Brian Brooks, the former Coinbase executive who helmed the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) under U.S. President Donald Trump, will become CEO of Binance.US.
After stepping down from the public sector on Jan. 14, 2021, crypto observers have been watching closely for where Brooks would land. In March, he joined the board of data-sharing startup Spring Labs. The Binance.US move is clearly far more significant.
Current Binance.US CEO Catherine Coley will depart the company by the beginning of May, Brooks confirmed in a CoinDesk TV appearance on Tuesday.
“Not because she hasn’t done a terrific job,” Brooks said. “Generally speaking, you want to keep these things small and nimble.”
Under Brooks, the OCC published a number of interpretative letters on how national banks can interact with the cryptocurrency space, with particular attention paid to stablecoins and their issuers. Should banks take full advantage of these interpretative letters, they’ll be able to conduct payments using stablecoins, provide custody services for cryptocurrencies and partner with or acquire crypto custody providers. The Wall Street Journal first reported the news of Brooks’ hiring.
He also oversaw the conditional approval of the first federal bank charter to go to a crypto-native company, when Anchorage was granted a trust charter by the federal regulator.
“This is the company that’s most likely to give the biggest incumbent Coinbase a run for its money,” Brooks said on CoinDesk TV. “It’s the best opportunity to build a fully compliant, but product-diversified crypto platform in the U.S., and it’s a company that has been, you know, revenue and profit positive since day one because of the resourcing [it] had got at the inception.”
Binance, which “licenses its matching engine and wallet technologies to Binance.US,” according to a Tuesday press release, welcomed the move.
“Brian is an esteemed leader with an unparalleled blend of experience across traditional financial services, government, and the digital assets industry,” Binance founder Changpeng “CZ” Zhao said in a statement. “His knowledge and expertise will be invaluable as Binance.US continues to expand.”
Soon-to-be-former CEO Coley did not respond to a request for comment by press time. Brooks confirmed her departure from the exchange and its managing board however.
Before Binance.US, Coley was head of XRP Institutional Liquidity at Ripple, which she joined after working for Morgan Stanley Foreign Exchange desks in Hong Kong and London.
“The other thing you’ll see over time is we will quickly migrate into more value-add services and be a more diversified platform not just crypto-asset trading but of other kinds of services based on our ability to access licenses and to achieve compliance very quickly,” Brooks said.
Though he did not specifically reference it, Binance (the international one, not the U.S. version) recently listed tokens representing fractions of real-life stocks, including Tesla and Coinbase. These tokens allow holders to earn dividend rewards, backed by the actual stock which Binance said was managed by a German investment firm.
UPDATE (April 20, 2021, 14:30 UTC): Adds comments made by Brian Brooks on CoinDesk TV.
UPDATE (April 20, 2021, 12:40 UTC): Adds comments and confirmation from a Binance.US spokesperson, as well as additional context.