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Binance CEO says he’s willing to step down as world’s biggest crypto exchange welcomes regulation

Changpeng Zhao, CEO of Binance, speaks during a TV interview in Tokyo, Japan, on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018.

Akio Kon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The boss of cryptocurrency exchange Binance says he’s willing to step down from his role as the company seeks to become a regulated financial institution.

Speaking at a virtual press conference Tuesday, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao said he had no immediate plans to quit his role but that the company does have a succession plan in place.

“We’re going to pivot to be a fully regulated financial institution going forward,” Zhao told reporters, adding that, during that pivot, he would be “very open” to finding a replacement CEO with more regulatory experience.

Binance is the world’s largest digital currency exchange by trading volume. However, it has come under intense regulatory scrutiny lately as authorities around the world seek to clamp down on the fast-growing crypto industry.

In the U.K., the Financial Conduct Authority banned Binance’s British unit from undertaking any regulated activity. Binance was one of many crypto firms that withdrew their applications to the U.K.’s temporary licensing regime due to failing to meet anti-money laundering requirements, the FCA said.

Regulators in Japan, Canada and Italy have also clamped down on the firm, warning it is not authorized to operate in the countries.

Planning for the future

Binance aims to set up a number of regional headquarters around the world and will seek licenses wherever they are available, Zhao said. He has previously said Binance has no official headquarters.

Zhao insisted there were no immediate plans for his succession, adding Binance was “keeping our options open.”

“I’ll be honored to continue to run Binance as a regulated financial institution until we find somebody who may do a better job,” he said.

In May, Bloomberg reported that Binance was facing a federal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service.

Binance said it couldn’t comment specifically on any ongoing discussions with regulators, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere.

On Monday, the company said it was reducing the maximum leverage — or borrowed funds — users can use to trade futures contracts, amid concerns such high-risk bets were leaving clients with hefty losses.

Earlier this month, Binance said it would no longer offer “stock tokens,” digital digital versions of shares like Tesla, Apple and Coinbase, to shift its commercial focus to other products. German regulators had warned the instruments may have violated securities laws.

This year has been a wild one for crypto. Bitcoin, the world’s biggest digital coin, at one point hit an all-time high of nearly $65,000. It has since contracted sharply, however.

The cryptocurrency briefly surged above $40,000 for the first time in nearly six weeks, after Amazon said it is looking to add a digital currency and blockchain experts to its payments team.

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