The Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, an American post-trade financial services company providing clearing and settlement services to the financial markets known as DTCC, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Abu Dhabi based Securrency Inc. (“Securrency”), a leading developer of institutional-grade, digital asset infrastructure invested in by Mubadala sovereign Fund.

Securrency will become a fully-owned subsidiary of DTCC and will operate under the name DTCC Digital Assets. Nadine Chakar, CEO of Securrency, will join DTCC as Managing Director, Global Head of DTCC Digital Assets, reporting to Lynn Bishop, DTCC Managing Director and Chief Information Officer. Chakar will also join the DTCC Management Committee. In addition, Dan Doney, CTO and founder of Securrency, John Hensel, COO and co-founder, and other members of the Securrency leadership team, as well as roughly 100 Securrency staff of full-time employees or contractors, will become DTCC employees.

Securrency is a blockchain-based financial and regulatory technology developer that raised $30 million in 2021 from State Street, US Bank, WisdomTree Investments and others. It has worked with WisdomTree to help the asset manager launch “blockchain-enabled” funds that keep a secondary record of share ownership on the Stellar or Ethereum blockchains.

Frank La Salla, President, CEO and Director, DTCC, said, “Securrency is an important strategic acquisition that will give us the technology to drive market-wide transformation by enabling end-to-end digital lifecycle processing for tokenized assets, digital currencies and other financial instruments. By bringing together DTCC’s commitment to providing market stability and our unparalleled network of financial market participants with the sophistication of the Securrency technology, we will be in a leading position to unlock the value of digital assets and help guide the industry through its digital transformation journey. We believe this next generation of financial market infrastructure will further reduce settlement times, facilitate market transparency and risk management, enhance regulatory oversight and controls, and unlock efficiency and innovation to create an improved investor experience.”

By combining DTCC’s digital capabilities and Securrency’s technology, DTCC will fast-track development of its enterprise digital asset platform to unlock the power of institutional DeFi. DTCC will leverage the technology over time to embed digital assets within its existing products and services, develop new, regulatory-compliant blockchain-based offerings and explore use cases with the industry, including buyside asset managers, broker-dealers and custodians, to collaborate on new DTCC blockchain-based solutions.

In addition, DTCC will lead the industry’s development of a robust, global digital infrastructure by licensing the Securrency technology and offering professional services. Firms will be able to leverage the technology to transform and evolve their operating models and to create innovative, new digital asset services alone or in collaboration with other market participants – similar to how WisdomTree licenses Securrency’s software as part of the infrastructure for its WisdomTree Prime™ offering that provides tokenized assets and funds via digital wallets for retail investors and consumers.

Chakar said, “As we join forces with DTCC, we are excited to bring together DTCC’s infrastructure capabilities with Securrency’s technology to embrace a future where the digitization of capital markets is at the forefront of innovation. These capabilities will allow DTCC to partner with the industry to build a resilient and scalable infrastructure critical to the mass adoption of digital assets. Together, we will unlock opportunities to reimagine compliance, liquidity, efficiency and interoperability in trading real-world assets on the blockchain.”

DTCC also plans to provide global leadership to foster industry-wide collaboration to help avoid fragmentation with different digital technologies and standards. Securrency’s technology can address this issue by acting as a DLT-agnostic harmonization layer that promotes interoperability, liquidity, transparency and security.

La Salla said, “We look forward to building on our past work to drive consensus around the standards, controls and frameworks necessary to support regulatory-compliant digital asset solutions and development of the right architecture and infrastructure to ensure widespread interoperability. We’re excited to welcome our new colleagues to the DTCC team and to begin collaborating as a group to strengthen market stability and resilience and drive greater efficiencies, productivity, risk mitigation and liquidity in the global financial markets.”

This announcement comes as John Hensel, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Executive Officer, MENA, Securrency told IBS intelligence, “The UAE is ramping up its efforts to become a global blockchain hub.” In his interview he commented on why they chose UAE out of all the other countries globally including, USA, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Singapore.

According to Hensel, SEC ( Securities and Exchange Commission) in the USA has portrayed a conservative approach to the regulation of digital assets, so exploring other regulatory jurisdictions they found that the UAE was a credible, well positioned young financial center that embraced technology with experienced regulatory experts from the USA, Australia, Singapore and others.

He explains, “ After being here for 6 years we have seen the landscape change and become more favorable for investors partnering under FSRA and who are benefiting from the protection of ADGM which will grow opportunities locally for us given we were first movers and have strong relations with sovereign wealth entities, broker dealers, fund managers as key stakeholders.”

Securrency entered the ADGM FSRA regulatory sandbox in 2017 and secured a Financial Services Permission (FSP) from ADGM’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) to deal in investments as a matched principal and provide custody for those investments in 2022. The license enabled Securrency Capital to provide trading of digital assets to a variety of clients, including retail clients.

