Morgan Stanley, which is said to be eyeing a Bitcoin ETF, has announced the opening of its office in Abu Dhabi at ADGM. The firm has expanded its footprint in the Middle East. The firm already has offices in Riyadh, Dubai, and Qatar.

Commenting on the new office, Clare Woodman, Head of Morgan Stanley EMEA and CEO of Morgan Stanley & Co International plc, said “We are delighted to be expanding our regional presence and commitment by opening an office in Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM). There are exciting times ahead for the MENA region and as capital markets activity continues to grow and diversify it brings new and rewarding opportunities for both regional and global investors.”

Arvind Ramamurthy, Chief of Market Development at ADGM, continued “We welcome Morgan Stanley, a pioneer in the global financial services industry to Abu Dhabi and its thriving International Financial Centre. This expansion underscores the attractiveness of Abu Dhabi and its value proposition as a preferred destination for global players seeking strategic growth opportunities for their business, showcasing our commitment to fostering a conducive ecosystem that drives sustainable economic development in the UAE and beyond.”

Patrick Delivanis, Regional Co-Head of MENA at Morgan Stanley commented, “We have a highly sophisticated investor base in the MENA region, and opening an office in Abu Dhabi allows us to broaden our footprint and further deliver local and regional clients access to Morgan Stanley’s leading institutional securities business as well as our renowned asset management franchise, and increasingly, global clients access to the regional market.”

The opening of an office in ADGM, well known for its virtual assets regulatory regime is interesting as Morgan Stanely is said to be deciding on whether or not it will offer Bitcoin ETFs to customers.

As per a CoinDesk article, Wall Street giant Morgan Stanley is in the midst of performing due diligence to add spot bitcoin ETF products to its brokerage platform, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

One of the people said Morgan Stanley, which is among the largest U.S. broker-dealer platforms, has been evaluating offering spot bitcoin ETFs to clients since the Securities and Exchange Commission approved their introduction in the U.S. in January.

There are 10 spot bitcoin ETFs now trading in the U.S. The ones with the most assets are Grayscale’s GBTC, BlackRock’s IBIT and Fidelity’s FBTC. It’s not clear which ones Morgan Stanley is looking to offer to its clients.

Morgan Stanley, a leader in the alternative investments and private market space with over $150 billion in assets under management, was the first major U.S. bank to offer its wealthy clients access to bitcoin funds in 2021. The bank confirmed during its first-quarter earnings call in April 2021 that it was offering its wealth management clients exposure to bitcoin via a pair of external crypto funds.

The wealth management firm’s former CFO, Jonathan Pruzan, said at the time that the bank was allowing qualified investors to gain access to two passive funds. It is understood that these funds were offered by Galaxy Digital and NYDIG.

Standard Chartered’s  venture capital firm, SC Ventures, opens office in ADGM (Abu Dhabi Global Market) Abu Dhabi UAE, after setting up a digital asset joint venture with Japanese SBI Holdings in the UAE.

SC Ventures office will engage the fintech and startup ecosystem in Abu Dhabi and the region; identify venture-building capabilities and partnerships with UAE’s venture capital community; invest in promising growth opportunities, collaborate with local universities and explore new technologies and business trends. The ADGM office will follow SC Ventures’ four high-conviction themes that include Online Economy & Lifestyle, Digital Assets, SMEs & World Trade and Sustainability and inclusion.

SC Ventures aims to tap into the region’s vibrant technology and business innovation ecosystem, venture building capabilities and access to local talent. Gautam Jain, member of SC Ventures, is slated to lead the new Abu Dhabi office.

Gautum Jain stated, “UAE’s global tech ecosystem experienced a 134% growth in Ecosystem Value — the sixth fastest globally and the biggest in the Middle East and North African region. SC Ventures sees strong opportunities in the regions’ potential to help rewire the DNA in banking through its top-notch talent and capabilities in venture building and investment mandate — specifically in the areas of fintech, digital assets and data.”

