Recently HSBC announced that it would be tokenizing physical gold using Blockchain technology. The tokenized gold stored in HSBC London Bank vaults, will offer tokens that represent 0.001 troy ounce traded on HSBC Evolve platform to institutional investors, with UAE Gold tokenization pioneers applauding this effort and believe this will grow the precious metal tokenization sector further.

Mark Williamson, global head of FX and commodities partnerships and propositions, confirmed the launch of the platform in a Bloomberg interview.

Gold has become a safe haven for many investors and this has also been pushed by the demand for real world tokenization solutions.

The advanced platform creates a ‘digital twin’ representing loco London gold, which facilitates trade through the HSBC Evolve platform or an API. This innovation generates a permissioned digital representation of clients’ physical gold holdings, which is integrated into HSBC’s operational infrastructure. The system enables efficient tracking of allocated and unallocated gold positions corresponding with physical holdings.

Richard Bibbey, HSBC’s Global Head of FX, EM rates and Commodities, said: “As one of the earliest adopters of DLT, we are pleased to reinforce our leadership position in the gold market by tokenizing physical gold. We continue to pave the way for improving the post-trade market infrastructure of capital markets.”

Apart from facilitating potential fractionalization of loco London gold bars and direct retail investor participation, the platform also allows clients to view their tokenized gold trades.

John O’Neill, Global Head of Digital Assets Strategy, Markets and Securities Services, HSBC, said: “Tokenising physical gold represents a further advance in HSBC’s overall digital assets strategy. In addition to demand for native digital assets, we are seeing appetite for tokenisation solutions that can maintain a link to specific real-world use cases, such as gold. Our approach to gold tokenisation complements HSBC Orion, and is part of our commitment to creating a world-leading set of digital asset capabilities to best serve the needs of our clients.”

While the tokenized gold market is primarily dominated by Tether Gold (AUT) and PAX Gold (PAXG), both having market capitalizations around $490 million and $480 million, respectively, there are several companies based out of UAE who are also offering gold tokenization solutions.

LaraontheBlock spoke with tokenized gold experts in UAE to view how this will help tokenization of precious metals and their thoughts on this.

Navin Dsouza Co-Founder & CEO at UAE based Comtech Gold told LaraontheBlock, “This is really good news for the Gold Tokenization industry. With Global Banks like HSBC offering Tokenized Gold it reemphasizes the importance of blockchain and digitalization in Gold along with the need for De-Dollarization in the current era of high inflation.”

He adds,” Comtech has the complete infrastructure along with the Governance framework with DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Center) to offer Gold Tokenization product to any financial institutions who want to offer Tokenized Gold to its customers in a form of Comtech white labeled solution. We will see many players and banks joining the Tokenization race because of the strong use case benefit to the Industry.”

Ahmed Bin Sulayem Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of DMCC explained, “As a long-standing advocate for gold tokenization, HSBC’s entry to blockchain will not only support much-needed transparency, but provide greater accessibility and security for investors. Having launched our own tokenization mechanism in November 2022 in partnership with Comtech Gold Bullion, backed by our internal DMCC Tradeflow platform, we’ve already tokenized 144kgs of gold for investors, while providing a value-added service that has the capacity to expand into other precious metals in the near term.”

Mark Gesterkamp, Business Development Director at Aurus Gold headquartered in UAE commented, “We applaud the step HSBC is taking by joining gold tokenization as gold has an important role in the transition to on-chain finance. It is no surprise they have done so, as it will surely open up the market through smaller traded denominations and improve liquidity and tradability.

He explained how already Aurus’ Tokenization-as-a-Service allows for any financial institution to use its technology by minting a digital representation of its bullion from gold, silver to platinum. This entails banks and family offices looking to join the digital space and finding new distribution channels.  He adds, “The decentralized nature of gold tokenization is key here, whilst being a supplying partner of the Aurus ecosystem it allows clients to benefit from trading transactions.”

UAE was one of the first countries globally to begin tokenization of gold and other precious metals. Startups from the region and globally are setting up in the country as gold-backed tokens witness a growth surpassing that of cryptocurrencies. The market cap of gold-backed tokens has exceeded $1 billion — a far cry from $100 million in 2020.

