Changpeng Zhao, founder of dominant crypto platform Binance, has made a series of proposals in recent days, seeking to restore order to the digital-currency universe following the collapse of rival FTX.
His own success may depend on it. By assuming the role of a de facto central banker for the unruly and unregulated crypto world, Zhao helps make Binance appear safer from the storms that enveloped its rival.
“By process of elimination, he became one of the last men standing representing big centralised crypto exchanges,” said Ilan Solot, co-head of digital assets at London-based financial firm Marex. “Out of principle or survival instinct, he will need to adjust to the changing world.”
A Binance spokesman declined to comment.
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Zhao said Binance, by far the biggest hub for digital-currency trading, will create an industry recovery fund, and vowed to make customers’ digital coin holdings transparent. He has pushed others to do the same.
“Crypto is not going away. We are still here. Let’s rebuild,” Zhao tweeted.
Zhao, born in China and raised in Canada, has over the past few years built Binance into a behemoth, processing more crypto transactions than most of its nearest rivals combined. Traders treat his pronouncements, usually made to his 7.7 million followers on Twitter, with serious heft. Last month, Binance contributed $500m to Elon Musk’s takeover of the social-media company.
Sceptical tweets by Zhao earlier this month inspired an exodus of cash from FTX. He briefly engaged in talks to take over his rival before saying it was too far gone.
His calls for reform represent a turn of events for Binance and Zhao. Binance has been the target of critics who say it has done too little to promote transparency. The exchange transacts dozens of billions of dollars daily, yet has long operated without an official headquarters and without registration in many countries. Under pressure from regulators, it has started to set up offices and get licences.
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Binance’s US arm, meanwhile, has been subject to probes by the Securities and Exchange Commission, The Wall Street Journal previously reported.
On 14 November, Zhao tried to reassure users, saying his exchange has taken neither loans nor investments from venture-capital firms, and hasn’t moved money out of the platform — all things that FTX did.
The Wall Street Journal reported that FTX lent cryptocurrencies from its own customers to an affiliate, Alameda Research, creating a hole at the exchange. When customers tried to get their money out, they couldn’t.
Among Zhao’s proposals is for crypto exchanges to do something called a Merkle-tree proof-of-reserves, a way of showing customers that their deposits are inside the exchange.
“Binance will start to do proof-of-reserves soon. Full transparency,” he said on Twitter.
As of September, Binance had 62% of the market share for derivatives trading, up from 53% at the start of the year, according to data provider CryptoCompare.
Binance stands to become even bigger should crypto trading recover from the FTX meltdown. The exchange gained market share this year after other trading platforms crashed in May.
While most exchanges are laying off staff and cutting costs, Binance has been hiring. Its workforce is expected to reach 8,000 by the end of the year, up from about 6,000 in the summer, Zhao told The Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
Zhao told the Journal that trading volumes and the number of users on Binance have taken a hit in recent months, but less so than for competitors. He said Binance offers plenty of liquidity for users to buy and sell when they need, and that the products it offers trigger fewer margin calls for investors.
“We run our platform very carefully. Those kinds of things users notice over time,” Zhao said.
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This article was published by The Wall Street Journal, part of Dow Jones