He added, “In Q3 2023, ADGM’s assets under management (AUM) increased 52% from Q3 2022. This remarkable growth has solidified ADGM’s reputation as a trusted financial hub. SC Ventures looks forward to tapping into this community of innovation as we continue to rewire the DNA in banking to best serve clients and meet society’s needs.”

“We are pleased to see additional international financial institutions choosing ADGM and Abu Dhabi as their home for business development and regional growth. We welcome SC Ventures’ strategic decision, and we look forward to witnessing its positive contributions to the financial ecosystem as well as working with broader eco-system including Hub 71, the venture capital community in ADGM and beyond, as it continues to thrive and expand its business operations and services offerings,” said Arvind Ramamurthy, Chief of Market Development at ADGM.

“ ADGM is a hotbed of innovation as the UAE is methodically building the ecosystem, aiming to develop more than 8,000 SMEs and startups by 2030 and with the goal of creating 20 startups valued at more than US$1 billion by 2031 as part of its Entrepreneurial Nation initiative. We are excited to join and will contribute to the best of our abilities, as we continue to build our portfolio of ventures to rewire the DNA of banking and financial services in the region,” said Alex Manson, CEO, SC Ventures. 

Synechron, a leading global digital transformation consulting firm focused on financial services and technology organizations which works with emerging technologies such as AI, Blockchain and others has opened its new office located in Riyadh, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s (“KSA”). The new office will enable Synechron to expand its array of key services to multiple banking and technology firms within the Middle East. This marks the 44th office Synechron maintains across 19 countries.

Synechron currently operates two offices in the United Arab Emirates, respectively in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. In recent years, KSA has experienced a transformation of its banking and financial technology sectors, presenting an opportunity for Synechron to scale up its business to support the growth of these sectors. Riyadh, the capital of KSA, was selected for the location of this office as it is at the epicenter of where multiple banking and telecom companies maintain their head offices.

The firm has previously executed projects in KSA, including building a digital branch for a global bank, and currently provides payments-related services for another financial firm.

Faisal Husain, Synechron’s Co-founder and CEO, said of the new office opening, “We are excited to join the Riyadh business community and establish Synechron as a key participant in KSA’s financial services industry, while contributing to the region’s vision and growth. With our expanded footprint, we are able to more closely collaborate with our clients and better enable their digital technology-led business transformation.”

Suhail Basit, Managing Director and Head of Synechron’s MENA Business, added, “We are pleased to expand our presence into KSA and look forward to welcoming a local workforce of talented individuals with the knowledge, skills and passion to work in tandem with our global exerts. We are investing in senior talent to lead our ongoing initiatives and to bring in the desired growth from this fast-growing market. Together, we will develop the customized business solutions that our existing and prospective clients require to scale their businesses. This includes bringing advanced methodologies and tools for Digital Transformation, Data and Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and more.”

In a recent tweet, Japan based Astar, EVM based smart contract Blockchain platform that seeks to be the future of multichain smart contracts revealed its plans to set up a base in the UAE. Astar is designed to become a hub for smart contracts on Polkadot and is backed by prominent investors that include Binance, Huobi, OKEx, Fenbushi, and others.

Sota Watanabe, Founder of Astar, stated in  recent tweet, “ My Abu Dhabi and Dubai business trip  was amazing. Met some government officials, investors and entrepreneurs here in UAE We plan to set up a local office here too. Our future is bright!”

In November 2022, Astar Blockchain Network onboarded Japan’s top mobile carrier NTT Docomo to collaborate on mass adoption of Web3 as well as its social implementation.

Then in late July 2023, Fireblocks, an enterprise-grade platform for institutional adoption of digital assets, integrated with Astar Network, an EVM and WebAssembly (Wasm) compatible smart contracts platform.  The collaboration could see more than 650 banks and institutional investors use Fireblocks’ technology to access and manage their digital assets, boosting institutional adoption of DeFi on Astar, the two platforms noted in their press release.

