Since its appearance on the scene in 2017, cryptocurrency exchange ecosystem Binance has grown exponentially: the company has developed location-specific platforms in a growing number of countries across the Earth, and seems to be only continuing its expansion.
Now, Binance is stepping into the UK market with plans to launch an exchange that is specifically built for Old Blighty later this summer.
Recently, Finance Magnates spoke to Binance’s UK Director Teana Baker-Taylor, who is charged with overseeing the development of Binance’s presence in the UK, as well as overseeing the exchange’s operations after its launch.
Previously, Teana was the Executive Director of Global Digital Finance (GDF), an industry advocacy body that fosters discussion on global policy and governance for crypto and digital assets with policymakers and industry participants; she also served as the chief marketing officer at Coinfloor, and was HSBC’s Global Head of Client Strategy, Global Liquidity and Cash Management for several years.
We spoke about Binance’s vision and goals for its development in the UK, the challenges along the way, and how Binance is working to target and onboard first-time crypto users.
Tailoring for the UK market
Teana joined Binance in May of this year to “help champion a completely new local market strategy for the UK,” and to “influence the European strategy as well in some of our key markets.” Binance will also a UK-specific exchange later this summer, which Teana will oversee the operations of.
“Binance is really focusing on providing markets with a bespoke experience that’s a little more tailored to that market than perhaps your general, average global exchange, [which] might provide one experience for all markets.”
What does a “tailored” experience look like for customers in the UK market?
Teana explained that “the tailored experience really comes from looking at the way that UK consumers digest or interact with financial services and crypto specifically,” and that thereby, “it’s really catering that experience to the way that perhaps challenger banks and fintechs have approached the market: with a mobile-first experience. We’re also looking at simplifying the onboarding process and the ways in which you can participate in the space.”
In other words, the Binance UK platform “won’t just have one type of order book experience for everyone, but will really tailor the ways that you can purchase and hold or trade across a more advanced trading platform.”
“A number of the things that we have brought to market have been at the request of our users.”
“So, if you’re new to crypto, or if you have a ‘buy-and-hold’ mentality, you’re looking for a more simple interface to just be able to go online, buy what you want, stick it in your wallet, and get on with your life,” she explained. “And I think that while having those really sophisticated trading tools are important for a big part of the market, there’s also a big part of the market that just wants to participate but doesn’t necessarily want to trade.”
Therefore, “[…] Binance UK will be very focused on that spot trading experience on day one, and then we’ll look to build that out as the appetite in the UK is better understood.”
Teana explained that indeed, the features that will be expanded on the Binance UK exchange will largely be determined by user demand.
“Binance is known for developing features and services based on customer demand,” she said. “We have a really strong relationship with our users. Everyone–from our CEO down to our customer service, our business development, our compliance team–interacts regularly with our customers.”
“Hopefully, we are iterating our offers and our features in real-time with our customers.”
Additionally, “our CEO, ‘CZ’, is quoted as saying that a number of the things that we have brought to market have been at the request of our users. So, we’re really taking that approach, also, with the UK exchange: asking the community what they’d like to see–what token pairs they’d like to have, what should be on our future roadmap.”
“Hopefully, we are iterating our offers and our features in real-time with our customers.”
So, what is Binance’s ultimate goal in the UK market?
“I think that Binance would like to be the number one exchange in the UK: the most sought-after exchange,” Teana said.
The ultimate goal is to cover the unique needs of traders across different demographics and abilities: for “sophisticated traders in the space”–Binance would like to “provide tailored and sophisticated trading tools.”
“We’re now knocking on the door of 3 million crypto participants, which is significant growth.”
What kind of a user pool is Binance currently looking at in the UK?
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Teana cited the FCA’s “Cryptoasset consumer research 2020,” a recent study that examined consumer behavior in the UK with relation to cryptocurrency: data points such as how many people have heard about cryptocurrency, how many people have bought crypto, and how many people own crypto today.
