Mohsen Al Zahrani has been hired by Saudi Arabia’s financial regulator to manage the country’s work on virtual assets and central bank digital currency effort as the sign of the Gulf nation’s future aspirations related to cryptocurrency.
Until now, Saudi Arabia has been wary of virtual assets, citing concerns about their speculative character. However, the rise of the UAE as a UAE has prompted Saudi Arabia to draft more formal restrictions on the asset class.
Al Zahrani, a former managing director at consultancy Accenture, reports to the Central Bank’s deputy governor for development and technology, Ziad Al Yousef. They are part of a Riyadh-based team that is designing future laws in partnership with some of the world’s largest cryptocurrency firms. As part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s ambition of developing Riyadh into a worldwide cryptocurrency powerhouse, Saudi Arabia has been encouraging enterprises to grow their presence there.
The largest economy in the Middle East and a generally wealthy population, the kingdom is an important market for any company doing business in the area.
Some of the industry’s largest names, notably Binance Holdings Ltd, have established Saudi operations, seeing the country as a significant untapped market if existing restrictions are lifted. In 2018, Riyadh prohibited banks from processing virtual asset transactions, yet there are ways to trade.