New Report Highlights Large Variance Between Crypto Exchange Standards

  • Only 32% of top exchanges have strong cold wallet storage
  • Majority of volume from small-state-registered exchanges

Standards of security, cold wallet storage, and know-your-customer (KYC) implementation are subject to a wide variance across centralized cryptoasset exchanges, a new report from data provider CryptoCompare has concluded. CryptoCompare surveyed the top 100 exchanges by trading volume, in order to glean broad trends among exchanges.

 

Cold Wallets

A key finding of the report is the low overall prevalence of cold wallet usage - cold wallets being disconnected from the Internet when their funds are not being actively traded. Only 32% of the top 100 exchanges claim to store the vast majority of users’ funds - at least 90% - in cold wallets, with a further twelve percent claiming to store a majority - at least 50% - in cold wallets, and nine percent claiming less than 50%.

 

An alarming 47% of the top exchanges do not detail their storage conventions, according to CryptoCompare. Since the usage of cold storage wallets is a major selling point for users trading on a centralized exchange, which no exchange should hesitate to advertise, it is not unreasonable to fear the worst for these 47% - half of the top 100 - not reporting any cold wallet usage.

 

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The report revealed little correlation between exchanges’ cold wallet usage, and the jurisdiction of their legal registrations.

 

For example, the six exchanges with the highest reported percentage of cold wallet storage, itBit, Coinroom, Coinfloor, Bitfinex, Huobi Pro, and Coinbase, were registered in the U.S., Poland, the U.K., the British Virgin Islands, the Seychelles islands, and again the U.S., respectively. Almost none of the exchanges listed as having high cold wallet usage, with the exception of Bitfinex, were among the highest trading volume exchanges.

 

A helpful cross-reference for this observation is the New York Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) recent audit of cryptoasset exchanges, which found only a small variance of cold-wallet standards among eight U.S.-registered exchanges that it surveyed, namely a high standard with “most participating platforms purport[ing] to keep a high percentage of the virtual currency in their possession in so-called ‘cold storage.’” These figures could perhaps suggest a somewhat higher standard of storage for U.S.-based exchanges.

 

Underlining the importance of cold wallets, eleven percent of top 100 exchanges have been hacked in the past. CryptoCompare reported that nearly 75% of exchanges require at least some KYC information from customers, while fully a quarter require no KYC.

 

Trade volumes

With respect to trading volume, CryptoCompare found that an inordinate amount of the trading volume goes through Malta-, Hong Kong- and South Korea-registered exchanges - in the case of Hong Kong, not even a completely sovereign nation but a “Special Administrative Region” of China. By far the most trading volume comes from Binance and OKEx, both registered in the small Mediterranean island nation of Malta, a member of the European Union and within the Schengen border zone.

 

The jurisdictions hosting the highest number of exchanges, the U.S. and U.K. both registering eight, see strikingly minimal amounts of trading volume pass through their borders. CryptoCompare calculated $366 and $137 million cumulative average daily trading volume, on all the exchanges in their respective countries - a total of $503 million on sixteen exchanges - versus $1.38 billion daily on just two Malta-registered exchanges.

 

The OAG report is again helpful in this case, as the single largest exchange examined by CryptoCompare, Malta-based Binance, declined the New York law enforcement office’s request to furnish information regarding its practices and standards. Two out of four of the highest-volume jurisdictions are small island nations with liberal cryptoasset regulations, and one is the city-state Hong Kong.

 

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A clear preference for fast-moving, liberal, and “creative” regulatory regimes is evident for the high-volume exchanges. Given, as the OAG has noted, exchanges’ propensities to “[move] their operations with little or no warning,” a competitive atmosphere could be fostered to offer the most flexible and accommodating regulatory regimes, to cryptoasset exchanges searching for their next home.

Can ‘Huobi Prime’ Compete With ‘Binance Launchpad'?

It seems that Huobi doesn't want Binance to have all the fun, because on Wednesday (March 20th), it announced that its new token launch platform "Huobi Prime" will go live on March 26th.

Huobi says that this new platform offers "a better way to access cutting-edge crypto projects with a high potential for impact and growth – one designed not just for the deep pocketed and well connected but also for ordinary retail traders."

Huobi, in a press release shared with CryptoGlobe, refers to Huobi Prime as "a Direct Premium Offering (DPO) platform," and says that it offers a number of advantages over its rivals:

  • "All coins purchased through Huobi Prime are immediately deposited into user's accounts and are tradable on Huobi Global against Huobi Token (HT), Huobi Group's native token" with no "need to wait for presales or similar delays."
  • "Rigorous screening and selection processes to ensure only premium projects that have yet to be listed on any major exchange are included."
  • "Early access to coins at below market prices."
  • "Access for both big and small players" (i.e. "open to retail investors, not just professionals or VIPs")
  • "In order to mitigate periods of extreme volatility when the market opens, and to reduce the risk of adverse impacts on investors, a period of tiered price limits has also been added."

Each token launch on Huobi Prime "will involve three rounds of coin offerings, each lasting 30 minutes." Although the price "will be capped," this cap "will rise as time goes on."

Here is an example offered by Huobi that illustrates how this works:

"... if Huobi Prime listed a coin called Huobi Premium Example Token (HPET), HPET tokens might be made available at a discount of 30% off in the first round, 20% off in the second, and a 10% discount in the third."

However, note that "actual discounts will vary by coin offering and may be higher or lower."

The tokens you buy on Huobi Prime are deposited into the your account "with minimal delay and can be traded against Huobi Token," with "no pre-sales, etc. to slow things down." The maximum purchase amount is "the equivalent of $1,000 USD in Huobi Token."

Leon Li, Founder and CEO of Huobi Group, says:

"Customer demand and user needs are at the forefront of everything we do here at Huobi. Huobi Prime is very much an extension of that. We've designed it from the ground up to be a more innovative, direct, and responsive way to access up-and-coming new tokens."

And Robin Zhu, COO of Huobi Group, had this to say:

"Powered by Huobi Token, Huobi Prime will keep our brand at the forefront of the ever-changing digital asset marketplace."

The honor of being the first token to be launched on Huobi Prime belongs to TOP, which is the native coin of TOP Network's public blockchain Top Chain.

Top Network, which was founded in late 2017, says that it offers "full-stack decentralized cloud communication services," i.e. low cost services such as VPN, VoIP, video, IoT data sharing, storage, messaging, CDN, and live streaming. 

The main features of Top Chain (which currently has a testnet but not a mainnet) are:

  • "two-layer lattice"
  • "two-layer sharding"
  • "two-layer VM"
  • "high-speed parallel"
  • "instant transactions, zero fees"
  • "built-in security, privacy protection"
  • "PBFT-DPoS"

Ross Zhang, Head of Marketing for Huobi Group, stated:

"While we had a number of really strong candidates for Huobi Prime's inaugural launch, we were really impressed by TOP Network's ambitious business model, as well as the fact that it will be the first true high performance public chain with a pre-existing userbase in the millions."

Top Network CEO Steve Wei had this to say:

"We've worked closely with Huobi and they won our trust through their professionalism, open-mindedness, and overall friendliness to projects. We were impressed by Huobi's positive reputation and strong branding power and we are happy to launch TOP Network on Huobi Prime."

It is too early to tell how well Huobi Prime will do against the very popular Binance Launchpad, but launching tokens for interesting projects such as this one should give Huobi Prime a decent chance to provide Binance Launchpad with some much needed competition.


Featured Image Courtesy of Huobi Global