Chris Lee Resigned as CFO of Huobi, and Huobi’s DeFi Ambition

Li Shufei, also known as Chris Lee, has just left his roles as executive director and CFO of crypto exchange Huobi due to his desire to start his own business, announced the company on August 10.

Chris Lee joined Huobi in May 2018 after resigning from his former post as CEO of rival exchange OKEx.

His sudden departure from OKEx, the world’s largest crypto exchange back then, was notable at the time as speculations abounded include that his resignation was related to OKEx’s broiling controversy of faking trading volumes and inability to work with the firm’s CEO Star Xu.

Though he later clarified that his leaving was because he wanted to explore other opportunities while he was still young.

Lee once said that he only wanted to be CEO, not CFO, which was the reason for his leaving from OKEx, implying that the power was not fully delegated. While after joining Huobi, he still served as CFO at last, which seemed to set the stage for his departure.

Huobi, the world’s leading cryptocurrency exchange seems to be undergoing a reshuffle of its top management team with CFO Chris Lee’s leaving and joint company secretary Wu Wenqian’s resignation.

Of late, the exchange has hired former banker Sharlyn Wu as its chief investment officer to lead its new business unit called Huobi DeFi Labs which will focus on decentralized finance (DeFi) investment, incubation and research.

Previously, Wu spent three years leading the blockchain investment arm at China Merchant Bank International (CMBI), the overseas branch of one of the biggest banks in China. during Wu’s term, the CMBI invested in several crypto and blockchain firms including wallet startup Bitpie and public blockchain project Nervos.

As the DeFi market is ballooning at a startling rate as the DeFi craze keeps getting bigger, the decentralized exchanges (DEXs) are posing a challenge on centralised exchanges (CEXs). As former product lead of Messari and crypto analyst Qiao Wang tweeted on July 31,

Uniswap did $126M volume last 24 hours. This is 1/3 of Coinbase. 1/2 of Kraken. More than Gemini, Polo, and Binance US combined.

Pretty incredible TBH.

— Qiao Wang (@QWQiao) July 31, 2020

While the rapid growth in trading volume at Uniswap is not enough to reflect the overall development trend of the DEX market. Total trading volume on DEX platforms has reached $5.1bn in the first half of this year, up fivefold from the same period last year, according to crypto data site Dune Analytics. Separately, research firm Delphi Digital reports that total DEX volume hit $4.2 billion in July, and the figure for last year was $2.4 billion.

Vance Spencer, co-founder of crypto venture capital Framework Ventures, said DEX will continue to grow this year, with its total volume reaching 10 percent of that on centralized exchanges. (Note: Currently DEX trading volume has reached 2% of CEX)

At this point, although DEX is unable to overwhelm CEX, it is sure to encroach on the market share of the CEX market as DeFi grows. As for CEXs like Huobi, its entry into DeFi is an attempt to broaden its market territory.

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