[Interview] Huobi Global Towards Global Market, with 'Diversity' and 'Security'
Fri, 29 Apr 2022, 01:33 am UTC
Huobi Global is a large cryptocurrency exchange launched in China in 2013. It proved its solid security capability of '9 years of no accident' while providing users in 130 countries with more than 400 cryptocurrencies, public chain, wallets and etc.
As the Chinese cryptocurrency market was firmly closed in 2021, Huobi had to leave its home base, but it is running toward a new opportunity as a global market. TokenPost listened to the story of Jeff Mei, global strategy director of Huobi Global, in detail through an interview.
Please introduce yourself and your company.
I’m Jeff Mei, the Director of Global Strategy at Huobi Global. A little back story about me, I come from a family of Taiwanese parents who immigrated to the U.S., where I was born and raised in L.A.
After I completed my undergrad studies at UCLA, I was intrigued by what was happening in China – tech was hot, and so in 2015 I moved to Beijing and immersed myself in the tech and start up space, eventually pivoting to crypto in 2017~2018.
It was about two years ago that I joined Huobi to assist with global markets expansion; during that time, they needed someone who understood global markets and could act as a bridge between China and the rest of the world.
Now I’m based in Singapore, and my role is to help with global markets strategy, primarily for our exchange business.
Huobi was founded in 2013, and we are one of the largest cryptocurrency exchanges in the world. We have users in over 130 countries. In addition to our exchange business, Huobi has businesses such as our own public chain, wallet, mining pool, and investments.
Additionally, we believe in the power of crypto and blockchain technology to create social impact, which is why our philanthropic branch, Huobi Charity, is working with UNICEF to help foster global blockchain development and innovations. Last year we committed $1 million in Bitcoin (BTC) and fiat currency to their cause, which has funded a few notable social impact start-ups in places like Kenya and India.
How did you enter the cryptocurrency industry, especially Huobi? What value did you find in cryptocurrency and blockchain?
I actually bought my first Bitcoin in 2015 out of curiosity. At the time, I was working in China at a tech startup, which ended up folding. I spent a lot of time reading and learning about crypto, and then people started asking me for advice about how to invest in it. So I started providing consulting services for high net worth individuals, teaching them how to use and invest in crypto.
Cryptocurrencies and blockchain appealed to me because of their decentralized nature – random, anonymous people around the world can contribute and make projects, DeFi protocols, etc. happen without even knowing who else is in on it. That amazes me.
I then realized that crypto was going to be the future, so decided to go all in. Instead of running a small business focusing on just one thing, I wanted to be part of something bigger. A friend introduced me to Huobi – at the time they were expanding their overseas business, so they needed someone bilingual like me to interface with the outside world and manage non-Chinese employees.
Huobi appealed to me because of its ecosystem, which matched my desire to be part of something bigger. Huobi not only offers spot trading, but it also offers derivatives trading, NFTs, staking products, wallet services, etc. We have an investments team, and our own public chain. Not many other exchanges have the breadth of products and services that we have. That’s how I got to where I am today.
What do you think is the biggest strength of Huobi Global?
Our top priority is global expansion, specifically in emerging market countries. In those countries, user habits are more similar to those of Chinese users, and the demographics skew younger, making them prime markets for cryptocurrency trading services.
In terms of strengths, I would say that one strength is the wide range of products and services that we offer. At the end of the day, many users prefer to use one exchange for all of their needs.
For spot trading, users can trade over 400 different types of tokens, and we also offer crypto derivatives trading, high-yielding staking products like PrimeEarn, NFTs, and more. For options trading, not only do we offer options for Bitcoin and Ethereum, but we also offer them for Dogecoin. Most exchanges only offer the first two.
Some say that decentralized exchanges can also offer many tokens, but they are lacking in terms of security and user experience. This is where we stand out. Asset security is one of Huobi’s greatest strengths. We have one of the best security and risk control systems in the world. We’ve provided crypto asset trading services for over nine years with a record of zero security breaches, which is rare. We also offer highly competitive and attractive fees and robust 24/7 customer support services.
We also try to “gamify” the crypto trading experience and make it more interesting than just offering simple trading services. If you download our Huobi Global app, you’ll see that we frequently run promotions where users complete certain tasks for rewards, whether they be airdrops, vouchers, coupons, etc. In this sense, we try to engage customers more.
What is the biggest achievement that Huobi made in 2021?
