Malta-based Binance, the world’s No. 1 cryptocurrency exchange by trading volume, said on Friday that it plans to stop offering futures and derivatives products across Europe in the face of growing regulatory pressures.
Effective immediately, Binance users in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands will not be able to open new futures or derivatives accounts to trade crypto, the exchange said in a statement on its website. All of Europe will eventually be added to this list.
Existing Binance users in those countries will have 90 days from a yet-to-be-announced date to close their open positions.
“As the crypto ecosystem evolves globally, we are continually evaluating our products and working with our partners to meet our users’ needs,” Binance said.
It’s unclear how big Binance’s derivatives business is in Europe, Reuters reported. U.K. researcher CryptoCompare said in June it was the largest derivatives exchange with volumes of $1.7 trillion, down around 30 percent from a month earlier.
Founded in China in 2017, Binance said it has operated, until now, in a “decentralized” manner, but regulatory pressure is growing. Binance CEO Changpeng “CZ” Zhao said he would be open to having a new CEO with a “very strong regulatory background.”
Zhao said recently that the cryptoverse is now “relatively heavily regulated,” and that Binance has to make a “big pivot from a technology startup into a financial services company,” The Block Crypto reported.
Regulators around the world are increasingly worried about the standard of anti-money laundering checks and consumer protection at crypto exchanges. The U.S, the U.K., Italy, Japan, Thailand, Poland, and the Cayman Islands have all either issued warnings or taken action against Binance recently over its primary offering of cryptocurrency trading.
German financial regulator BaFin said that Binance may have violated its securities laws in connection to its stock tokens offering.
Binance launched stock token trading — blockchain-based shares of publicly traded companies — in April but announced earlier in July that it will stop trading them. It offered five stock tokens: Apple, Coinbase, Microsoft, MicroStrategy, and Tesla, doing $73 million in total combined trading volume since the launch, according to data from Security Token Market.
“The European region is a very important market for Binance, and it is taking proactive steps towards harmonizing crypto regulations, which is a positive sign for the industry,” Binance said in a tweet that was not available as of this writing.
Zhao said this week he wants to improve relations with regulators and will seek approval to establish regional headquarters.
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Binance’s move could spell trouble for the future of cryptocurrency derivatives trading for retail players.
“A huge amount of money in crypto markets is floating around exclusively because of the existence and availability of such products,” said Joseph Edwards of London crypto broker Enigma Securities.
Binance “crowded out large sections of the derivatives market over the last couple of years,” Edwards said. “If their retreat from said market deepens, the medium-term impact is unlikely to be positive.”
Binance ranks No. 1 on Coinmarketcap by trading volume in the past 24 hours at close to $16 billion. Huobi Global was a distant second in the ranking at $3.5 billion.