FT montage of the badge of the US Securities and Exchange Commission and Binance logo with a red chart line
© FT montage/Reuters

Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, has lost a quarter of its market share in the past three months as a US watchdog pursues it for alleged violation of federal laws.

The group, which says it has no headquarters, controlled 57.5 per cent of the average monthly volume on the world’s crypto exchanges at its peak in February. But that has now dropped to 43 per cent, according to research provider CCData.

The sharp decline has come as Binance runs into tougher commercial competition, greater scrutiny of its activities from US regulators, and following the end of a free trading promotion.

In February New York regulators shut down the issuance of a Binance-branded stablecoin. Stablecoins are a type of crypto token used as a store of value between bets in the crypto market because they are designed to track the price of the dollar and other traditional currencies.

At the time the coin, called BUSD, accounted for roughly 40 per cent of the company’s monthly trading volume.

“The end of BUSD issuance has had an impact on the amount of liquidity on the exchange, that compounds the pressure on Binance, knowing their branded stablecoin was in the media and they were forced to abandon it,” said Ilan Solot, co-head of digital assets at London-based financial services group Marex.

Weeks later the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the US derivatives regulator, filed a lawsuit against the exchange, claiming much of Binance’s reported trading volume and profitability had come from “extensive solicitation of and access to” US customers. Binance said at the time it disagreed with the CFTC’s allegations.

Line chart of Binance’s share of the crypto spot market by total monthly volume (%) showing Binance’s share of the crypto market has fallen steadily for months

Its market share has also been hit by the ending of a promotion offering customers free trading in a number of bitcoin pairs, which had fuelled growth late last year but which ended in March.

“Once those ended, trading volume naturally went down and that obviously impacts their short-term share of the market share,” Solot said.

While Binance’s grip on the market has thinned, other exchanges — including OKX, BitMex, Bybit and Bullish — have bolstered their market shares since March.

Binance’s slipping market share comes as it plans a round of job cuts, which the company said on Wednesday was “not a case of right sizing” but instead represented a re-evaluation of whether the company “has the right talent and expertise in critical roles”.

Binance was founded in 2017 and has grown from a team of 30 to more than 8,000 employees. Its chief strategy officer Patrick Hillmann on Wednesday described the cuts as a “historic operational challenge” following the company’s “exponential growth these past five years”.

Binance declined to confirm the number of employees that will be affected by the job cuts. One individual familiar with the matter said Binance had previously made cuts of between 5 and 12 per cent of its workforce.

Recent crypto market conditions have also played a role in Binance’s decision to trim its headcount, according to another individual familiar with the matter.

“[Market factors] mean we might pivot or refocus our [resources] . . . it doesn’t take a genius to put those things together,” they said.

After several years of turbocharged growth, many crypto companies have been forced to retrench by last year’s industry downturn, in which the value of tokens such as bitcoin dropped by about 70 per cent and many big names, including Celsius Network and FTX, went under. Among them Coinbase and Crypto.com have made large cuts to their own workforces.

Despite cuts elsewhere, Binance said it continued to recruit for hundreds of vacancies during crypto’s historic downturn. Chief executive Changpeng Zhao said on Wednesday the company had a “bottom out” policy where people who were “not strong fits” depart.

“This ‘programme’ is constant. I push for it on a weekly basis,” he said.

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