Securrency had raised $30 million in its latest funding round. The funds were used to roll out the company’s expansion plans. The Series B funding round included existing investor WisdomTree Investment along with Abu Dhabi state fund Mubadala-backed Abu Dhabi Catalyst Partners, State Street and U.S. Bank. Prior to that in 202, The Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO) had invested in Securrency, a US-based developer of blockchain-based financial and regulatory technology through its ventures fund.

The company also signed a strategic partnership with leading investment management and banking firm, Musharaka Capital in KSA, to develop a compliant platform for issuing digital securities in Saudi Arabia in 2020.

In a recent survey entitled “MENA Investor Survey 2022-2023 for crypto Blockchain sector” carried out by laraontheblock with 83 MENA venture capitalists, fund managers, and family offices, 50% of those surveyed stated they will be allocating more funds to blockchain and crypto projects and entities in 2023. 19% of those surveyed stated in 2022 they had invested more than 50% of allocated capital and funds into crypto and Blockchain projects.

The findings of the “MENA Investor Survey 2022-2023 for crypto Blockchain sector” sheds light on the different areas of interest for MENA investors which will give startups and entities a better view on whom and where capital will be heading by investors in the MENA region.

This comes as cryptocurrency adoption has skyrocketed in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. According to a survey by blockchain analytics platform Chainalysis, MENA countries have the fastest-growing cryptocurrency industry in the world, accounting for 9.2% of global digital currency transactions from July 2021 to June 2022.

Vast Majority of MENA VCs invested in crypto and Blockchain in 2022

75% of survey respondents confirmed that they invested in crypto and blockchain entities in 2022, while only 25% stated they hadn’t. The MENA region has become the center for crypto trading, investing and regulation. The UAE led crypto regulation in 2022 and was the first country in the region to launch a blockchain strategy back in 2017.

The stance taken by MENA investors in the survey is in line with global figures. In 2022, despite the slowdown in crypto VC funding, it exceeded the figure for 2021. Cointelegraph Research’s VC Database showed that a total of $36.1 billion was raised in 2022. This is in contrast to the $30.3 billion worth of funding in 2021.

Crypto projects globally attracted $19.9 billion in venture capital (VC) investments in the first nine months of 2022, 41% higher than a year ago, according to Pitchbook data.

Crypto and Blockchain entities are the Future

54% of respondents replied that they invested in crypto and Blockchain entities because it is the future, while 42% stated it was because these technologies solve real business problems. Only 18% believed that it was because while risky the return on investment was high. ( note that more than one response for some respondents

The MENA region witnessed sizable investments in crypto and Blockchain entities in 2022. For example crypto exchange RAIN received $110 million in investments and included investors from MENA such as MEVP. BitOasis also raised $30 million with UAE based Wamda Capital and others.

Significant developments in the UAE such as the launch of Dubai’s Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority (VARA), and the announcement of the Dubai metaverse strategy, which aims to attract more than 1,000 blockchain and metaverse companies as well as support more than 40,000 virtual jobs by 2030 has also played a role in enticing investors towards blockchain, crypto and metaverse as did the launch of Crypto Oasis ecosystem and the DMCC crypto center bringing in 1400 crypto and Blockchain entities to the

19% of surveyed spent over 50% of their capital on Blockchain and crypto entities

Interestingly when asked what percentage of capital or funds available in 2022 was invested in crypto and blockchain, a whopping 19 percent stated that they had invested more than 50 percent of funds into crypto and Blockchain entities. While the majority 33% invested between 5-15% of their capital into crypto and blockchain entities. 

27% invested between 1-5 percent of their capital into crypto and Blockchain, while 21% invested less than 1%. 

While the percentages maybe small compared to other areas, Nickel Digital Asset Management noted that UAE institutional investors, family offices, and wealth managers plan to increase their exposure to crypto dramatically by 2023. And while sovereign funds do not yet see digital assets as investable with just 7% of global sovereign investors have any exposure to digital assets through investments in blockchain companies, this is changing.

In May 2022, J.P. Morgan’s global investment strategy outlook elevated digital assets as the preferred alternative asset class alongside hedge funds for 2022. For the first time in history digital assets displaced other alternative strategies. In the report it is noted that digital assets are expected to offer the greatest potential for generating alpha and hedge funds expect as much as 10 percent of their strategy to include crypto.


A PWC Global Crypto Hedge Fund report in August 2022, found that more than a third of traditional hedge funds now invest in digital assets, this was double the figure of 2021

Global crypto leader at PWC left his role to set up a $75 million digital assets fund Nine Blocks Capital in Dubai UAE. Henri Arsalanian, founder noted that it was Dubai’s crypto openness that influenced his decision. 

