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Four Key Takeaways from Swell 2023

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Last month, Ripple’s annual Swell conference drew more than 600 global leaders in payments, financial services, crypto, blockchain and economic policy to Dubai for a series of wide-ranging conversations on the business of crypto. 

Recurring themes of this year’s flagship event included the tokenized economy, emerging centers of blockchain innovation and regulation around the world, the growing number of real-world applications in financial services, climate change, and more. Here are the top four key takeaways from industry experts at the event. 

1. Ripple Payments Evolves to Serve SMEs

All eyes were trained on Ripple’s Head of Payments Product, Brendan Berry, as he took the mic to unveil the latest evolution in Ripple Payments. 

Since its launch, Ripple Payments (formerly known as RippleNet) has leveraged blockchain technology to help financial institutions realize faster, cheaper and more reliable cross-border payments, 24/7/365 with no pre-funding requirements. But small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with fewer resources and less crypto expertise are now seeking to tap into a blockchain solution for B2B payments, treasury functions and more—over 80% of global finance leaders say they are likely to use crypto in the next three years.

To meet this need, Berry unveiled key updates to Ripple Payments that make it a simpler, plug-and-play cross-border payments solution for businesses worldwide, supported by Ripple’s deep regulatory insight and proven technological expertise. In a growing number of jurisdictions in the U.S., Ripple Payments is a licensed end-to-end payments service that removes the burden of crypto know-how for SMEs while unlocking immediate access to more than 70 payout markets through a single connection.

By leveraging a range of assets, including crypto, stablecoins, fiat or a combination of assets, Ripple Payments provides customers with an optimal payments experience based on their specific region, time constraints and associated fees. 

With seamless, streamlined onboarding and a fully-supported payments experience with near global payout coverage, Ripple Payments can support accelerated go-to-market strategies and growth for SMEs. 

2. Dubai Emerges as a Global Crypto Hub

According to a panel of experts led by Saqr Ereiqat of Crypto Oasis, the United Arab Emirates was one of the first countries in the world to consider blockchain applications at the government level. This helped to establish early buy-in from leadership and signaled the nation’s belief that blockchain will play a key role in the future of finance. Since then, the UAE has continued to solidify its position as a strategic player in the global crypto economy. 

The panelists agreed that the country has been a pioneer in its commitment to crypto, a position that has helped attract a critical amalgamation of talent, capital and infrastructure. Dr. Marwan Al Zarouni of the Dubai Blockchain Center said that the beginnings of this effort could be traced to the country’s embrace of digitization in the early 2000s and its emphasis on user experience in all things. 

Circle’s Miriam Kiwan and Fuze’s Mo Ali also cited practical realities that have enabled the UAE’s emergence as a crypto leader. Ali pointed out that, beyond just speculative investment, crypto has real-world utility in the region. Similar to opting for smartphones over desktops, he said consumers are skipping over traditional financial services and leveraging crypto to meet their financial needs. 

Similarly, Kiwan observed that the UAE’s location within MENA — an important crypto hub in its own right — and its position as a major remittance center have helped further blockchain adoption. It’s one reason why she said that the UAE is building a “strong and sustainable model that is only going to grow.”  

3. DIFC Advances Blockchain Adoption in UAE 

Central to the UAE’s emergence as a crypto hub and key to its continued growth in the area is the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). As a special economic zone in Dubai and the leading global financial center in the region, the DIFC works closely with its regulator, Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), to drive the future of finance through an embrace of technology and innovation. 

At Swell, DIFC Authority COO, Alya Al Zarouni, sat down with Ripple President, Monica Long, to discuss the DIFC’s role in supporting the adoption of blockchain in the region. Al Zarouni believes that rather than shying away from emerging technologies, the DFSA has provided legal certainty through smart, progressive regulation, allowing blockchain use cases and digital assets to thrive. This includes XRP, which was recently approved for use by licensed firms.

Long agreed, saying that it’s “helpful to have clear frameworks and legitimacy behind the business use cases while providing protections.” 

Although blockchain technology is evolving quickly, Al Zarouni said the close collaboration between the DFSA and the DIFC has enabled the UAE to set the pace for innovation globally. This, coupled with its focus on both homegrown talent and foreign investor interest, has made the DIFC a thriving hub for financial and technological innovation.

4. Crypto’s Crucial Role in Sustainability

As part of her fireside chat with Ripple’s Long, Al Zarouni also mentioned that the intersection of sustainability and blockchain with climate finance is a priority emphasis for the DIFC. This discussion of crypto’s role in climate change was a major theme throughout Swell and points to an increasingly important use case for the technology. 

Additionally, in his role as panel moderator, Saqr Ereiqat of Crypto Oasis pointed to his firm’s support for the Green Block, an initiative focused on the intersection of AI, blockchain and sustainability. 

As COP28 kicked off in Dubai just weeks after Swell, it’s clear that the UAE is positioning itself not just as a business hub, but also as a center for sustainability initiatives. Industry participants expect the climate change conference to emphasize the importance of sustainability within the technology space, further highlighting the important role blockchain, and stablecoins specifically, can play in combating climate change.

Looking Ahead

Swell showcased not only Ripple’s commitment toward achieving the Internet of Value, but also the dynamic and rapidly expanding landscape of the crypto and blockchain industry overall. With 80+ speakers on the agenda and 40+ countries represented, the two-day event played a central role in advancing conversations around how businesses and institutions can leverage blockchain and crypto to shape future growth.

Get in touch with our team to learn more about blockchain for business.

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