Roland Berger at the forefront of crypto strategy consulting

21 April 2022 6 min. read
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Hype surrounding the virtual assets and crypto landscape is seeing the market boom. Roland Berger is looking to position itself as an early front-runner in the segment’s strategy advisory space.

In the 12 years since Bitcoin first launched, the crypto economy has evolved from a hype among the tech-savvy into one of the world’s most talked about developments in the finance and payments realm.

In the MENA region, the rise of crypto is especially pronounced, with a recent report from Gemini Exchange (based on a survey of nearly 30,000 people in 20 countries) showing that crypto ownership in the UAE is the third highest worldwide, trailing only Indonesia and Brazil.

Roland Berger at the forefront of crypto strategy consulting

Global strategy and management consultancy Roland Berger boasts a strong presence in MENA, and with demand for crypto advisory services booming and market developments unfolding rapidly, the company is building a reputation at the forefront of the burgeoning landscape.

According to Feroz Sanaulla and Pierre Samaties, the partners in charge of leading the firm’s global Crypto Economy team, Roland Berger is “the first top-tier strategy consulting firm to have entered into the world of crypto economy.”

Speaking to ConsultancyME, the pair explained that as the emergent market becomes increasingly accepted among large corporations, businesses, and governments both globally and in the MENA region, Roland Berger is “taking a leading and courageous role towards the future of technology.”

“We support our global clients in understanding the opportunities and risks of the space and develop implementable crypto economy strategies. A key differentiator is that we really understand the ins and outs of the economics and technology and are well embedded in the global crypto ecosystem,” stated Samaties – who has been active in the crypto economy since 2015.

"We have team members that are deep into blockchain technology, including writing smart contracts, creating tokens etc. This is a must if you want to give sound strategic advice and also ensure our clients are well protected” added Sanaulla.

Increasing adoption and signature projects

While the firm is traditionally secretive about its projects (most tier-one strategy consultancies are tight-lipped about their client work), publicly known is that Roland Berger is involved with key crypto economy projects in the UAE.

One project saw the consultancy support strategy setting for a large-scale crypto mining facility being built in the country. “A sovereign fund selected us as its strategy consultant. As well as delivering the strategy, we are also providing hands-on support in the setting up the implementation phase, helping the project to get built by a consortium of players,” said Samaties.

The project aims to create a several-hundred-Megawatt Bitcoin mining site. Bitcoin mining is the process of creating new coins by solving complex ‘mathematical puzzles’. “The process is energy intensive, however energy systems and miners are in parts complimentary and that’s why you see that in well-regulated markets, miners and utilities are creating a symbiosis that offers new ways of demand management and monetisation of power,” said Samaties.

Another engagement is focused on the development of a strategic crypto cluster for a regulator in the emirate. The goal is to attract crypto economy heavyweights to the emirate, and the consultants have so far assisted in setting the strategy, building the ecosystem, identifying regulations and selecting a list of companies who could act as anchors for the cluster.

Sanaulla clarified, “A crypto cluster is much like the planetary system. An anchor company at the centre attracts other companies around it. This attracts talent and innovation. The UAE is enacting flexible regulatory frameworks that will allow pilots and experimentation while in other jurisdictions these entities would be drowned in regulation.”

Roland Berger pieced together a holistic strategy on how to attract the cluster’s initial entities, weighing up what organisations and individuals like them would be attracted to – including incentive plans and required regulation. At the same time, the firm is helping to build an environment capable of attracting “champions of the future,” not the next Google, so much as “the next unknown innovator.”

Meanwhile, in 2021, Roland Berger developed the strategy and business model for an initiative called GreenChain, a platform owned and launched by GMIS that aims to tokenise sustainable investments in renewable energy.

Commenting on the UAE’s growth in the crypto scene, Sanaulla remarked, “The UAE has become a progressive nurturing ground for the crypto economy. Instead of benchmarking against others they are being disruptive and leap frogging. We are working across various sectors on all crypto economy themes as we develop business and investment opportunities for our clients.”

Seven key trends in the crypto economy

On the back of its early experiences in the field, Roland Berger has developed seven trends that are set to shape the crypto economy over the next years:

1. The future of finance
2. Asset tokenisation
3. The rise of the metaverse
4. Supply chain improvement
5. Web3 and the data economy
6. Crypto mining & staking
7. Digital identity

For businesses still resistant to crypto’s advancement, Sanaulla and Samaties have a stark warning. Amid the storm of disruption on the horizon, some traditional sectors will cease to exist quickly, or see a slow drift into irrelevance, if they fail to embrace the crypto economy soon.

Samaties argued, “We are at the intersection of an Uber moment for many industries, and even an Uber moment for Uber might be on its way, we are excited to shape this new future.”

“Roland Berger has a strong global team committed to helping its clients in successfully developing their crypto economy strategies before it is too late. Based on our rich ecosystem network with crypto companies, start-ups and incubators, we help clients find solid and trustworthy implementation partners,” noted the duo.

In doing so, Sanaulla asserted that firms might not only avoid the risks of digital disruption – but could capture significant opportunities for their business to get ahead of the competition.

He added, “We bring our core strength in strategic thinking and entrepreneurship combined with deep sector expertise. We understand what to build. In essence we are the engineers and architects.”