Most of the entities developing gold tokens have chosen the UAE because of its positive crypto stance, its regulations, its gold hub, and the region’s affinity to Shariah compliant commodities. With this new announcement by HSBC, the UAE is poised to become a more formidable hub for tokenization of precious metals.

If you are a GCC or MENA based family office that has a portfolio that includes precious metals such as gold, silver or others, or you intend to in the near future, but are hesitant because in the past you were unable to make revenues from the purchase, you now can. With the advent of blockchain, Web3 technologies and tokenization a sweet spot is upon us. 

Precious metal owners can generate earnings on their gold and make it work for them just by holding it in tokenized form. Aurus Technologies, headquartered in the UAE with offices in the UK is offering family offices the opportunity to tokenize real world assets through its sustainable tokenization as a service solution (TAAS) platform.

The GCC and MENA region has all the ingredients to make gold work for family offices. First the region itself is a hot bed for investors, secondly precious metals especially gold are well revered and invested in and third Web3 technologies including tokenization on the blockchain is revolutionizing the precious metal industry in the region.

Family offices can make their tokenized gold work for them throughout the lifetime of their ownership.

According to Mark Gesterkamp, Chief Business Development Officer, Aurus Technologies, “By minting a digital representation of vaulted bullion in the form of tGOLD, tSILVER and tPLATINUM, precious metals can now be utilized and earn transactional revenue in the digital economy.”

The company does not sell gold, but utilizes software to make gold work for its owners by allowing these tokenized real assets to be transacted and traded. Mark explains, “Part of the transaction fees flow back to the bullion owners and providers.”


The Growth of Investors in GCC and MENA

Recent research has shown that there are nearly 6,000 UHNW (ultra-high net worth) individuals in the Middle East with a combined net worth of US $995 billion. The number of UHNW individuals in the region is expected to increase by 24.6% in the next 5 years while the region is also expected to remain the fourth largest wealth hub in the world.

In addition the UAE is increasingly becoming a hub for family offices, with some of the world’s big names setting up offices in the country to tap the market. The same can be witnessed in KSA, Qatar, and elsewhere.

As such the region is ripe with not only a growing number of family offices but wealth that can be deployed intelligently.

Growth of interest in Digital assets

HNWI individuals and family offices are increasing their exposure to alternative assets in the form of digital assets and the MENA region is no exception. The Ocorian report found that 90% of those surveyed said their clients are looking to include crypto and digital assets in their investment strategies.

The report noted that family offices run by younger tech savvy generations want to make a move into investing in crypto and digital assets yet remain concerned about the challenges and risks.

This is more reflective in the MENA region. The Lombard Odier report found that 79% of younger Middle East investors believe there are significant opportunities in the digital and tech sectors.

Mark believes that Aurus’s blockchain tokenization offering provides tech savvy young investors with a valuable investment opportunity, easing their concerns, by offering digital assets backed by gold, silver or other precious metals. He states “Gold is understood by all, and now the new generation can put it to work sustainably and with less risk than crypto.”


Bullish on Gold regardless of market trends

As economic difficulties prevail globally, with worries of inflation, recession, and banking failures, precious metals are set to shine.

Tresor Gold research stated that VC firms and family offices will increase gold allocations in next 18 months. The study covered investors in in Canada, Australia, the US, UK, UAE, France, Germany, Switzerland, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Yet regardless of whether precious metals are seen as bullish or not, just by tokenizing gold and making it work for owners, price fluctuations are no longer relevant.  

Mark explains, “Regardless of whether gold is bullish or not, owners who have tokenized their gold will continue to make money because of the transactions. AurusX our native token for example is like a hedge for precious metals. Holders of AurusX or their own tokenized gold can earn yields in any market condition because they earn for each transaction carried out.”

Gold Investment challenges overcome with Tokenization 

Tokenizing precious metals and gold on the blockchain relieves investors from the challenges faced from utilizing traditional gold investment vehicles.  

When investing in physical gold there are always extra costs for securing, insuring and storing the gold and in return liquidating the physical gold or earning yields is also difficult.

Even with Gold index funds, or ETFs (Exchange traded funds) while investors do receive passive earnings long term, these investors do not own the gold.

Investing directly in gold via gold shares (mine shares) of gold mine operators is risky as well, as it is dependent on the performance of the mining operator and the stock exchange.

