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November 16, 2023

Dubai’s Crypto Regulator VARA Switches Leadership as it Ramps Up Operations


Dubai's cryptocurrency landscape is experiencing a significant change as the Virtual Asset Regulatory Authority (VARA) undergoes a transition in leadership. This change is coming at a crucial juncture as VARA gears up for the next phase of its journey, aiming to achieve full-scale market operations in 2023. In this article, we will delve into the details of this leadership switch and its implications for the crypto regulatory landscape in Dubai.

Matthew White Takes the Helm

In an official statement released to Cointelegraph, VARA announced that its current CEO, Henson Orser, will be stepping down from his role. Stepping into Orser's shoes is Matthew White, a distinguished global advisor who has held various pivotal roles at PwC. This transition is expected to bring a fresh perspective and expertise to VARA's leadership.

Henson Orser's Legacy

Henson Orser, a former banker with experience at Nomura Holdings, played a pivotal role in VARA's evolution. Under his leadership, VARA implemented a robust regulatory framework for the cryptocurrency space, which came into effect earlier in 2023, right after the FTX collapse. This framework is a testament to Dubai's commitment to fostering a safe and secure environment for cryptocurrency activities within its borders.

A Specialist Regulatory Regime

During Orser's tenure, VARA established what can be described as a "specialist regulatory regime" tailored to the unique challenges and opportunities presented by the cryptocurrency industry. This regulatory framework aimed to strike a delicate balance between fostering innovation and ensuring compliance with existing financial laws and regulations.

Continuing Collaboration

While Henson Orser is stepping down from his role as CEO, his commitment to VARA remains unwavering. VARA has expressed that Orser will continue to contribute to the regulatory authority as a consultant. This collaboration is a testament to the strong working relationship between Orser and VARA and underscores the shared commitment to Dubai's cryptocurrency regulatory ecosystem.

A Changing Regulatory Landscape

The transition in leadership at VARA comes at a pivotal moment when the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is tightening its regulatory stance on cryptocurrency-related activities. On November 8th, multiple UAE regulators issued joint guidance for virtual asset service providers (VASPs) operating in the country.

These guidelines bring with them a series of penalties for VASPs that operate without the necessary licenses. The UAE's move is part of a broader effort to be removed from the "grey list" of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), where it had been listed in 2022 due to concerns over regulatory compliance.

Looking Ahead

As Matthew White assumes his role as the new CEO of VARA, the cryptocurrency community in Dubai and beyond will be watching closely. His experience and fresh perspective are expected to further strengthen VARA's position as a leading cryptocurrency regulatory authority in the region.

In conclusion, the transition in leadership at VARA marks a significant milestone in Dubai's cryptocurrency regulatory landscape. Henson Orser's legacy, the establishment of a specialist regulatory regime, and the ongoing collaboration with Matthew White all point to a promising future for VARA. Additionally, the changing regulatory landscape in the UAE underscores the importance of robust oversight and compliance within the cryptocurrency sector.

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