Dubai is seeking to further establish itself as a crypto hub, following the success of Binance and its drive to bring over big tech executives into the country.
“We see a lot of interest from employees in traditional financial institutions who want to work for us,” said Richard Teng, Binance’s regional head in the Middle East and North Africa. “We’re actually recruiting a number of them.”
One recent hire includes former Bank of New York Mellon Corp. banker Vishal Sacheendran, now Binance’s MENA director based in the UAE. After almost a decade as a M&A lawyer, Robbie Nakarmi, joined the firm’s senior counsel in Dubai late last year.
The rise of crypto investment funds
Looking outside of Binance, finance professionals have also been striking out on their own in their efforts to get into crypto.
In 2017, Bank of America alumni Ahmed Ismail and Chris Flinos launched Abu Dhabi-based digital currency investment bank HAYVN. Ismail related how several banker friends had recently left their positions to start crypto investment funds.
After 16 years, Amir Tabch, the former head of global markets at Emirates Investment Bank, left the traditional banking sector to become the now CEO of DeFi brokerage Securrency Capital in Abu Dhabi. Tabch is currently seeking more bankers to help “bridge the gap” between traditional and digital finance.
Ismail also emphasized that the environment in the UAE had made it especially conducive to make the leap.
“It all starts from the top,” Ismail said. “We have witnessed the UAE making a huge push in developing world-class infrastructure and a regulatory environment for crypto firms to thrive and call home.”
Dubai a new crypto hub?
Binance recently established its de facto headquarters in the UAE. The company’s CEO Changpeng Zhao said Dubai had become the firm’s HQ by any common interpretation.
In March, the world’s largest crypto exchange by volume, had been granted a license to conduct operations in Dubai, after receiving a similar approval in Bahrain. It has since expanded its operations in the UAE, following further approval in Abu Dhabi.
The UAE’s crypto-friendly policies have also lured many similar cryptocurrency funds and exchanges.
Prior to Binance’s approval, rival exchange FTX became the first crypto exchange to win over Dubai. It has since been followed by crypto trading platforms Crypto.com and Bybit, which announced their expansion plans on March 28.
Dubai-based BitOasis also received approval, with CEO Ola Doudin commenting on the government’s commitment to establishing a secure environment in which to operate.
While prioritizing security, the UAE government has also been trying to create a pro-business atmosphere for crypto firms. These efforts have so far shown to be convincing enough for crypto hedge fund Three Arrows Capital to move its headquarters from Singapore to Dubai.