I’d probably say that we’re most proud of our Primelist program. Under the program, users perform certain tasks to get a chance to win allocations of newly listed tokens that are otherwise difficult to obtain. While we list many tokens, we often save the best projects for Primelist as a way to reward our loyal users and give back to the community. We launched our first Primelist campaign at the beginning of November 2021, listing Immutable X (IMX), and have subsequently launched over 20 such campaigns since then.
Huobi supports a lot of cryptocurrencies. What is the most important criteria for listing?
We have a very comprehensive evaluation process that examines metrics for business operations, risk control, compliance, legal, anti-money laundering, etc. In addition to our listings team, each project is scrutinized by personnel from our legal, compliance, and risk control teams.
We assess projects based on the following factors:. Feasibility and maturity of business model, Number of users and quality of community, Future growth plan, Quality of the underlying product.
As part of our due diligence project, we examine project information decks, official project websites, social media communities, white papers, technical papers, product demonstrations, KYC documents, legal information, and information about internal operations procedures.
Huobi has faced regulatory issues from China and Singapore. How did you solve or overcome these problems? Do you think there is a possibility that the Chinese market will reopen if market speculation decreases in the future?
Since December of last year, Huobi has ceased services for Chinese users and exited the Chinese market. At this moment we are not anticipating that the Chinese market will reopen.
While this was a challenge and impacted our user base, we are making up for it with markets in regions outside of China. Fortunately, outside of China we have more institutional investors using our exchange, and their trading volumes help to make up for the shortfall. We are also expanding aggressively into new markets, as previously mentioned; we are moving quickly to meet local regulations, we are seizing new opportunities and we are making sure that we have the right team to do so.
Is there any regulatory strategy to stably expand the global market?
Compliance and diversification are important when it comes to our global expansion efforts. Currently we cover more than 20 markets across Asia, the CIS region, the Middle East, parts of Europe, and Latin America. Of course, each country is different, and so we take different approaches to each one.
In regions where we get more retail investors like Vietnam and India, we spend a lot of time educating new traders. In some countries, the crypto adoption rate is higher - with more intermediate and advanced investors, high frequency trading firms, etc. These customers are more likely to trade advanced derivative products and futures.
Our strategy is to run lean local teams, and then seek out appropriate collaborations with the right partners, payment gateways, and brokers, particularly in countries where crypto adoption rates are high.
What’s also important is establishing channels for them to convert fiat currencies into crypto. We spend a lot of time working with the appropriate partners and find gateways that accept new currencies in different markets. In other countries, we may even consider acquiring a local licensed exchange outright.
What are your prospects for NFT, DID, Metaverse? What is Huobi's approach strategy to these sector?
The metaverse is still in early development stages, but we believe that centralized exchanges can play a key role by acting as a portal for normal users. For Chinese New Year, we held a promotion in which participating users were eligible for NFT avatars that they could use as their profile pictures and decentralized identifiers (DIDs). These decentralized identifiers are supposed to act as a bridge between Web2 and Web3 and act as one’s identity in the metaverse. In the future, we believe that such DIDs will connect all of a user’s respective NFT assets together, and enable them to use such NFTs across different Dapps.
For one, we list NFT, Gamefi, and metaverse-related project tokens on our platform. Our investments team under Huobi Ventures also invests in such projects, and we encourage projects to build upon the HECO chain.
What do you think of the cryptocurrency market in 2022 and for longterm? Could you give any advice to investors in the bear market?
I think that market uncertainty will remain for a while as global liquidity shrinks due to the tightening of monetay policies in the U.S.
Some say that the impact of these policies are already priced in; others say that while interest rate hikes are easier to predict, how much quantitative tightening the Fed plans to engage in is more difficult to predict.
I think that the bigger issue is that the Ukraine conflict and subsequent decoupling of Russia from global markets could indicate a decline in globalization and the use of the U.S. dollar as a universal reserve currency. Because of this, I am bullish on cryptocurrencies for the long term; cryptocurrencies are borderless and likely to be used more frequently in international transactions.
On another note, we have yet to see institutions allocating their funds to cryptocurrencies in full force. Once this happens, the prices of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could grow exponentially.
In the short term, investors should expect to see volatility. There are ways to hedge against volatility, however; for example, some cryptocurrency investors may hold put options on Bitcoin and Ethereum. Advanced investors may also engage in grid trading, programming trades that automatically execute when the price of an asset hits certain intervals. In times of volatility, there are always opportunities to be had.
Lastly, please share anything you want to say to our readers.
Huobi is looking to step up its partnership initiatives. If you’re a project, trading software partner, fiat payment gateway, or even an influencer that wants to work with Huobi, you can message me on Linkedin or find me on Twitter at @JeffHuobi
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