The senior advisor of Saudi Central Bank  Anthony Butler  for blockchain, AI and digital assets recently posted  on LinkedIn new job positions opening up in Riyadh KSA.

The roles he mentioned included sSoftware engineers with hands-on experience working with DLT ( Distributed Ledger Technology) protocols and applications. According to Butler the role requires someone with experience implementing solutions using tech such as Ethereum, Hyperledger Besu, Hyperledger Fabric, and/or R3 Corda.”

He adds  these talents should particularly  be knowledgable of solutions involving tokenisation of real world assets. The job applicant should understand the functional and non-functional aspects of designing such solutions and be able to work with broader engineering teams to lead design and implementation. Understanding of DeFi and emerging areas, such as self-sovereign identity.

Also required are software engineers/full-stack developers at all levels of seniority. These applicants should be able to work independently on software development projects and potentially lead a team of other engineers by providing architectural and engineering guidance. Hands-on experience working with common front-end frameworks, architecture patterns, cloud-native design practices, and languages.

Finally Butler also mentions jobs for thos talented in AI ( Artificial Intelligence), machine learning (ML) and DS techniques and tools to solve complex classification, anomaly detection and prediction problems. Deep knowledge of common libraries such as PyTorch, TF, etc. and knowledge of tech and tools needed to implement AI at scale, such as vector databases (e.g. Pinecone), data pipeline tech (e.g. Airflow), orchestration tools (e.g. Langchain), MLOps tooling (e.g. Weights and Biases), etc. Will be working with SOTA and emerging areas, such as GenAI, so should be intellectually curious and self-driven to learn.

This comes as the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia moves forward with its CBDC ( Central Bank Digital Currency) national project as well as digital asset’s strategy.

Anthony Butler, the Chief Technology Officer for IBM MENA region who was based out of KSA, and is a blockchain, AI, metaverse expert joined Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) as a senior advisor in May 2023.

He announced the new position on LinkedIn saying, “I’m happy to share that I’m starting a new position as Senior Advisor at Saudi Central Bank – SAMA! As a senior advisor to SAMA I will be focused on  first of a kind applications of emerging technology, such as artificial intelligence, distributed ledger technologies, quantum, and advanced cryptography in support of payments innovations (such as CBDC, stable coins, and tokenization), transformation of Suptech/Regtech, green finance,  open finance, decentralized finance (DeFi), and cybersecurity.

Prior to that, The Saudi Central Bank ( SAMA) appointed Mohsen AlZahrani, as virtual assets and CBDC lead.

With the new job postings listed by Anthony Butler it seems the move towards digital assets, DeFi, and blockchain in the capital of KSA is moving forward at a faster pace.

During Corda Day Middle East held on May 11th 2023 in Dubai UAE, speakers from the Central Bank of Saudi Arabia (SAMA) as well as the Central Bank of UAE discussed their CBDC strategies and pilots. Both Central Banks are working with R3 Corda on their CBDC pilot programs, SAMA in its sandbox and UAE Central Bank in their research and development center.

The event as per R3, brought together financial service leaders, technologists and Corda enthusiasts from around the region and the globe. Of the prominent speakers included H.E. Saif Humaid Hamad Al Dhaheri, Assistant Governor – Strategy, Financial Infrastructure and Digital Transformation, Central Bank of UAE and Mr. Mohsen AlZahrani, Virtual Assets (VA) and CBDC program Lead, Saudi Central Bank – SAMA as well as Richard G Brown, Chief Technology Officer, R3.

Al Dhaheri made a keynote address on “Future of Money, CBDC and the Digital Dirham” while AlZahrani carried out the closing Keynote, on the topic of “Wholesale CBDC”

Mohsin AlZahrani told Lara on the Block, “Currently we are working with R3 Corda only for the sandbox experimentation, we have not yet decided on the next phase platform or implementation.”

Farhan Khan, Chief Technology Officer Consultant and advisor in Fintech and Blockchain, who attended the event representing Cykube, spoke to Lara on the Block explaining what he learned about CBDC implementation in UAE and KSA.

