DIFC drives finance sector growth
Shrugging off slowdown in the financial sector and macro-economy, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) marched ahead in 2019, attracting more companies in the first half of this year that will further cement the emirate’s position and ranking among the world’s top financial centres.
The region’s largest financial centres said the number of companies increased 14 per cent, or 250 new firms, in January-June 2019 period to 2,289. It also houses now more than 671 finance-related firms, an increase of 11 per cent. The addition of new firms resulted in creation of 660 new jobs, taking combined workforce in the financial centre to more than 24,000.
Some of the big financial firms, which joined DIFC include Maybank Islamic Berhad from Malaysia, Cantor Fitzgerald from the US, Atlas Wealth Management from Australia and Mauritius Commercial Bank. In addition, leading non-financial firms including Guidepoint MEA, Medtronic Finance Hungary Kft. and Network International.
“Dubai continues to gain recognition on the global stage as the destination where business meets innovation, and the DIFC has been a significant driver of this. The strong performance that the Centre has delivered during the first half of 2019 highlights the confidence and trust that international financial institutions have in Dubai,” said Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of the DIFC.
Recently, DIFC announced four new licences at a reduced fees to make it more competitive at the global level and attract foreign multinationals. The four new licences are categorised in to short-term licences, restricted licences, commercial permissions and dual licences which would allow more firms to conduct business from the centre.
In March 2019, Dubai jumped three places to 12th ranking in The Global Financial Centres Index 2019, helped by the strong role played DIFC in strengthening the emirate’s position among the world’s top financial centres. Dubai was rated ahead of Boston, Shenzhen and Melbourne in the ranking.
Importantly, occupancy rate at DIFC-owned building stood at 99 per cent during January-June 2019 period.
Jitendra Gianchandani, chairman and managing partner of Jitendra Consulting Group, said 14 per cent year-on-year growth is impressive considering slowdown across the region.
“I think growth is mainly because of DIFC’s 15-year of long consistent track record in MEASA region, consistent and transparent legal framework, world-class infrastructure, availability of the qualified manpower and lastly trust and confidence in the UAE’s visionary leaders,” Gianchandani said.
“The centre remains a fundamental driver in leading financial sector transformation, supporting the advancement of the UAE economy, and developing the next generation of financial professionals,” said Essa Kazim, governor of DIFC.
DIFC is undergoing massive expansion under 2.0 plan, which will triple the scale of the financial hub.
The number of Fintech firms more than doubled from over 80 to 200 in the first six months of 2019. Similarly, the number of licensed FinTech firms operating in the DIFC increased from 35 to more than 80 in the first half of 2019. Key international FinTech firms that have made the Centre their MEASA base include Dublin-based software company Fenergo, InsurTech leaders Charles Taylor and Swedish crowdfunding platform, FundedByMe.
The centre received 425 applications from start-ups operating in the RegTech, Islamic FinTech, InsurTech and broader FinTech sectors, for the third cohort of its DIFC FinTech Hive accelerator programme, a 42 per cent increase from the 2018 programme.
Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC Authority, said the centre is making significant headway towards meeting its 2024 targets.
“Our focus on innovation and technology is delivering a blueprint for sustainable growth as we continue our journey towards driving the future of finance. DIFC’s emphasis on transforming its lifestyle offering, alongside strategic investments within technology and FinTech means we are confident about reinforcing our position as a leading global financial centre – a great place to live, work, play and do business,” Amiri said.