Saudi Arabia's central bank hires former Accenture exec as crypto chief

Quick Take

  • Saudi Arabia’s central bank has hired Mohsen AlZahrani, a former Accenture executive, as its crypto and CBDC lead.
  • Other countries in the Gulf region — notably Dubai — have been looking to regulate the crypto industry.

Saudi Arabia's central bank (SAMA) has hired Mohsen AlZahrani to lead its crypto program as the oil-rich nation looks to neighboring countries' efforts to bring regulatory clarity to the sector. 

AlZahrani, a former Accenture managing director, became the lead of virtual assets and central bank digital currency (CBDC) in July, according to his LinkedIn profile. He reports to Ziad Al Yousef, the central bank's deputy governor for development and technology, Bloomberg reported Sunday, citing people familiar with the matter.

This is not AlZahrani's first stint at SAMA. He previously worked at the central bank as director of its innovation center, leading all blockchain and CBDC projects for nearly four years, from March 2015 to October 2018, per his LinkedIn profile. The Saudi central bank is working on a joint CBDC project called Aber with the central bank of the UAE.

While SAMA has previously warned against trading crypto assets as they are out of government supervision, Saudi Arabia is one of the most popular nations for crypto trading, according to a survey by the crypto exchange KuCoin in May. Around 3 million Saudis, or about 14% of the population aged 18 to 60, either currently own cryptocurrencies or have traded over the past six months, per the survey.

Saudi Arabia is now working on crypto regulations by engaging with some of the world's biggest crypto companies, according to the Bloomberg report. Binance and other firms have scaled their Saudi teams to tap the market if regulations get loosened, per the report.

Saudi Arabia's plan is to make Riyadh, the capital city, the Gulf region's top place to do business. Currently, Dubai is seen as the region's hub for finance. Dubai recently established the Dubai Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA) and brought a legal framework to reflect the city's vision to become one of the leading jurisdictions for crypto entrepreneurs.

SAMA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from The Block.

© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.