque, with its holding company largely registered in the Cayman Islands.
Binance has been banned by some countries from crypto trading, while other countries have issued consumer warnings about the exchange’s products.
In June last year, the Japanese regulator said Binance was operating illegally in the country. Meanwhile, the German watchdog said in April that the firm faces a fine for offering equity-linked tokens.
Changpeng has been trying to assuage regulators’ concerns about anti-money laundering and anti-terrorist financing activities on the platform since last year.
The CEO of Binance had highlighted the potential for growth of the exchange if it were to be regulated. He said that despite the rapid development of digital capital, no more than 2% of the world’s population uses cryptocurrencies, and the key to their growth lies in user trust.
By cooperating with the authorities, the crypto industry will benefit as it enables an opening to the mass market. Properly defining the basics of cryptography rules will allow the entire population to feel safe to participate in cryptography.
“In order to attract that 98% of people, we have to be regulated.”
Closure of Binance.sg
Consequently, many were surprised when Binance.sg withdrew its license application from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in December 2021. The company also stated that it would cease operations and close by on February 13, 2022.
Some said the reason behind this could be other regulatory issues Binance had with MAS. In September 2021, Binance was ordered to shut down the services of its main crypto exchange Binance.com in the country and was placed on an investor alert list.
In deciding to cancel its license application, the crypto exchange said it weighed “strategic, business and development” considerations.
“Our decision to shut down Binance.sg was not taken lightly. Our immediate priority is to help our users in Singapore transfer their holdings to other wallets or other third-party services,” said Richard Teng , CEO of Binance Singapore during the announcement.
With the closure of the trading platform, Binance.sg users have been notified via email of the next steps. Users were instructed to close all open positions and withdraw their Singapore dollar and cryptocurrency assets before the closing date.
Binance’s failure to launch a regulated exchange through Singapore also dashed hopes of the Southeast Asian city-state becoming its global headquarters.
This is seen from a maintenance with Reuters in October, where Binance CEO Changpeng said the company was considering other countries for headquarters – Ireland, as well as France, and another unnamed European city.
Refocusing its strategy in Singapore
However, Binance has not completely abandoned Singapore.
In a Tweet in December, Changpeng said the company had made a significant investment (18%) in regulated exchange HGX and would continue to work with partners to grow the crypto industry in Singapore.
HGX has a Recognized Market Operator license. He currently trades private company stocks as well as symbolic securities, including rare whiskey, art and real estate.
The decision to invest in a regulated local stock exchange shows a change in tactics and a redeployment of its human resources compared to initial plans. According to Binance Singapore spokesperson Hazel Watts, all local employees will join the company’s global operations and continue contributing to the company.
The crypto exchange also said it would refocus its Binance Asia Services operations in Singapore into a blockchain innovation hub to help grow the global blockchain ecosystem.
According to LinkedIn, Binance is currently hiring hundreds of Singapore-based employees. The portal says Singapore employees are fifth in number, after India, Nigeria, Indonesia and the United States.
The company is always recruiting new blood to join its Singapore-based team and offers positions such as Growth Manager, Data Analyst and Commercial Counsel.
Middle East, the new global HQ?
Binance has been increasingly interested in the Middle East since it withdrew its license application in Singapore.
In December last year, it reached an agreement with Dubai authorities to establish a regulatory and legislative framework for virtual assets.
The crypto exchange will collaborate with the Dubai World Trade Center Authority to create a new international ecosystem of virtual assets. Indeed, Dubai is aiming to license crypto exchanges, blockchain and distributed ledger technology businesses, as well as digital currencies and city assets in the coming months.
According to reports, Changpeng bought a house in Dubai as part of a show of support for a city he calls “very pro-crypto.” He also met with key officials from the virtual asset and blockchain industry.
Next steps for Binance
Key resources are currently deployed in the Middle East.
Richard Teng, who was the CEO of Binance Singapore, is now the regional head of the crypto exchange for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), according to his LinkedIn profile.
Richard had joined Binance in August, but his stint as CEO of Singapore only lasted a few months as Binance withdrew its application for a Singapore crypto license, ending its bid to be a licensed exchange in the country.
The fact that Binance reassigned Richard to lead other markets shortly after dropping its permit attempt in Singapore shows that it continues to be serious about its regulated exchange plans.
The former Singapore CEO has years of experience dealing with and navigating market regulations, having served as chief regulatory officer at the Singapore Stock Exchange for over seven years and spending 13 years working in finance business with the MAS.
Richard also has six years of experience as CEO of the Abu Dhabi Global Market Financial Services Regulatory Authority.
Additionally, Zhaopeng is quickly becoming a fixture in the UAE, as evidenced by his encounters with royalty and top Abu Dhabi officials who are equally eager to bring his crypto exchange to the country. This shows the Binance founder’s efforts to build relationships and establish the business in this region.
Although currently on the employment front, the crypto exchange does not yet appear to be hiring an army of workers in Abu Dhabi. But it’s only a matter of time, that will change as Binance expands into the new market.
Featured Image Credit: Coinape, Coindesk