Khan explained, “It was an excellent event and very eye opening on how R3 is properly working in the region. What I learned about the CBDC implementation in KSA and UAE is that both are working with R3 but each country has a different approach. Saudi Arabia is working on a wholesale CBDC project for its domestic payment system, while UAE Central Bank is working on CBDC for cross border payments.”

Khan adds, “For example the ABER cross border payment project which was paused might be reutilized in the future as per AlZahrani’s statements at the event. AlZahrani stated that SAMA is utilizing the experience of ABER during the implementation of the CBDC wholesale payment system concept, and there is a chance in the future to use ABER again between KSA and UAE after the experimentation of CBDC wholesale in KSA is completed.”

According to Khan the UAE is working on a prototype with R3 Corda for the digital dirham which is currently under testing in their R&D facility.  

Khan concludes to Lara on the Block saying that R3 Corda has seen a lot of interest because it has very powerful features such as interoperability between blockchain platforms even public ones. He explains, “Fintech entities in both Saudi Arabi and UAE are waiting for the network gates to open, and with the VARA crypto regulations cooking every day we feel the same will be happening in KSA. Corda is the right framework from a technology perspective with its tremendous security, protection, especially when it comes to digitization and tokenization.”

This is reflected in a post by R3’s Chief Technology Officer Richard Brown who states, “Composability and interoperability are critical cogs in the architecture of Corda. With the next generation of Corda, there’s no need to decide on your network model at the outset of a project. Start with a centralized, private network and gradually decentralize over time!”

Brown believes that the success of Corda is because it is a cross-firm shared ledger enabling collaborating parties to transact based on high quality data, without exposing internal data or systems, and with far fewer reconciliation errors. A ledger that could even become the industry’s system of record for some key questions such as ownership of assets (the terms ‘Digital Assets’ and ‘Tokenization’

It is also a permissioning system that provides high identity assurance and gives confidence to regulated entities that they can comply with their legal obligations to know with whom they are transacting. In addition is a  privacy-first design, allowing competitors to trade without revealing sensitive data publicly – only participants in a transaction get to see the details – unlike other blockchain-inspired approaches.

He even goes so far to say that, “We’ve been delighted by how successful Corda has been, far beyond the narrow banking scenarios we originally designed it for. Broadly speaking, we’re seeing it being used to solve four main problems in ‘Regulated DeFi’:”

During the Financial sector conference 2023 in Riyadh KSA, Mohsen Al Zahrani, Virtual assets and CBDC Program Director at Saudi Arabia’s Central Bank, told Anna Tutova, CEO of Coinstelegram media platform when asked about the regulation of cryptocurrencies in the country, that there is a current forum looking into  that, yet no policy decision has been made yet on different virtual asset types.

He noted in his reply during a panel discussion on CBDC, public money in the digital age, “We are working on a policy decision with the Saudi Central Bank and other relevant governmental agencies.”

KSA appointed AlZahrani in September 2022 to lead the virtual assets and digital currency program at the Central Bank.  In January 2023, The Saudi Central Bank (SAMA) confirmed that the Central Bank is continuing to experiment on Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDC).  SAMA is currently working on a project that focuses on domestic or national wholesale CBDC use case in collaboration with local banks and FinTech’s. Experts explained to LaraontheBlock that this is a CBDC for local wholesale bank settlements.

During the 2023 World Economic Forum’s session on Financial Institutions innovating under pressure, the Saudi Arabian Minister of Finance Mohammed Al Jadaan states that while CBDCs have privacy issues they are fantastic tool in developing countries.

Prior to this KSA had engaged in a pilot with UAE on CBDC Aber project for cross border wholes sale CBDC transactions utilizing Hyper Ledger Fabric at the time.

Kucoin cryptocurrency exchange revealed in a report published in July 2022 “ Crypto Verse Report on adoption of digital currencies in Saudi Arabia” that 3 million Saudi Arabians are crypto investors who currently own cryptocurrencies or have traded in past six months. This means 3 million out of an adult population of 21 million or 14 percent currently own cryptocurrencies.

The survey also found that another 17 percent of adult population surveyed, was crypto curious and are likely to invest in crypto in the next six months. This would be imply that by the end of 2022, 31 percent of Saudi adult population or 6.6 million will be trading or owners of cryptocurrencies.