Saudi Arabia Hires Crypto Chief, Signaling Warming Digital Assets

The potential for Saudi Arabia’s fascination with cryptocurrencies to grow is real. Former Accenture executive hired by Saudi Central Bank to lead crypto and CBDC initiatives. Previously, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia treated cryptocurrency more cautiously.

After tapping a former CEO of Accenture to promote bitcoin adoption, Saudi Arabia is starting to see the promise of the digital currency. According to Bloombergthe Saudi Central Bank has recruited Mohsen AlZahrani, a former chief executive of Accenture, to lead the bank’s cryptocurrency and cannabidiol (CBD) initiatives.

According to his LinkedIn profile, AlZahrani has been working at the bank since July. While at the central bank from March 2015 to October 2018, AlZahrani oversaw the innovation center’s cryptocurrency and CBDC projects.

Multiple sources told Bloomberg that Riyadh has recently shown interest in digital assets and has started talking with the biggest companies in the sector to assess the UAE’s policy towards cryptocurrency. aber is a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) program that is part of the coordinated efforts of countries to develop digital assets.

Aber, a joint “digital currency and distributed ledger” experiment announced in 2019, is a digital currency trial jointly released by two national central banks. The project was developed by the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates (CBUAE), the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia (SAMA) and six commercial banks.

Why have Saudi officials expressed their concerns?

In a move that signals the Gulf state’s future crypto ambitions, the Saudi banking regulator has appointed Mohsen AlZahrani to oversee the kingdom’s virtual assets and the central bank’s digital currency initiative. The source claims that Al Zahrani and Al Yousef work in a team in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, which has been in contact with major cryptocurrency companies about upcoming regulations.

Saudi officials have expressed concerns about the speculative nature of virtual assets, which have so far taken a more cautious approach. However, sources close to the situation say Riyadh is feeling pressure to develop more formal restrictions for the asset class due to the emergence of the UAE as a global hub for cryptocurrencies.

The role of cryptocurrency in Saudi Arabia

The unnamed sources said AlZahrani, a former chief executive of consulting firm Accenture, now reports to Ziad Al Yousef, the Central Bank’s deputy governor for development and technology. They said they were part of a group in Riyadh in talks with major cryptocurrency companies about the proposed legislation.

SAMA officials did not respond to requests for comment. Saudi Arabia has pressured companies to increase their presence in Riyadh as part of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s plans to make the city a global hub. It has taken Dubai, the commercial hub of the Gulf, head on.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates explore a unified digital currency

Given its large economy and relatively affluent population, the kingdom is an important market for companies operating in the Middle East. Binance Holdings Ltd., one of the largest companies in the industry, has expanded its Saudi teams in anticipation of the country’s potential as a largely untapped market if current restrictions are lifted.

Despite Riyadh’s 2018 ban on cryptocurrency banking, there are still ways to trade. Experts say local banks have recently tightened restrictions on how they can talk to their customers.

Additionally, the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been discussing the possibility of a common digital currency for some time.

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