Hex Trust Group, a provider of digital asset solutions for institutional finance, protocols, foundations, and the Web3 ecosystem, has secured its fully operational Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) license, for crypto brokerage, management, investment and crypto staking from the Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA) in Dubai. This second license extends to its VA Broker-Dealer and VA Management and Investment arm, HT Markets MENA FZE. VARA had announced on its website previously that Hext Trust had received this license but it was pending full fulfillment of all requirements.

Hex Trust received its first VASP license back in November 2023, allowing it to provide virtual asset (crypto) custodial services to institutional clients and sophisticated investors.

With this second license Hex Trust will be able to offer comprehensive Virtual Asset services covering Broker-Dealer and Management and Investment Services, which includes regulated Staking Services.

When asked by Lara on the Block, why Hex Trust has chosen the UAE and Dubai to be licensed, Filippo Buzzi, Regional Director for MENA noted, “Hex Trust operates within jurisdictions known for their robust investor protections and progressive regulatory environments, spanning across Hong Kong, Singapore, Dubai, Italy, and France. In the UAE and Dubai, Virtual Assets Service Providers (VASPs) benefit from an environment characterized by supportive regulations, strategic positioning, tax advantages, an investor-friendly atmosphere, and advanced technology. As the crypto industry continues to develop, the UAE’s proactive stance towards growth positions it as an attractive destination for crypto businesses, offering significant opportunities in this rapidly evolving sector.”

As per the press release, Hex Trust Markets offers safe access to the DeFi ecosystem, where clients can generate yield with native on-chain staking solutions and execute trades with the support of Hex Trust’s dedicated Markets team. Key offerings include:

  • A global trading team with dedicated client support providing 24/7 trading coverage.
  • OTC trading solutions across the full spectrum of Virtual Assets, including tailored sales / purchase programs to optimize across Price, Time Horizon and Market Impact, employing proprietary execution algorithms to support bespoke execution strategies.
  • Deep liquidity and broad access within the Virtual Asset Markets.
  • Risk Management solutions catering to corporate treasury risk management requirements.
  • Fiat Solutions facilitating on-ramp / off-ramp services.

Filippo Buzzi adds, “The approval of this additional VASP license demonstrates Hex Trust’s commitment to fostering crypto ecosystem innovation and enabling safe market access in the Middle East. We are fully committed to expanding into the region and see enormous potential for digital asset growth given the progressive regulations, welcoming governments, and thriving crypto ecosystem.”

Speaking to Lara on the Block on the growth of crypto assets market in MENA, Buzzi stated, “UAE, GCC, and the broader MENA region represents a promising market for Hex Trust, largely due to a growing ecosystem supported by a clear regulatory framework and a forward-thinking approach to digital finance. Dubai, in particular, has established itself as a global blockchain hub, supporting the growth of the crypto assets industry. VARA, the first independent regulator for virtual assets, played a key role to position Dubai as a regional and international hub for Virtual Assets.”

“Hex Trust’s commitment to compliance and regulation has always been a priority, and this has earned us a reputable standing as a reliable partner for both crypto-native and traditional finance institutions. There is so much potential in the Emirate of Dubai and the issuance of the VASP license for Hex Trust Markets demonstrates the evolution of our digital asset service provision to meet the demands of our clients and the market.” – Alessio Quaglini, Co-Founder and CEO of Hex Trust.

So far VARA has licensed 12 crypto broker VASPs, and only one VASP which offers custody services and that is Hex Trust. Noteworthy that only Komainu offers custodial staking services.

UAE regulated GCEX crypto has partnered with DV Chain a provider of liquidity and market-making services in the dynamic world of cryptocurrencies allowing GCEX clients to benefit from DV Chain’s exceptional crypto liquidity offering, with even tighter spreads and reduced execution costs.

Through this partnership, GCEX will provide enhanced brokerage services for spot cryptocurrency transactions, delivering unparalleled access to deep liquidity through its professional 24/7 service. Designed specifically for institutional clients, this offering is accessible through GCEX’s crypto-native platform – XplorSpot – or via API, facilitating the wider adoption of digital assets across institutions and professional traders.

Michael Aagaard, Managing Director, GCEX commented, “We are thrilled to expand our liquidity offering in digital assets through our partnership with DV Chain, one of the most advanced, globally recognized crypto market makers. As demand for deep liquidity in digital assets from institutional clients continues to rise, this partnership reinforces GCEX’s position as a leading regulated brokerage, delivering superior global crypto CFDs liquidity.”

Michael Rabkin, Global Head of Business Development, DV Chain commented, “We are excited to be working with GCEX, a leading global crypto brokerage, to enhance liquidity for their institutional clients. This collaboration allows us to bring our advanced crypto liquidity solutions to a broader audience, helping provide tighter spreads and reduced execution costs. Together with GCEX, we are committed to supporting the growing demand for efficient and reliable digital asset trading.”

