Well before the US government’s call for Binance Holdings Ltd. to pay $4.3 billion in fines and the allegations against founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao emerged, the crypto exchange had been grappling with substantial regulatory hurdles worldwide.
Binance faced setbacks as Australia revoked its license for a derivatives operation and conducted searches at several of its locations. Singapore ordered a halt to its business activities within the city state, while Hong Kong cautioned about Binance’s status as an unregulated platform more than two years ago, as reported by Bloomberg. Even in Dubai, CZ’s primary residence, the exchange has yet to secure full authorization.
However, within CZ’s expansive crypto portfolio, another segment, under the leadership of Eowyn Chen, the current CEO since 2022, is reportedly witnessing growth in regions like India and Pakistan. Trust Wallet, a software-based crypto wallet service acquired by CZ in 2018, claims to see opportunities in countries such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Chen expressed ambitions to prioritize growth in Asia, particularly in Southeast Asian nations like Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. “I do want to make Asia a high priority for growth,” Chen told Bloomberg News in an interview on the sidelines of a crypto conference in Australia last month. Despite the potential for lower average revenue per user in these markets, Chen finds the collective potential intriguing.
Globally, Trust Wallet boasts 56 million downloads on iOS and Android, topping the charts as the most popular crypto wallet for handheld devices, as per Data.ai. Chen highlighted the platform’s success with approximately 8.5 million downloads in India and 3.5 million in Pakistan, surpassing MetaMask in these regions, based on Data.ai’s findings.
Despite the promise of growth in Asia, Trust Wallet is shifting its operations to the UAE. Chen relocated to Dubai from Virginia in October, and the company plans to be based in Ras Al Khaimah. Around 15%-20% of Trust Wallet’s 80 employees worldwide are situated in the UAE, according to Chen.
“The regulatory uncertainty in the US is a challenge. “So we are also diversifying our risk management from a corporate perspective by setting up the UAE entity,” Chen told Bloomberg. She described regulators in the UAE as having a “friendlier outlook toward crypto in general”. That gives Trust Wallet confidence about the likelihood of “reasonable regulation on decentralized finance,” Chen added.
Operating from the free trade zone of Ras Al Khaimah, known as RAK DAO (Digital Asset Oasis), Trust Wallet aims to benefit from the zone’s favorable treatment toward blockchain companies. Another entity, DApps Platform, holding the wallet service’s intellectual property rights, operates from the Abu Dhabi Global Market, as per Chen.
Chen mentioned that Trust Wallet has only recently started generating revenue and is yet to turn profitable. While CZ doesn’t directly manage Trust Wallet’s daily operations, his majority ownership role involves providing operational strategic advice, which Chen believes significantly boosts the platform’s visibility.
The native token of Trust Wallet, TWT, experienced a 50% surge to $2.48 in a single day last November following CZ’s endorsement of the app after the collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX crypto exchange. As of the latest data from CoinGecko, TWT was trading at around $1.11 in Singapore.
Chen disclosed to Bloomberg that Trust Wallet relies more on organic growth and word-of-mouth promotions than extensive marketing efforts, with minimal spending, attributing much of its expansion to these methods.
After CZ’s settlement with US prosecutors, he stepped down as Binance’s CEO, replaced by Richard Teng. Although CZ retained an economic interest in Binance’s troubled platform, he also relinquished his role as chairman of Binance’s US exchange. Recently, Binance launched a competing crypto wallet, similar to Trust Wallet, raising questions about the future strategy under Teng’s leadership.
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