Swiss based Buildrs, a blockchain, metaverse and Web3 infrastructure provider has announced that it has opened a location in the UAE and is embarking on its first project with its first customers.

Buildrs is specialized in the virtual economy, blockchain, and gamification. Buildrs mission is to accelerate the adoption of Web3. Virtual assets, digital ownership, co-creation, and transparency are at the core of the experiences we build.

The company develops a portfolio of products and use cases across various industries as real estate, hospitality, entertainment, and gaming. Buildrs empower them using the original platform, which covers all aspects of virtual assets, the virtual economy, and the Metaverse.

Viktor Andreas, Founder and CEO of Buildrs stated in a LinkedIN video, “ We are very excited to be here in Dubai and continue our journey providing Web3 infrastructure which we have started three years ago in Swtizerland. UAE has created one of the most innovative and best envionments for Web3 innovation. We are happy to announce that we are setting up our location in the UAE. We have met wonderful people, in Hub71 in Abu Dhabi, and Dubai and we believe this is one th best locations now and in the future to innovate to collaborate and create the future by leveraging Web3 technology, New project and onboarding new customers, engaged in Web3 ecosystem.. we are here to stay.”

In their LinkedIn post Buildrs states, “Our commitment to providing exceptional service and innovative solutions remains as strong as ever. Our team is working tirelessly to understand the unique needs and challenges of businesses in the UAE. We are collaborating with local partners, participating in regional events, and leveraging digital tools to ensure we are as present and active as possible.”

Prior to the move to the UAE, Buildrs had visited and participated in various events in the UAE. The company was impressed with UAE’s unwavering government support expecially initiatives like Hub71 and the crypto ecosystem in Dubai with Crypto Oasis.

The were also impressed with the favourable regulatory landscape and it is their visit that reinforced their belief in the potential of the UAE to becoming a center of Web3 innovation.

Blockchain provider Belfrics, part of Life Clips Group has set up its operation in the UAE after being admitted to DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) under Innovation business category. It is seeking a license for digital assets trading

As per the news, this is part of Belfrics expansion plans into the MENA region especially given that the UAE is at the forefront of blockchain and crypto adoption in the region.

Belfric’s will implement its proprietary blockchain Belrium identity and document management solution. Belfrics will be focusing on deploying decentralized applications for the government and non-government sectors in the health, education and human resource sectors.

Belfrics office is located in the Central Park Towers, one of the most prestigious business towers in the UAE. Belfrics will further proceed to apply for the newly launched ITL (innovation testing license) for digital assets trading by DIFC.

Through this new expansion, Belfrics Technologies Limited will be able to harness opportunities in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA), which comprise 72 countries with an approximate population of 3 billion and a nominal GDP of US$7.7 trillion.

Life Clips CEO, Robert Grinberg, said, “Belfrics’ objective is to support creators and innovators in the crypto and blockchain space, which is in line with Dubai’s recently announced blockchain strategy. The global financial services industry and wider business community’s confidence in the DIFC consistently enable it to facilitate substantial foreign direct investment into Dubai. This has supported Dubai’s top ranking globally in attracting FDI projects in the financial services sector in 2021, and DIFC ranking as the best performing free zone for the last five years. Designating the DIFC as regional hub for Belfrics’ Middle East Operations is a tremendous opportunity for our company.”

Belfrics CEO and Founder, Praveen Kumar, said, “Extending Belfrics Technologies Limited’s operations in the DIFC provides Belfrics an opportunity to set a new standard in the region. Our digital-first, forward-thinking approach has enabled us to implement the dynamic blockchain solutions Belfrics has been developing rapidly over the past decade. Since DIFC is the region’s leading global financial centre, it was a natural choice for us. As the opportunities in the region grow, with DIFC’s support, we look forward to growing with them, while catering to the technological needs of both local and international entities.”