DKK partner, an emerging markets FX liquidity specialist firm, which recently received initial approval for digital asset broker license from Dubai’s Virtual asset regulatory authority, has partnered with UAE Seed Group, a company of the Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum, based in Dubai.

As per the press release, the partnership offers a significant step towards achieving seamless financial interoperability across the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the broader Middle East and North Africa region (MENA). The companies will work together to enable transparent and efficient transactions and processes for global financial institutions, promoting digital solutions and financial inclusivity.

DKK Partners was recently granted initial approval to offer digital asset broker dealer services by Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA). The initial approval allows DKK FZE to move forward in the licensing process and offer customers in Dubai and the UAE access to stablecoin blockchain technology, utilizing USDT and USDC.

The Seed Group specializes in diversified business interests and operates across a group of companies, within different sectors such as technology, real estate, healthcare and more. Fostering innovation is what the Seed Group strives for, focusing on investment activities and strategic partnerships.

Hisham Al Gurg, the CEO of Seed Group stated, “We are pleased to work alongside DKK Partners in delivering forex risk management, liquidity solutions, and expedited collections to the rapidly growing markets across Dubai and the MENA region. This joint alliance will allow DKK Partners to deliver seamless interoperability customised to the growing demands of local businesses and government institutions. We are optimistic about how this partnership will unfold in the coming months.”

Khalid Talukder, Co-Founder and CEO of DKK Partners commented, “It is an extremely exciting time for us at DKK Partners as the new partnership grants us access to the offices of key decision-makers in Dubai and the UAE’s largest and most prestigious businesses. We were looking for a key strategic partner based in Dubai that has wide-reaching access in the UAE and GCC, and Seed Group was absolutely the ideal match. This partnership will enable us to showcase our business model and the immediate advantages we offer, perfectly aligning with our three-year growth and expansion strategy.”

In a blog post, RAIN Crypto exchange regulated in both Bahrain and the UAE issued a statement replying to the report by ZachXBT that the exchange had likely been exploited for $14.8 million, addressing the security incident involving the exchange. They noted ” We would like our customers to know that the situation has been resolved. We assure you that we have already taken all the necessary steps to address this matter to protect customer funds.”

The crypto exchange was replying to the news circulating that “It appeared the crypto exchange Rain was likely exploited for $14.8M on April 29, 2024 after their BTC, ETH, SOL, and XRP wallets saw suspicious outflows. Funds were quickly transferred to instant exchanges and swapped for BTC and ETH.”

RAIN added, “Customers’ funds are under custody, fully accounted for, and held on a 1:1 basis. This means that all your fiat currency and crypto assets are held with the highest standards of security and regulatory compliance. Rain Management W.L.L is licensed and regulated by the Central Bank of Bahrain and Rain Trading Limited is regulated by the ADGM Financial Services Regulatory Authority, which means we maintain a 1:1 asset-to-funds ratio in line with regulatory requirements.”

The blog noted that as soon as RAIN became aware of the incident it isolated the issue and put additional controls to strengthen their security.”

Moreover RAIN confirmed that it had “covered any potential losses resulting from this incident, ensuring that customers’ interests remain protected.”

RAIN also stated that there operations are uninterrupted including crypto buy and sell, send, receive, along with fiat deposits, and withdrawals.

In conclusion RAIN commented, “We are committed to upholding the highest standards of security and regulatory compliance. In response to the incident, we have taken immediate steps to further strengthen the security of our platform. We are also fully cooperating with the relevant legal and regulatory authorities and specialist advisors to ensure that this issue is handled appropriately.”

HexTrust, a digital asset custodian, under the UAE entity name of HT Market MENA, has been granted a VASP license from Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA) that will allow it to offer crypto brokerage services allowing it to serve both institutional and retail clients, pending that all requirements are fulfilled.

This is the second VASP license that HexTrust receives from VARA. It was previously awarded a crypto custodial license back in November 2023.

Hex Trust’s Dubai office was established in June 2022, and is led by Regional MENA Director, Filippo Buzzi.

On receiving the first license for digital asset custody services Buzzi stated, “It is exciting for us to become one of the first virtual asset companies to receive this operating license in Dubai,” said Filippo Buzzi, Hex Trust’s Regional Director MENA. “Hex Trust is fully committed to expanding into the Middle East and sees enormous potential for digital asset growth given the progressive regulations, welcoming governments, and thriving crypto ecosystem in the region.”

With this license Hex Trust will not only be able to hold crypto for its clients but also allow trading.

To date Dubai’s VARA has awarded 18 VASP licenses with the latest being Binance and WadzPay.

Moreover, there are more licenses on the way with Liminal Custody Solutions Dubai entity, “First Answer Custody FZE”, both providers of digital asset custody and wallet solutions, securing an initial approval from Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority (VARA).

