Editor's note: Less than an hour after this story was published, Richard Teng posted on X that he was now Binance's CEO.
News that Binance CEO Changpeng "CZ" Zhao is stepping down after pleading guilty to U.S. criminal charges puts the spotlight firmly on rising star Richard Teng, who was promoted to the top ranks at the exchange earlier this year and who is viewed as the heir apparent at the world's largest crypto exchange.
Teng, a one-time Abu Dhabi regulator, was appointed to oversee Binance's regional markets outside the U.S. in June of this year. At that time, he gave an interview to CoinDesk, pointing out that he wanted to show that Binance could be "a new organization."
Binance representatives did not respond to requests for confirmation that Teng would be taking over as CEO of the exchange.
Teng's strength is regulation and compliance, an area that has been a primary focus for Binance for the last couple of years. Before heading up the Financial Services Regulatory Authority at Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), he was chief regulatory officer of the Singapore Exchange (SGX) and spent 13 years with the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
The need for someone with Teng's expertise at Binance has become even more apparent as regulatory scrutiny has intensified this year, leading to Tuesday's explosive news that the U.S. charged the exchange with breaking sanctions and money-transmitting laws and agreed to pay $4.3 billion to settle the allegations.
It's worth noting that CZ himself said the firm had a succession plan when he hired Teng in August 2021. Teng initially joined Binance as CEO of the Singapore business and quickly rose through the ranks during a turbulent period in the digital assets sector.
Asked back in June if he was being groomed to take the helm, Teng said: "To speculate on such things would be premature."
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