Majority of MENA Investors invested in Blockchain infrastructure

MENA investors surveyed were asked where they allocated funds in 2022. 64% of respondents stated that capital was invested in Blockchain infrastructure projects. Following Blockchain infrastructure was DeFi. 38% of respondents stated they allocated funds to DeFi projects. Equally 33-36% invested in metaverse and crypto assets.

In addition 22% replied they invested in Non-Fungible tokens or NFT projects, while 17-18% of respondents stated investments went into e-gaming, tokenization projects, crypto mining and blockchain crypto payments.

Only 8% stated they invested in decentralized messaging and social media platforms. 

The findings of the survey fall much in line with Cointelegraph’ s recent blockchain funding VC report which found that blockchain Infrastructure projects took half the pot of investments in November 2022. While the Web3 sector saw the most deals closed. The global blockchain infrastructure sector secured $483.9 million in venture capital in 2022.

According to Galaxy Ventures, Crypto and Blockchain sector saw $5.5 billion of venture capital invested in Q3 2022 through 518 deals. Despite the QoQ (quarter on quarter) decrease, the $5.5 billion invested in Q3 is $2 billion greater than the 7-year average of $3.1 billion and more than $2 billion higher than the 2020 peak.

MENA investors will invest more in 2023

51% of those surveyed stated they would allocate more funds to blockchain and crypto entities in 2023. Only 15% replied they would not. In addition 33% were unsure. This means that potentially 84% of those surveyed could be investing more in blockchain and crypto in 2023. 

Already investment companies such as TradeDog Group, the parent company of TD VC, have launched new funds. TradeDg Group launched their $100 Million Web3 blockchain special situation fund. The fund will re-structure and invest in projects with good products and businesses but struggling token markets.

Even UAE Cypher Capital VC announced in December 2022 the launch of a new $200 million fund which will focus on infrastructure and middleware investments in Web3. At the time they had invested in Rekt Studios and Fenix Games, while UAE Shorooq Partners also announced in March 2022 that they would be investing $150 million in Web3 startups. Many other investors across the MENA region have been following suite including Mubadala and G42 both based out of UAE.

Global players such as Goldman Sachs plans to spend tens of millions of dollars to buy or invest in crypto companies after the collapse of the FTX exchange hit valuations and dampened investor interest. Goldman has invested in 11 digital asset companies that provide services such as compliance, cryptocurrency data and blockchain management.

MENA investors view Blockchain infrastructure as biggest growth sector in 2023

According to 29% of survey respondents, Blockchain infrastructure projects will witness the biggest growth in 2023. Data gathered by BuyShares.co.nz, found that the global spending on blockchain solutions is expected to surge by 235% and reach $14.4bn by 2023.

Following, 21% view metaverse projects as high growth sector technology. This is in line with findings from Grand View Research, which states the global metaverse market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.4% from 2022 to 2030. 

Meanwhile 18%  of those surveyed think DeFi will witness strong growth. DeFi has been the largest market cap activity within Web3, with a peak total value locked (TVL) of over $175 billion in 2021 shrinking to $39 billion in 2022. Yet Digital asset research firm Reflexivity Research in its recently published 2022 Annual Year in Review / Forward Outlook 2023 believes that given the blow to trust in CEXs, investors will be drawn to decentralized alternatives. The report believes DeFi TVL could make its way back to $75 billion or $100 billion.

12% of those surveyed view blockchain and crypto payments as one of the growth sectors for 2023. Cross-border payments and settlements are considered the most prominent blockchain use case. According to the IDC Worldwide Blockchain Spending Guide, Blockchain enabled cross border payments accounted for 15.9% of the $4.67-billion blockchain market in 2021. Juniper Research estimates that B2B cross-border payments on blockchain will account for 11% of the total B2B international payments by 2024.

When it comes to investment in tokenization projects 8% of those surveyed believe that tokenization sector will be a growth sector in 2023. 5% of those surveyed believe NFT sector will grow in 2023, only 3% of those surveyed believe crypto mining will be a growth sector.

Conclusion

In conclusion from the responses of 83 VCs, investment funds, across the MENA region that included names such as Oman Investment Authority, Equinox, Synaptech Capital, CypherCapital, Helion Ventures, Carter Capital, AlIImtiaz Investment Group, True Global Ventures, Roshan Investments, Crypto Oasis, Ghaf Capital Investments, Vault Investments, and many more, the reflection is a positive outlook when it comes to crypto and Blockchain and a growing interest in investing in projects. So while 2022 might have been one of the toughest years on crypto and Blockchain, it has not killed the appetite of investors in MENA!