Crypto giant Binance is bolstering its presence in France after a choppy year of regulatory scrutiny.
Dado Ruvic | Reuters
The initiative, announced in November and dubbed Objective Moon, will see Binance establish a research and development office in France and collaborate on an incubator program for start-ups and training programs.
The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange is financing a 100 million euro ($113 million) initiative with industry group France FinTech in an effort to support the cryptocurrency and blockchain sector in France.
“We need to be also able to capture the talent and to have more capabilities to grow bigger,” he said of plans to open an R&D office. “Having an R&D center is one step that we need to go for our next evolution.”
“The aim of Objective Moon is really to develop an ecosystem and to nurture and accelerate an ecosystem. You cannot do it alone,” David Princay, Binance’s French GM, told CNBC.
Ledger, the French crypto hardware firm recently valued at $1.5 billion, and edtech company OpenClassroom are also involved in Objective Moon on developing educational programs.
France may prove to be fertile ground for the initiative given its growing fintech scene. According to figures from Dealroom, fintech investments in France have ballooned this year with bumper funding rounds for the likes of Lydia and Qonto.
Regulatory attention Binance has had a turbulent year in its relationships with regulators across the globe. Among its headaches were a ban by Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority and an investigation by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission. The company also put an end to the trading of its digital stock tokens and, most recently, shut down its trading platform in Singapore.
While its roots are in China, Binance has been famously shy about pinning itself down to any one location, leaning into the decentralization maxims associated with the crypto industry. Binance has recently changed its tone on that front, however, as CEO Changpeng Zhao has spoken out in favor of regulation and of a willingness to work with regulators while expressing an interest in France as an official base of operations.
Princay was tight lipped on whether the company’s significant investment in France was a precursor to establishing its formal headquarters there; “We have nothing yet to add on that,” he said. However the company’s moves in the country have not gone unnoticed by watchdogs. Last month the governor of France’s central bank said that Binance must have strong anti-money laundering checks in place if it wants to set up operations in the country.
“It’s a very positive sign for innovation,” he said of regulation for crypto in France and Europe generally. “We need to be fully scrutinized and audited to pass and that’s for the better because when we’re going to pass, it is going to be a sign of trust, compliance.” “Our aim is to be 100% compliant in every activity and country we operate.”
“Cedric O has been very clear with us, they are welcome to see us and to have us, but they are also very exigent and that’s for the better,” Princay told CNBC. He added that Binance is in discussions with regulators in France on licensing. Meanwhile, France’s digital minister Cedric O was present with Binance and France FinTech at the announcement of Objective Moon.