After Binance came under a Justice Department investigation and its founder Changpeng Zhao (CZ) pleaded guilty to financial crimes, the crypto exchange elevated the CEO of its Singapore arm, Richard Teng, to the top job. So who is the new CEO of Binance?
Previously the regional head of Binance’s cross-Europe, Asia, Middle East, and Africa divisions, Teng is a highly qualified leader who previously worked for major global regulators – a marked contrast with his criminally indicted predecessor.
After 6 years at the helm, Binance’s celebrity CEO stepped down this month as part of the crypto exchange’s $4.3B settlement agreement with the Department of Justice (DoJ).
For his role overseeing Binance’s anti-money laundering (AML) and sanctions violations, CZ faces a $50M fine and potential prison sentence.
Although a judge initially cleared Zhao to return to his home in the UAE while he awaits sentencing, the DoJ has argued that he presents a flight risk and should be required to stay in the United States.
For Binance, CZ’s departure represents the end of an era. The company has lost a prominent figure who served as its public face since its foundation in 2017. But there are those in the industry who think the exchange could fare much better under new management.
Compared to other potential candidates for the job, Richard Teng’s appointment as CEO signals a fresh start for Binance that could be the key to retaining customer confidence.
Originally born in Singapore, Teng studied accounting at Nanyang Technological University before obtaining a master’s degree in applied finance from the University of Western Australia. He later enrolled in an executive leadership program at the Wharton School in Philadelphia.
Teng started his regulatory career working for the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
In 1994, he was appointed director of corporate finance at the MAS, the first in a string of senior leadership roles.
After 13 years in the employment of Singapore’s financial regulator, Teng took up a role as chief regulatory officer of the Singapore Exchange (SGX) in 2007.
He then returned to the public sector in 2015 as a chief executive of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), heading up the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSMA). While in the UAE, he also spent a year on the board of directors for Lulu Financial Group.
Today, Teng’s side hustles reflect his Binance-era professional interests. He serves as an international council member of the Global FinTech Institute and an advisory board member for Blockchain Association Singapore.
In the next chapter of his career, Teng will need to draw from previous experience to guide the world’s largest crypto exchange through what could be difficult times ahead.
Although the DoJ investigation is now concluded, Binance’s legal woes aren’t over yet.
In the US, a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) lawsuit threatens to impose further fines on the crypto exchange, which faces an uncertain future in the country if the agency wins.
Meanwhile, regulators in Europe continue to exert pressure on Binance. Having all but abandoned the UK market already, if the crypto exchange doesn’t turn things around soon, its EU business could also be at risk.
Regulatory enforcement actions also threaten the firm’s business in the Philippines.
Given the global scale of Binance’s compliance headache, handing the reigns to a seasoned technocrat with an insider’s knowledge of major regulators makes a lot of sense.
Commenting on his promotion, Richard Teng said collaborating with regulators would be one of his top priorities as CEO.
“I intend to use everything I’ve learned over the past three decades of financial services and regulatory experience,” he stressed. If Binance is to retain its dominance and stave off further crises, he’s certainly going to need it.