Prior to that NorthStake a firm which offers safe, compliant and secure investment in Digital Assets for institutional investors as well as crypto staking and trading services applied and received a preliminary approval for a license from Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority (VARA) for a license.

GC Exchange GCEX a licensed crypto broker in Dubai UAE announced that its GCEX’s UK entity a crypto broker has submitted its accounts for y/e 31 December 2023, reporting a turnover of £2.30 million equivalent to $2.8 million. This is a decline in volume from £4.46m ($5.58 million) the previous year.

As per the press release, this is largely attributed to the crypto winter and follows an exceptional growth year for GCEX y/e 2022. However, despite the drop in turnover for y/e 2023, the company has steadily increased revenue on a monthly basis since the beginning of 2023, a trend that has continued into the current year.

The UK entity reported a loss before tax of £387,429 but remained committed to its growth objectives, as evidenced by its ongoing development of technology solutions and the distribution of £1.80m during the year to its parent company, GCEX Holding Limited, aimed at supporting the international expansion of the GCEX Group.

Lars Holst, Founder and CEO, GCEX added, “The crypto winter had a huge impact across the industry, and GCEX was no exception. However, in response to the decline in revenue, we have been resilient and adaptive, navigating our costs effectively and diversifying revenue streams such as introducing staking services for institutional and professional clients.

“We don’t run risk and don’t do lending or borrowing and we continue to have significant excess Tier 1 capital in our UK entity. Following a successful Q1 2024, We are now back to profitability and continue to execute on our long-term plans, investing and expanding in our global business.”

Over the last financial year, GCEX Group, with headquarters in London, has broadened its product offering, enhanced its technology and strengthened partnerships with Tier 1, trusted Liquidity Providers as well as digital asset custody solutions. The Group secured two additional regulatory licenses: an investment firm in Denmark regulated by the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority and a Virtual Asset Service Provider (VASP) license in Dubai, UAE regulated by VARA.

GCEX Group enables institutional and professional clients to access deep liquidity in FX and CFDs on digital assets, as well as digital assets spot trading and conversion, and offers a broad range of Forex brokerage and crypto-native technology solutions – XplorDigital.

CoinMENA B.S.C., a leading crypto asset platform licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain and sister company CoinMENA FZE, licensed by the Dubai Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA), have partnered with Zodia Markets, a UK headquartered digital asset trading business, backed by Standard Chartered enhancing its liquidity on its platform.

The partnership will provide CoinMENA users with enhanced liquidity and reduced slippage on high-volume trades for G10 and GCC currencies vs a list of vetted and well-researched stablecoins and crypto assets.

Zodia Markets is renowned for its industry-leading trading and operational infrastructure, ensuring timely and efficient settlement. The business operates as a digital asset brokerage for institutional clients, offering a seamless avenue for fiat versus digital asset transactions across multiple currencies.

CoinMENA is a crypto asset platform where retail and institutional investors can buy, sell, send, receive, and store digital assets safely.
The partnership merges the strengths of two pioneering institutions. CoinMENA’s extensive network of retail and institutional clients across the MENA region, combined with Zodia Markets’ industry-leading capability, establishes a reliable and trusted gateway to digital assets.
In a joint statement, CoinMENA co-founders Talal Tabbaa and Dina Sam’an stated, “This partnership comes at a perfect time because we are seeing a significant increase in interest from retail and institutional investors. With Zodia Markets we substantially enhanced our service offering and can provide investors with more efficient avenues for entering and exiting the digital assets market, with minimal transaction costs and efficient settlement.”

Ayad Butt, Head of Sales and Trading Africa and Middle East, Zodia Markets added “The AME region, particularly UAE and Bahrain, has evolved impressively over the last five years. Regulatory clarity, world-class infrastructure, access to capital, and a growing economy
have attracted the best minds and the most sophisticated capital for trading, investing, and innovating.”

Ayad emphasized, “The growth and increased adoption of digital assets in this ecosystem hinge on bridging traditional finance with digital assets. That’s precisely what the partnership between Zodia Markets and CoinMENA achieves. We’re excited by the efficiencies this partnership will create for trading in the region.”

Over the past months CoinMENA has been partnering with several major players to enhance its crypto offering across the MENA region. It partnered with Network International, Onramp Bitcoin

In a blog post, BitOasis acknowledged that while it has resumed its acceptance of new clients onto the platform as a crypto broker operating under Dubai’s virtual asset regulatory authority (VARA), it is working “towards securing a full virtual asset service provider license under the supervision of VARA”.

In the blog post, BitOasis announced that the crypto broker would resume accepting new registrations retail and institutional customers starting 12 April 2024.  New users would be able to create accounts on the platform and enjoy a safe, secure and convenient way to buy, sell and trade over 60 tokens with multiple currencies, including AED, SAR, and USD.