With Aurus, there is a one to one backing of the underlying bullion generating yields, making most of the challenges a thing of the past. Mark confirms, “Aurus is setting the standard in precious metals tokenization adhering to the decentralized nature of the blockchain. We work with multiple storage locations around the globe including reputable partners such as Spanish refinery Sempsa JP and vaulting facilitator Brinks.”

The Aurus Opportunity a solution for all

Since 2018 Aurus has been a strong proponent of opening the precious metals market to everyone with a smartphone using the Aurus application.

The company is leveraging metal-backed blockchain technology to help gold, silver, and platinum businesses democratize these assets via the digital economy while earning passive rewards in the digital assets & DeFi space.

By modernizing the precious metals market with Web3 technologies, it is increasing access, usability & trust, ultimately unlocking global demand.

Mark concludes, “The total size of tokenized illiquid assets, including real estate and natural resources could reach $16.1 trillion by 2030. As such we are playing our part by offering an open ended solution that allows any party to bring gold to Web3 under the standards of both the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA) and DMCC (Dubai Multi Commodities Center). ” The bigger the Aurus system grows the more precious metals will be paid out to AX holders.”

For the first time in the region, Aurus will be offering gold tokenization solutions to family offices allowing them to put their gold to work and generate yields. Mark adds, “We welcome partners in the UAE and GCC to showcase our ecosystem and work together to tokenize part of their portfolio by taking either a direct position in Aurus TGold and TSilver or tokenizing their own gold or even investing in AurusX tokens.” Aurus is currently seeking to raise $500,000 from the sale of its AurusX Tokens.

Aurus is working with greener future in mind, by reducing CO2 emission. It is collaborating with green initiatives globally. Mark states, “Blockchain allows for easier and transparent collaboration with ESG initiatives and we will continuously seek partnerships in positioning precious metals towards a greener investing alternative. We aim to ensure everyone can buy precious metals on the blockchain in a more sustainable manner.”

For more info check out the Aurus video here:

In March 12022, the market capitalization of gold-backed tokens exceeded $1 billion for the first time.

As gold-backed tokens continue to increase in popularity, the UAE appears to be becoming a hotbed for the physical gold investment alternative.

Startups from the region and globally are setting up in the country as gold-backed tokens witness a growth surpassing that of cryptocurrencies. The market cap of gold-backed tokens has exceeded $1 billion — a far cry from $100 million in 2020.

A gold-backed cryptocurrency is a digital currency that is backed by physical gold. The currency’s value is based on the current market value of gold and can be used for transactions like any other cryptocurrency.

Bullion gold experts estimate that 20 to 40 percent of the $11 trillion global gold market passes through Dubai every year. These findings can be attributed to entities embracing gold tokenization and commodity token exchanges.

Ahmed Bin Sulayem, Chairman and CEO of Dubai’s Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) asserts the pivotal role that Dubai plays in the global trade market due to its location and its refineries and sees

He states, “Gold plays a critical role in boosting the economies of producing countries and nations with large jewelry manufacturing sectors. Arguably the most important industrial use of gold is in the manufacture of electronics, so as technology improves, demand for gold from the tech sector is also rising rapidly. DMCC is at the center of precious metals and Blockchain technology.”

Gold token growth in UAE

Most of the entities developing gold tokens have chosen the UAE because of its positive crypto stance, its regulations, its gold hub, and the region’s affinity to Shariah compliant commodities.

Ben Sharon, the CEO of Illumishare SRG, says the UAE is the biggest blockchain hub in the world, with many top blockchain companies moving their headquarters to the country.

“We found partners that share the same beliefs as we do,” said Sharon, “We know that together we will make the world a better place where money will provide both stability and opportunities.”

The Abu Dhabi-based blockchain startup developed the SRG token based on a digital gold standard to open the crypto market to the masses. The gold that will be utilized for SRG will be held in the UAE in a bank in Abu Dhabi.

The project is supported by the Private Office of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Ahmed Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan from the Royal Family of Abu Dhabi.

While others such as Comtech, view the UAE and Dubai in particular as the center of gold trade and  blockchain technology. Comtech, is digitizing gold on XDC blockchain network.

ComTech’s Global Marketing Director, Zulfiqar Naqvi, opines, “Our vision is to turn it from the City of Gold to the City of E-Gold.” There reserves are now 122 KG of gold bars in just five months. The 122 Gold bars, 1 kg each with purity of 999.9, are securely stored with Emirates Transguard.

