Dubai is becoming the most sought-after destination for firms in the cryptoverse, and the latest to set up shop there is PwC’s former global head of crypto.
Henri Arslanian has left the financial services company to float his own fund. Nine Blocks Capital will focus primarily on digital assets, an area where he has demonstrated expertise.
The digital assets fund has already raised $75 million from Nine Masts Capital, a hedge fund based in Dubai. Nine Masts Capital will also serve as the fund’s main backers and largest shareholder.
The fund has decided to adopt a multipronged approach by pitching its tent in Dubai and setting up three fund managers in the Cayman Islands.
Despite leaving his role, Arslanian will still serve in a senior adviser position at PwC where his knowledge of the ecosystem will still be put to use. He will also continue serving as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Hong Kong, teaching a course on FinTech.
Dubai over Singapore and South Korea
In an interview with the Financial Times, Arslanian stated Dubai was the best choice for his new fund. He added that upon scrutiny of the broader markets, the team decided to settle with Cayman and Dubai.
Arslanian cited several reasons for Dubai, including the “tier-one” licensing regime in place and the absence of regulatory stumbling blocks. Dubai’s travel links and a moderate timezone to the Southeast Asian market might mean Arslanian’s fund may not explore setting up another hub in Asia.
Singapore was ruled out following the statements of Sopnendu Mohanty, a leading executive of the Monetary Authority of Singapore, that the region will be “brutal and unrelentingly hard” on infractions from crypto firms.
Hong Kong and South Korea have adopted a stricter stance towards the digital assets’ industry, with the bureaucracies of obtaining licenses dampening the enthusiasm of firms.
Dubai welcomes the biggest crypto firms
Dubai was not always the hub of virtual currency activity, but the script was flipped in an instant with the passage of a new law that created the Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA). The authority has responsibility for licensing and regulating the sector across Dubai’s mainland and the free zone territories.
Binance and FTX have obtained their operational licenses in the region, while Koimanu and CoinMENA disclosed that they were in the process of achieving full licensing.