“Whilst the numbers are still smallish, the growth is pretty exponential: we’re talking about multiples of percentage points between where we were a year ago and where we are today.”
Indeed, the FCA’s report said, for example, that “consumers appear increasingly aware of cryptocurrencies, as 27% had never heard of cryptocurrencies this year, compared with 58% in our survey last year.”
Additionally, the report estimated that in the UK, “3.86% of the general population currently hold cryptocurrencies,” while “5.35% of the general population hold or held cryptocurrencies,” which is a considerable increase from “the 3% reported in the 2019 FCA Consumer Research, which was conducted face to face with a smaller sample.”
This means that of the UK’s 66.65 million-person population, approximately 2,572,690 of them currently own cryptocurrency; as many as roughly 3,565,780 have owned cryptocurrency at some point in the past.
In other words, when it comes to new users, “we’re now knocking on the door of 3 million crypto participants, which is significant growth.”
Targeting “crypto newbies”: education and accessibility are key
While 3 million existing crypto users is quite a healthy base to tap into, Teana said that Binance is also hoping to bring new kinds of people into the crypto space for the first time.
“We’d like to be the first stop for any crypto ‘newbie’ to learn about the space; we’d like that access to be very simple and easy for them to learn and understand about crypto assets, and to purchase them,” she said.
“One of the things that often holds people back is an easy way to understand what crypto assets are: what they’re used for, how you can transact with them, how you can participate in capital-raising with projects that might be using a token…crypto can be quite overwhelming.”
Therefore, “one of the things we’re going to try to do is really break down that education process,” she said, adding that Binance Academy, the exchange’s education portal, already contains a number of resources.
Moving forward, however, Teana says that the educational resources that will be developed for the UK market will come out of “working directly with the community.”
“We’ll be doing a lot of poll surveys, hopefully (soon) more in-person events; we’ll be doing lots of ask-me-anything sessions and online webinars–especially during this COVID period–to find out where the information gaps are.”
Women could be crypto’s largest untapped user base
However, there’s one group of new users that Binance UK has its sights set on in particular: women.
Teana cited data that CoinMarketCap published earlier this year, which stated that there has been a significant increase in the number of female cryptocurrency users so far in 2020: however, there is still a long way to go before the number of women users is anywhere close to the number of men.
“It’s an untapped customer base, in my opinion,” Teana said.
“[…] The crypto space–much like finance in general–has been pretty dominated by male participants; when we’re looking at our marketing efforts, and our education efforts, I’m personally taking a vested interest in ensuring that the mediums that we use to communicate information, and the opportunities to get involved and learn more–may be varied.”
Additionally, “the age demographics are also changing a little bit within crypto-assets–users are getting a little bit older,” Teana noted.
“When you get into the mid-30s category–especially women in their 30s–oftentimes, women are the ones who are responsible for their families’ finances. They’re making decisions about where potential investment opportunities are going to go.”
Therefore, “if we’re not even addressing that market–to me, it seems that we are leaving some people out of the loop.”
“Anytime you’re building something new, there are tradeoffs”
We also asked Teana about what the particular challenges are when it comes to stepping into the UK market; she explained that so far, her work has focused on laying the groundwork for the growth of the Binance UK community, as well as being able to ensure that our market sizing has been done, and to “understand who the customer is–that the customer comes along with us on this journey.”
“Those are the goals and intentions,” she said. “The challenges in putting that all in place are more around ensuring that we get it as right as we can the first time.”
“Anytime you’re building something new, there are tradeoffs,” she continued. “I have a huge list of things that I would love to be able to do on day one, and I have to kind of reign in my own excitement to say, ‘ok, what can I do well on day one’, and then building upon that success.”
Therefore, “if anything, the challenges are sort of balancing my own enthusiasm and my appetite to kind of ‘do it all’ with coming to market in a really considered way that is value-additive, and then continues to build on that value.”