Saudi Arabia’s Central Bank Taps Former Accenture Managing Director to Lead Virtual Assets and CBDC

Mohsen AlZahrani returns to SAMA to assume a different role.
Image source: Ekrem Osmanoglu on Unsplash

Quick take:

  • Mohsen previously worked at SAMA as Innovation Center Director.
  • He was most recently managing director of financial services at Accenture.
  • He has more than 10 years’ experience in the financial services sector.

Saudi Arabia’s central bank (SAMA) has hired Mohsen AlZahrani, a former Accenture managing director, according to a Bloomberg report. Mohsen will lead SAMA’s virtual assets and CBDC program as the country attempts to regulate the crypto sector.

Mohsen took on his new role in July after almost two years as managing director of financial services at Accenture. Prior to that, he was VP of strategy & excellence at Saudi Payments. 

Mohsen returns to SAMA this time in a different but related role. From 2015-2018, he was the bank’s innovation center director leading all SAMA blockchain and digital currency projects.

Mohsen’s career in financial services spans over 10 years. He began his career with SADAD payment system as onboarding manager, and then business development director, spending over six years with the company.

He was also a chief operating officer at Saudi Financial Support Services Company (SANID), where he was tasked with internal and external facing responsibilities, ranging from client and project management to administration and human capital

The Saudi central bank and the central bank of United Arab Emirates are working on a joint central bank digital currency (CBDC) project named Aber. According to a KuCoin survey published in May, Saudi Arabia is one of the most popular countries for crypto trading. 

The survey found that around 3 million Saudi Arabians, which account for 14% of the adult population aged 18 to 60, have become crypto investors who either currently own cryptocurrencies or have traded over the past six months.

In 2018, Riyadh banned banks from processing transactions involving crypto. Bloomberg also reported that some of the crypto industry’s biggest players have identified Saudi Arabia as a potentially untapped market if the restrictions get lifted. For instance, Binance has expanded its Saudi teams.

However, people familiar with the matter said that local financial firms are reiterating the restrictions to customers.

Mohsen AlZahrani’s appointment at SAMA is perhaps a sign of Saudi Arabia’s crypto ambitions as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to turn Riyadh into a global hub to rival its neighbouring crypto-friendly city, Dubai. 

Dubai expects the metaverse to generate $4 billion in additional income to the economy by the year 2030, whilst also creating 42,000 virtual jobs.

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