UAE: More residents are opting for crypto savings over cash deposits; here's why

Investors believe increasing mainstream acceptance, regulation, and global adoption would help reduce the volatility

by

Waheed Abbas

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Physical representations of the bitcoin cryptocurrency. — Reuters file
Physical representations of the bitcoin cryptocurrency. — Reuters file

Published: Mon 22 Jan 2024, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 22 Jan 2024, 11:23 PM

Cryptocurrencies are increasingly becoming a part of the UAE residents’ savings as investors and consumers are holding them on a long-term basis.

Some of the cryptocurrency holders in the UAE have seen the value of their assets grow exponentially. Cryptos gained currency and rallied earlier this month when the US Securities and Exchange Commission approved the first-ever Bitcoin ETFs to trade in the US. Cryptos are highly volatile but it is slowly and steadily getting support from institutions, investors and governments. But it will still take quite some time before they get widely accepted.

Though deposit rates have also gone up in the wake of interest rate hikes over the past couple of years, UAE consumers still believe that cryptos can give them higher returns, if invested wisely and with calculated risks.

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UAE resident Aicha Fadhel, a mother and a PhD student, has been investing in cryptos for two years, drawn for its financial growth and innovative nature of blockchain technology.

While acknowledging the volatility, she said she always took a strategic approach to managing risks.

“I have invested more than $2,000 in cryptos as part of my savings strategy. The value of my crypto savings has experienced fluctuations due to market dynamics. Overall, I have witnessed both growth and temporary declines. However, I remain focused on the long-term potential of my investments,” said Fadhel.

Abobakr Magdy. — Supplied photo
Abobakr Magdy. — Supplied photo

Abobakr Magdy, also a Dubai resident, started with just Dh1,000 with a portfolio of multiple coins like ETH and Bitcoin and some other promising coins like ADA and BNB. “Once I got familiar with the trends and platforms, I increased my investment to Dh10,000,” he said.

Magdy prefers to have cryptocurrencies as savings over cash deposits and other options due to higher returns.

In order to deal with the volatility in this new investment avenue, he sets up alerts on most platforms to minimise his losses and, instead, leverage this volatility to his advantage and gains.

In the US, cryptos accounted for 17 per cent of residents’ savings, emerging as the second most popular.

Harmesh Johal, who has been investing since 2017 on both short and long-term basis, is attracted by robust returns coupled with the absence of restricted trading hours or lock-in periods.

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He hoped that with the increasing mainstream acceptance, regulation, and global adoption of cryptocurrencies, the market would see a gradual reduction in volatility.

Johal allocates around 10-20 per cent of his savings across a diversified portfolio of cryptocurrencies.

Overall, Johal’s investments and savings are up, taking profits when markets have pumped and buying when markets were down. “Bitcoin was the best-performing asset of 2023, up over 150 per cent. This really helped compound the growth in savings,” he said.

What investors say

George Pavel, general manager at Capex.com Middle East, said the UAE is seeing a positive growth in cryptocurrency adoption, thanks to the performances they recorded in the past, although they also come with significant risks.

George Pavel.
George Pavel.

“The pro-active and crypto-friendly position of the UAE government could also help in encouraging local adoption. With cryptocurrencies rebounding during the last few weeks, we could see increased adoption as investors move to benefit from the market’s performance.”

Pavel advised US consumers to handle digital currencies with caution.

“The market could benefit from the SEC’s approval of Bitcoin ETFs which could help draw new types of investors and attract larger volumes of capital. In addition, as the risk appetite improves on a global scale cryptocurrencies could also gain,” he added.

Abdulla Al Dhaheri, an entrepreneur, cybersecurity expert and Web 3.0 consultant, said there's a noticeable trend of people turning to cryptocurrencies for saving money in the UAE.

Abdulla Al Dhaheri.
Abdulla Al Dhaheri.

“This interest is on the rise, largely because cryptocurrencies are gaining global attention. The UAE's supportive stance towards digital currencies and improved regulations make people feel more secure about investing in them.”

He added that people view cryptocurrencies as a hedge against inflation or currency devaluation, offering a means to protect their wealth.


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