The new Singapore service, however, bears more of a resemblance to U.S. rival Coinbase than a classic Binance exchange. Binance’s rapid ascent is thanks to a service that lets users trade a range of crypto tokens with very little verification or individual data required. It’s Singapore venture is quite the opposite: it allows customers to purchase Bitcoin only and at fixed prices. Initially, it appeared that purchased Bitcoin could not be moved out of the exchange at this point but that issue seems to be fixed now.
We checked in with Binance for more details, but the company is yet to respond. [Update: Binance’s response is further down — tl;dr it said that the Singapore exchange is a work in progress.]
Binance’s Singapore launch follows an investment from Vertex, a VC firm backed by Singapore’s sovereign fund Temasek, in October. Binance has been testing a ‘beta’ version of its service in the country since late 2018 in communication with Singaporean regulator MAS.
The company has prioritized creating fiat ramps — exchanges that allow customers to buy into crypto using currency — over the past six months as it seeks to gain increased legitimacy and play within regulated jurisdictions. CEO Changpeng Zhao has also stressed the importance of going beyond retail customers to reach institutional money and enable it to enter crypto. As a global financial hub, Singapore is its biggest effort on fiat to date.
The Singapore venture is Binance’s third fiat effort following exchanges in Uganda and Jersey — a joint-venture in Lichenstein is yet to launch — although it remains to be seen just how useful the Singapore offering will be in its current form.
Binance users have long been accustomed to a choice of a vast array of crypto assets on sale, but the Binance Singapore exchange falls short on that count, despite considerable expectation for its launch.
Interestingly, information on the website indicates that the new Binance venture appears to be a partnership with Xfers, a crypto startup in Southeast Asia that helped Coinbase set up its service in Singapore. Coinbase ended the partnership and quit the country last year claiming that Xfers was “not suitable in its current form to handle the growth” it had seen. Let’s see how Binance gets on.
In response to the launch, a Binance spokesperson provided the following comment:
“Binance Singapore has full deposit/withdrawal functionality. Any functionality issues may be user-specific and are best addressed by customer service.
The issue Coinbase had with Xfers last year was prior to Xfers obtaining their WASVF license, which they acquired recently. We support our partnership with Xfers and will work together to build a key fiat gateway that will grow the industry.
BTC/SGD is the initial pair Binance Singapore is offering with the soft launch. There may be more pairs added as regulations allow.”
Meanwhile, the company made another significant announcement after it officially launched its decentralized exchange, also known as Dex — its other major priority besides fiat.
There are no initial fireworks here — the Dex doesn’t yet include trading pairs or native tokens — but the launch means that blockchain companies are now able to migrate from Ethereum, EOS or other blockchains and begin to issue tokens on Binance Chain. A Binance spokesperson confirmed that the first of those migrations are expected to happen this week. The first is Binance’s own BNB token, which is moving from ERC20 to BEP2.
The Dex has been in testing since February, during which the company said that some 8.5 million transactions have been made. The real test will be when projects begin moving over and (if) traders begin to utilize the platform in large volumes going forward. Binance has always claimed that its Dex will operate as an alternative to its existing centralized exchanges, rather than as a replacement.
Binance draws revenue from over-the-counter (OTC) trading, trading fees on its platform and via BNB. Eventually, the Dex could augment that monetization as Binance will gain a share of network fees when its nodes are used in transactions on the Dex. Likewise, increased usage of the Dex and Binance Chain could raise the value of BNB — which has been on an incredible run this year, outpacing Bitcoin itself.
Valued at $6.02 on January 1, BNB broke $25 last week. Today, the price is $24.20, according to data from Coinmarketcap.com, and it remains to be seen how these two developments will impact it.
Note: The original version of this article has been updated to reflect that purchased Bitcoin can now be moved out of the Binance Singapore exchange.
The author owns a small amount of cryptocurrency. Enough to gain an understanding, not enough to change a life.