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. 

Standard Chartered’s , venture arm SC Ventures, an innovation and fintech investment arm has partnered with Japanese SBI Holdings to establish a Digital Asset Joint Venture investment company in UAE. The parties intend to capitalize the vehicle with $100 million. The company will invest in DeFi, tokenization, consumer payments and metaverse.

The Digital Asset Joint Venture plans to make investments ranging from seed to Series C funding with a focus on investing globally.

Alex Manson, CEO, SC Ventures stated in the press release, “The region is fast becoming a hub for fintechs in the digital asset space due to its strengthening infrastructure and talent. The Digital Asset Joint Venture will be an important vehicle to explore the emerging digital asset ecosystem opportunities globally. The Joint Venture will leverage SC Ventures’ experience in digital assets through our ventures such as Zodia Custody and Zodia Markets, and through our investments in FinTech like Ripple and Metaco.”

In May 2023, Standard Chartered signed an MOU with the Dubai International Financial Centre to collaborate in the digital asset space, including digital asset custody. That same month, SC Ventures exited its stake in Metaco SA, a Swiss-based tech firm offering critical software infrastructure that enables institutions to issue, secure, manage and trade digital assets. U.S. crypto firm Ripple acquired Metaco for US$250 million in its first major acquisition. Ripple is a SC Ventures portfolio company.

“Our Digital Asset Joint Venture plans to make strategic and minority investments in areas such as market infrastructure, risk management and compliance tools, DeFi, tokenization, consumer payments, and the Metaverse. This is one of several strategic initiatives and we will continue to invest and expand our footprint in the region as well as across the digital assets ecosystem,” Manson added.

“We are thrilled to announce our partnership to establish a Digital Asset Joint Venture in UAE together with SC Ventures and bring to bear the collective capabilities of both our organisations in the digital asset space,” said Yoshitaka Kitao, SBI Holdings, Inc. Representative Director, Chairman, President & CEO. “This initiative further solidifies the strategic relationship between SBI Holdings and SC Ventures following our investment forays into SC Ventures’ portfolio companies including Solv, Zodia Custody and myZoi.”

“We congratulate SC Ventures and SBI Holdings on their drive to help shape the future of finance as they forge ahead with their first Digital Asset Joint Venture in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). In a world where the conversation around digital assets has rapidly evolved from ‘why’ to an eagerly anticipated ‘when,’ DIFC stands at the forefront of regulation, having meticulously tailored its ecosystem to foster an environment that nurtures investment, fuels exponential growth, and drives innovation,” said Salmaan Jaffery, Chief Business Development Officer, DIFC.

Standard Chartered’s backed digital asset platform, Zodia markets, has received an In-Principle Approval (IPA) fulfilling the pre-requisites to receive a Financial Services Permission (FSP) for OTC broker-dealer in virtual assets by Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), Abu Dhabi’s international financial center.

As per the press release, Zodia Markets has chosen to expand into the UAE as the region establishes itself as a rapidly emerging hub for digital assets. The strategic expansion provides institutional investors from the Middle East and Africa with reliable access to this growing, alternative asset class, consolidating Zodia Markets’ position as an integral part of the global digital asset landscape.

Salem Mohammed Al Darei, CEO of ADGM Authority said, “We congratulate Zodia Markets on receiving the IPA from ADGM and welcome them to our vibrant ecosystem. Our evolving regime, progressive regulatory environment, and strong value proposition support businesses in the digital asset space, as we remain steadfast in upholding the highest standards. The harmony of traditional and new-age finance in Abu Dhabi with an international leading digital asset firm such as Zodia Markets that is backed by the well-established Standard Chartered will contribute to further enhancing the attractiveness of ADGM as a preferred destination for global entities.”

Andrew Price, Chief Compliance Officer of Zodia Markets said, “Abu Dhabi has already established a clear and forward-looking virtual asset regulatory framework. This early adoption and foresight have enabled it to attract innovation, talent and investment while raising the bar for compliance in virtual asset firms. It has been a pleasure working with the FSRA so far and I look forward to deepening our roots in the region.” 

Usman Ahmad, CEO of Zodia Markets said, “We are delighted to achieve this milestone on the journey to establish ourselves in the Middle East. We are excited at the opportunities this will open up for our business and this demonstrates progress in our expansion as a leading institution-first digital asset trading business. Our goal is to provide institutions seamless access to trade digital assets without compromising on the standards and controls that exist in traditional financial markets.”

In August 2022, Zodia Markets had announced its intention to expand into Abu Dhabi in 2023. At the time the company had stated that Abu Dhabi would be Zodia Markets first presence in the MENA region as it targets growth opportunities.

Zodia went live in July 2022 in the United Kingdom. U.K.-based Zodia Markets is a sister company of Zodia Custody, the digital assets safekeeping platform. Both firms share the same majority shareholder in SC Ventures, the venture arm of Standard Chartered.

Prior to this Abu Dhabi’s ADGM had granted RAIN crypto broker a virtual asset brokerage and custody service license. In 2022 , cryptocurrency platform Rain received in-principle approval for financial services permission (FSP) from Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGB), which if it is fully approved will allow it to operate beyond the GCC region and offer a greater number of virtual asset pairs.

As per a recent news report Standard Chartered backed institutional cryptocurrency exchange and brokerage firm focused on institutions, is expanding into Abu Dhabi in 2023. Abu Dhabi will be Zodia Markets first presence in the MENA region as it targets growth opportunities.

Zodia went live in July 2022 in the United Kingdom. U.K.-based Zodia Markets is a sister company of Zodia Custody, the digital assets safekeeping platform. Both firms share the same majority shareholder in SC Ventures, the venture arm of Standard Chartered.

At the time of its launch in UK the firm, was granted Financial Conduct Authority approval, with spot trading of bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH). 

Zodia Markets has drafted an application to operate in Abu Dhabi but plans to submit a new one in early 2023 after extended talks with regulators.

Chief executive Usman Ahmad told Financial News London that Abu Dhabi is attractive because it has been “forward-looking with respect to putting the regulatory framework in place”.

The United Arab Emirates has sought to capitalize on the lack of clear crypto regulations in Europe and the USA. Abu Dhabi adopted a virtual asset regulatory framework in 2018 through ADGM (Abu Dhabi Global Market), as did Dubai in 2022 with its VARA regulatory authority.