The blog post adds,” The reopening of our platform to new retail and institutional customers is a testament to our continued dedication to serving our users in full compliance with the applicable regulatory requirements.”

BitOasis had been working since July 2023 to fulfill select conditions associated with its Operational MVP License with respect to serving Institutional and Qualified Retail Investors.

In August 2023, BitOais received an investment from Indian crypto exchange CoinDCX. At the time, Ola Doudin, Co-Founder and CEO of BitOasis said: “We are delighted to be working with CoinDCX, India’s leading crypto platform. The investment will allow us to sharpen our focus on perfecting our existing products and expanding across our markets. We are very excited about the opportunities the funding will unlock for us.”

With VARA granting renewed active operational status to BitOasis, as well as the license to crypto.com, the UAE crypto exchange regulatory landscape is now one of the most competitive in the world.

Kindly note that this article has been updated on April 14th 2024 based on VARA’s website page which noted that BitOasis hasnt received a VASP license but has now become actively operational once again.

Homegrown Bahrain based ARP Digital has received a Category 3 crypto asset service provider licensed by the Central Bank of Bahrain. A category 3 license allows ARP Digital to offer crypto trading service as an agent and as a principle as well as offering custodial and investment management services.

ARP Digital provides accredited and institutional investors the requisite, tools, products, and services to effectively allocate capital to the digital asset space. ARP Digital combines best-in-class structuring capabilities with sophisticated quantitative research to deliver investment solutions for investors looking to build a strategic allocation to the digital asset space in a fully integrated way.

As per their website, ARP Digital customers include, accredited investors, family offices, institutions, asset managers, crypto exchanges, and crypto miners.

ARP Digital will be the sole provider in Bahrain specialized in over-the-counter services for structured digital asset products.

With the availability of structured digital asset products, a bridge is ​being built between traditional and cryptographic financial services.

At the heart of ARP Digital’s mission is the provision of comprehensive trading, custody, and portfolio management services. As per their website ARP Digital offers investors the ability to buy tokens, options, and structured products using wire transfers or on-chain transfers.

The team behind ARP Digital includes Yusuf Alireza, a former Goldman Sachs titan with a storied two-decade tenure and historical designation as the institution’s⁣ inaugural Arab partner, offers a blend of traditional and innovative investment strategies.

In addition is Abdul Aziz Kanoo, who previously held the position of regional director for Amber Group business in MENA. Prior to Amber Group, Abdulaziz worked in various Venture Capital Funds in New York and Dubai including Fin Capital, Palm Drive Capital, and BECO Capital. His Brother Yusuf Kanoo also a director, served as a fintech executive at the Bank of Bahrain and Kuwait (BBK) and a data analytics professional at MARF Group, where he was responsible for utilizing big data for strategy formulation and process optimization.

Yusuf Alireza’s believes that digital assets are the most consequential financial services innovation in the past two decades.

CoinMENA a licensed crypto broker in Bahrain also holds a Category 3 license. While Binance is the only crypto exchange in Bahrain to hold a category 4 license. Binance with its category 4 license can offer full crypto exchange services.

Nexo, a crypto and digital assets fintech platform has received initial approval from Dubai’s regulatory authority VARA. Nexo DTC, its UAE entity will be seeking a license for crypto brokerage, crypto lending, borrowing and investment license.

As per the announcement, “Nexo is enthusiastic about the pursuit of new market strategies aligned with the transformative guidance of Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority,” said Kalin Metodiev, co-founder and managing partner at Nexo.

As per the press release, “This IA positions Nexo as one of the first digital asset lending institutions seeking to expand into the pivotal Dubai market. Once licensed, the solution will be available to Nexo clients through the Nexo platform to offer it in compliance with local regulations, accessible via both mobile and web platforms.”

“From the UAE, the global leader for vision, governance, and innovation, Nexo aims to contribute to the regional ecosystem through pioneering lending, brokerage, management, and investment solutions. Nexo is enthusiastic about the pursuit of new market strategies aligned with the transformative guidance of Dubai’s Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority,” said Kalin Metodiev, CFA, Co-founder and Managing Partner at Nexo.

In March 2023, Nexo Co-Founder and MD Antoni Trenchev announced that the UK entity would be opening its offices in the UAE as it expanded into the MENA region.

He noted at the time, that the MENA region will grow to account for 30 percent of its total global operations. NEXO had noted that it would set up under Dubai’s VARA regulations as well as DIFC.

As per comments made by Trenchev 150 people will be recruited. In the article he states, “We are seeking two lines of regulation,” Trenchev said. “One is for the crypto-related activities which will be at VARA, while DIFC will be for more traditional offerings associated with wealth management.

“There appears to be a political will to create a blockchain fintech financial hub in the region but more specifically Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which is always welcoming,” he said.