Growing up on the Wall Street, Ariel’s Distinct Approach to Crypto: Interview with Ariel Ling, CEO of Bithumb Futures


NewsBTC held a conversation with Ariel Ling, CEO of Bithumb Futures. Ariel previously held senior management positions over the past 20 years at prominent traditional financial institutions like KPMG, Barclays, and most recently, Deutsche Bank.

During the course of the interview, we explored Ariel’s transition from traditional finance, marked by her illustrious 20-year career at Wall Street, to crypto, the early-stage ups and downs as she launched Bithumb Futures, as well as her grand vision for the company.

Q: To get started, could you share how your upbringing/background influenced your entry into the financial sector, and segue into crypto?

A: Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to the audience for this opportunity. I come from an academic family in China with both parents in the educational field. So, I have always valued education and the power of learning from an early age. In the mid-1990s, I came to New York City to pursue my MBA in Finance at New York University. I fell in love with the dynamic New York City that never sleeps and began my professional career on Wall Street in 1999.

Over the past 20 years, financial markets have navigated through multiple credit and equity cycles and weathered the storms of several global crises, which has definitely prepared me very well for the more volatile crypto market.  With broader adoption of key cryptocurrency like Bitcoin as a new asset class, the digital asset industry has gradually evolved into a subset of overall capital markets with similar economic functions of providing blockchain tech firms with primary market fundraising and supporting investors with their investment needs through secondary market trading. As a result, more and more institutional players and professional traders like myself and our team are transitioning into this new space, bringing along our deep financial expertise, quality standards, and solid professionalism from traditional finance. I see tremendous learning and growth opportunities in both the blockchain industry and crypto market where I can leverage my management experience and help to address some inefficiencies in this still nascent industry. Early in 2018, I made a smooth transition when my long-time friend and ex-Barclays colleague, Dr. George Cao asked me to co-found the with him as the COO. Now I am really excited about leading a talented and driven team to build a top global derivative digital asset trading platform!

Q: Bithumb brand is well known within the crypto industry since the exchange is one of the largest exchanges in the world. How did your platform get access to the usage of the Bithumb brand?

A: Right. Bithumb is very well respected within the crypto industry with its early market entrant and proven business model, which is why we considered using Bithumb’s brand from the planning stage of a business launch. Given my background working for institutions with long, I usually see strong institutional brand positioning as part of solid foundation of starting a new venture. There are new crypto exchanges coming up every day, but crypto exchange that provides derivatives products must have a deep understanding of financial products and must have professional technical knowledge as well.

As part of their due diligence process, we shared our core team background and platform prototype as well as the legal and operational setup of the business. Finally, we were able to receive their approval to license the Bithumb brand for usage on our platform.

Q: How has the market responded to the Grand Launch in March?

A: With recent volatility spike-up across both crypto and traditional capital markets, the timing of our platform launch was ideal. For any users who want to either hedge volatility risks or trade on momentum in this market condition, we want to offer a robust and easy-to-use trading platform where they can select the desired direction (long/short) and leverage (up to 100x) based on their trading strategies and risk management needs. We were fairly optimistic, but still didn’t anticipate the overwhelming response from users to the point that we had to wrap up our Grand Launch promotion two weeks ahead of the original schedule. Over 30,000 customers registered during the past month. Couple of days ago, the platform reached $10 million in daily trade volume, a key launch milestone on our roadmap.

Q: In light of the current COVID-19 situation, how has the Bithumb Futures team responded?

A: The safety and health of our team members and partners are always one of our top management priorities, even more so during the current unprecedented situation. We’ve asked our teams to work remotely, which isn’t too difficult for our developers who are used to this common setup in the Fintech industry. However, since our teams are spread across multiple global locations, we have definitely increased the frequency of calls and video conferences for consistent collaboration and timely rollout of new products and features. Those virtual meetings allow us to frequently check up on one another, and bring all of us together in a closer and stronger team setting during this challenging time.

Q: What features differentiate Bithumb Futures from other derivative exchanges?

A: Reliability and credibility have been the key differentiating factors for us from Day 1. With our strong traditional finance background, we have been hiring developers with many years of Wall Street experience in both quant trading and infrastructure development. We set high-performance standards for our derivative trading platform, as we are benchmarking against similar trading products from those leading, global investment banks.

With a relentless focus on service quality and system reliability, for the time being, we have intentionally limited our product offering to one product – BTC/USDT perpetual contract, settled in USDT with up to 100x leverage. In addition, for the secure custody of users’ digital assets, 100% of deposited coins are held in access-controlled cold storage.

With a customer-first mentality, we have built-in several easy-to-use functionalities in the system design, such as the flexible cross-asset collateral management mechanism where users can post USDT, PAX, USDC, BTC, and ETH as margin and increase buying or selling power for potentially higher returns.  For customer convenience, we offer free, one-click conversion service to swap BTC or ETH to USDT, and vice versa.  Plus, if any users have any questions or issues, our customer support professionals provide multilingual dedicated support 24/7, which is very rare in this industry.

Q: Could you share your plans for Bithumb Futures for the remainder of the year, as well as the grand vision of the company in the hyper-competitive industry?

A: In the short-term, we will continue working on the optimization and addition of various user-driven functionalities in order to drive user acquisition and enhance user experience on the platform.  Then, based upon the market development and user needs, we will expand the product offering to other asset classes and product types to further increase trading volume.

Building out our global team is another key priority, especially in the Development, Marketing and Customer Support functions where we are constantly looking for smart and driven professionals to join us.

From a customer marketing perspective, more trading events and promotions are planned every month. At the moment, we already closed out the Grand launch events after reaching the quota of 30,000 just within the first five days upon the launch. We are still running our New registration and deposit event started from the 17th of April together with the Referral program where users can receive up to 40% of the trading fees incurred by the referred customers.

In the long run, the growth of our platform will be closely aligned with the overall market growth. Derivative trading has been gaining a lot momentum with the highly volatility nature of global crypto market. Building on our core strength of the financial product, trading system design, and customer-first mindset, I am confident that we can grow our institutional-grade trading platform to be one of the top-tier derivative exchanges that consistently meet dynamic customer needs and ultimately drive the crypto market development.

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