(Bloomberg) --

Dubai’s crypto regulator plans to quadruple its headcount over the next few months to handle hundreds of license applications after drawing up new rules to attract industry players to the Middle Eastern financial hub. 

The Virtual Assets Regulatory Authority expects to deal with around 300 new applications until the end of the year and will start issuing final permits in June for companies that have already obtained authorization under Dubai’s minimum viable product licensing regime, chief executive officer Henson Orser said in his first interview since taking up the role last month.

“It’s been a mad sprint,” Orser said via a video link. It’s a case of “be careful what you wish for. We’ve created a lot of work for ourselves in terms of supervision and enforcement.” 

Dubai, which has been working to lure the world’s largest firms with its crypto-friendly policies, set up VARA in March 2022 with two employees and has since to expanded to about 20 staff, Orser said. While some financial centers cooled on the sector, many UAE officials have promoted virtual assets as a gold mine for economic growth and pivotal in the nation’s diversification strategy beyond fossil fuels.

On Tuesday, VARA published a final framework of rules governing digital asset companies that will allow them to get a full regulatory license in the city.

After the implosion of FTX and a wave of scandals and bankruptcies that rocked the industry, such events made it important for the United Arab Emirates to be one of the first centers to issue a comprehensive set of rules instead of the “band-aid” approach that other jurisdictions have taken, Orser said without naming any cities.

The new rules will entice international companies to set up in the UAE and boost the sector locally. “We think the rules will stand head and shoulders above the rest,” he said.

Before becoming the CEO of VARA, Orser was the head of Komainu Holdings Ltd., the crypto custodian and infrastructure venture part-owned by Japan’s Nomura Holdings Inc.

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