Richard Teng is taking over as crypto exchange Binance’s new CEO, replacing Changpeng Zhao (CZ) after he pled guilty to financial crimes and resigned.
Binance has also admitted it violated sanctions, aided money laundering, and engaged in unlicensed money transmission. In the wake of the company’s multiple guilty pleas to US federal crimes, its new chief Richard Teng was quick to say Binance will work to “uphold high standards globally that foster innovation while providing important consumer protections.”
Of course, Binance has long promised pretty much the same thing while doing the exact opposite.
Teng says he will work to reassure customers that the company is still financially stable despite its record-shattering $4.3 billion penalty amid $800 million and counting of customer outflows.
CZ has settled investigations by the US Department of Justice (DoJ), Treasury bureaus, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) lawsuit, however, is unresolved and will continue.
Richard Teng walks into a financial crime scene
Experts agree that Teng has his work cut out for him. Since the DoJ began its investigation, several key figures at Binance — counter-terrorism executive Jennifer Hicks, head of product Mayur Kamat, senior VP of compliance Steven Christie, APAC head Leon Foong, and chief strategy officer Patrick Hillman — have left the company.
GMEX Group CEO Hirander Misra told Bloomberg that Teng “has a respected regulatory background,” yet the required “culture of regulatory compliance is very hard to instill in an organization that has evolved in an industry with a lack of regulations.”
Teng held the position of Binance’s global head of regional markets before his promotion to CEO this month. He joined Binance as the CEO of its Singapore arm in August 2021. In April this year, he advanced to become regional head of Binance’s cross-Europe, Asia, Middle East, and Africa divisions.
Teng also previously served as CEO of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority at Abu Dhabi Global Market, chief regulatory officer of the Singapore Exchange, and director of corporate finance at the Monetary Authority of Singapore.
His LinkedIn profile lists an advisory board position with Blockchain Association Singapore and board director for Lulu Financial Group. He is also an International Council Member of the Global FinTech Institute.
Teng earned a master’s degree in applied finance at the University of Western Australia in 1998. He attended the Executive Leadership Programme at The Wharton School in 2004.
The adult in the room returns
The experienced and credentialed Richard Teng is taking over as the company’s CEO — as its old CEO awaits criminal sentencing. Only time will tell, but it seems that an adult has finally taken the helm at Binance.
With billions of dollars payable to the US government in 2024, fearful customer withdrawals, and no charismatic wünderkind at its helm, it’s certainly too soon to say whether Teng can save Binance. However, the world’s largest crypto exchange doesn’t just go away overnight.
Binance might still have a chance but its chances are probably better if CZ — still the largest Binance equity owner — doesn’t pull too many strings in the background.