Blockchain tokenization entity Aurus also set up in Dubai’s DMCC because Dubai is a city at the forefront of innovation, blockchain technology, adding to the scalability of their ecosystem. Aurus seeks to democratize the precious metals market using tokenization.

Mark Gesterkamp explains, “We want gold, silver and platinum to be traded by more people earning them passive rewards. At the moment we are onboarding local and region partners including crypto exchanges, bullion refineries and brokers, as well as expanding Aurus precious metal backed tokens to the global retail market.

The attraction of UAE also stems from it being at the center of a strong Islamic investment front. Australian based Marhaba DeFi Islamic compliant platform, better known as MRBH with an operational license in UAE recently launched its TijariX token commodity exchange. TijariX has already commenced with the listing of gold tokens.

Mohammed Naquib, Founder and CEO MRHB Network, explains, “The Islamic community has been using gold as a means of currency and store of value from the earliest days of Islam. Yet it was always difficult to ensure secure storage of physical gold, and liquidate it when needed. Tokenized gold solves these problems while Islamic compliant platform assures adherence to Islamic practice.”

Even entities operating gold refineries in Dubai have incorporated gold tokenization into their business model. UAE REIT Development which is currently building a gold refinery to be launched in 2023 will offer tokenized gold and a tokenized gold exchange. 

Karen Kriska, Vice President of Customer Relations at REIT Development says, “We will digitally mint 85 percent of the value of the gold into tokens. So if someone wants to stake their gold in the form of GoldCoin, they would stake it in our “We will never allow our liquidity to increase to a point were those staking cannot make 0.5 percent in transaction fees per month or 6 percent a year      unless, of course, we increase the gold reserves.”

Why tokenize Gold

Every entity that has chosen to tokenize gold has attributed their interest to different factors. Some believe that it is easier to convince people to buy tokenized gold rather than crypto, while others see gold as an already well accepted investment commodity in need of a more open and accessible marketplace.

Ben Sharon, CEO of IllumiShare explains that only 4.2 percent of the world population has adopted crypto because they are unable to identify the real value behind crypto.  Yet when it comes to gold is has always been seen as a reliable asset in terms of store of value

By combining gold with technology and cash, IllumiShare is creating an additional hedge, defining a new crypto category and redefining money in the process. Sharon explains, “This is the reason we call SRG a Trust token.”

Comteq’s Naqvi sees gold as an investment product that is easier to understand and standardize. He says, “Gold has been used as an investment product for centuries as well as being a product close to people.”  Comteq built their gold token with two aspects in mind speed, and security which is attractive to investors.

Gesterkamp, from Aurus believes that tokenization of gold makes a more inclusive and efficient precious metals market attracting younger demographics while offering easy accumulation, wider payments and ability to be utilized in DeFi and GameFi applications. Gesterkamp adds, “The increased transaction from tokenized gold implies more fees collected and as such more yield generated to ecosystem partners.”

He adds, “We also believe there is a chance that precious metals will be used to back up CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies) besides a basket of currencies.”

Islamic compliant tokenized precious metal exchange TejariX believes tokenized gold will attract low risk crypto investors as well as long standing investors in traditional gold. Naquib also believes it will make gold trading accessible to the masses and is a better alternative to dollar backed stablecoins. He states, “Using TejariX platform we plan to offer Gold & Silver Standard (GSS) bullion tokens to investors around the world at 0.03% transaction fee. Each token is worth 1 gram of precious metal, and investors can buy in increments of 1/18.”

Bin Sulayam emphasizes that the tokenization of gold may increase given that gold has always been a favorite of investors and has better performed during periods of higher inflation and economic crisis. He asserts, “Tokenized gold combines the benefits of cryptocurrencies with the underlying value of the precious metal. Tokenizing precious metals allows greater democratization of the asset class through easier access, increased liquidity, faster settlement, lower cost, and in some cases, enhanced risk management.”

The Future of Gold tokens

The Future of gold backed tokens looks bright globally opens up an opportunity for the UAE to play a pivotal role. With the World Gold council plan to make gold more liquid, starting with $500 billion in gold bars in UK utilizing blockchain technology for tracking and developing gold tokens, the tokenization of precious metals is just starting.

You can also read this on Cointelgraph MENA in arabic