Binance’s UK chief departs as regulatory pressure mounts

Quick Take

  • Jonathan Farnell, who was head of Binance UK and CEO of Bifinity, left the company in late September.
  • The news comes amid an FCA crackdown on advertising that has severely hampered offshore crypto firms’ efforts to do business in the UK. 

Jonathan Farnell, a compliance specialist who was Binance’s UK chief before taking over Bifinity, a subsidiary, has left the business — becoming the latest in a string of executive departures.

UK corporate filings and Farnell’s career history on LinkedIn suggest he resigned from his post at Binance Markets Limited in late September. Farnell had already stepped down from a senior compliance role at Binance Europe in June. 

“We’d like to thank Jonathan for his contributions and wish him all the best on his next challenge,” a Binance spokesperson told The Block. Farnell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The news comes with Binance under mounting regulatory pressure, both in the United States, where it is embroiled in disputes with two regulators, and in the UK. A Financial Conduct Authority crackdown on crypto advertising that took effect in early October prompted Binance to stop accepting new customers in the UK last week.

Farnell had played a central role in Binance’s efforts to get regulated in the UK. He joined the crypto exchange in 2021 from retail trading firm eToro, where he led compliance. Inititially hired in a compliance-focused role, Farnell was later named head of Binance’s UK operations.

In March 2022, Farnell was appointed CEO of Bifinity, a new payments outfit launched by Binance, while remaining a director of Binance Markets Limited. Bifinity was involved in a complex transaction through which Binance planned to acquire Eqonex, the parent company of an FCA-registered entity named Digivault. The aim appeared to be for Binance itself to get registered in the UK, but the FCA intervened, issuing a statement about the deal and noting that it remained concerned about Binance’s UK arm.


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Executive departures

Farnell’s resignation comes amid a spate of executive departures for Binance. Gleb Kostarev, regional head of Eastern Europe, Commonwealth of Independent States, Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, and Vladimir Smerkis, general manager for the CIS region, announced their resignations in September. Other noteworthy departures since the summer include Leon Foong, head of Asia Pacific; Patrick Hillman, chief strategy officer; and Han Ng, general counsel.

It is unclear who may succeed Farnell in the UK, but corporate filings show that Ilir Laro was appointed as a director of the UK entity in September. Laro currently holds the role of integrated marketing and campaigns manager globally and was previously a deputy head of the crypto exchange in the UK and Ireland, according to his LinkedIn profile. Laro did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

With new customers barred, Binance is currently looking for a new FCA-authorized partner in the UK to approve its financial promotions, in line with the watchdog’s new rules. Existing customers can still use the exchange, provided they have completed an investor declaration and appropriateness test, according to a previous Binance statement.

Meanwhile, some offshore crypto players seem to have deemed the UK’s new marketing regime unworkable. Bybit, an offshore crypto exchange and a rival to Binance, suspended services in the UK in September ahead of the FCA’s new rules coming into force.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.

About Author

Ryan Weeks is deals editor at the The Block, focused on fundraising, M&A and institutional trends in the crypto space, among other things. He is particularly interested in investigative work — so please send tips! Ryan previously worked at Financial News, Dow Jones as a fintech correspondent in London. Prior to that, he wrote for several different publications, including Sifted, AltFi and Wired. Beyond journalism, Ryan is a keen reader and writer. He enjoys all things active, especially running, rugby, climbing and tennis.