DIFC's leading role in the regional financial industry highlighted to a top-level delegation of Swiss Bankers



Visitors briefed on Dubai's emergence as the heart of growth and innovation in Islamic Finance

A high-level delegation of bankers from Switzerland visited the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). HE Dr. Omar Bin Sulaiman, Governor of the Dubai International Financial Centre received the delegation at the financial district and held discussions with them.

DIFC Authority's Managing Director, Abdulla Al Awar; Marwan Lootah; Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Dr. Nasser Saidi Chief Economist, DIFC Authority were also present to welcome the Swiss bankers.

The nine-member Swiss delegation was led by Pierre G. Mirabaud, Chairman of Swiss Bankers Association (SBA) and Senior Partner with Mirabaud & Cie, Geneva. Other members included Dr. Urs P. Roth, SBA Chief Executive Officer and Delegate of its Board of Directors, Jean-Marc Felix, SBA Head of Communication and Member of the Executive Committee, Wafa Y. Hijjawi, Commercial Counsellor, Swiss Business Hub GCC, Claude-Alain Margelisch of SBA, Professor Jordan of Swiss National (Central) Bank, H.E. Wolfgang Amadeus Bruelhart, Ambassador of Switzerland, Gerhard Brügger, Consul General and Christian D. Watts - Regional Director Swiss Business Hub IMEA.

Dr. Nasser Saidi, Chief Economist DIFC Authority, referred to the close and long history of banking relationship between Switzerland and the Gulf. "We have attracted some ten major Swiss banks and financial institutions as members of the DIFC and they are involved in a wide array of activities ranging from private banking and capital markets to wealth and asset management.

"Swiss banking is famous across the world and we, as the fastest emerging global financial hub, can benefit from the knowledge and experience of the Swiss banking industry."

  • He pointed out that the DIFC is centrally located to serve the GCC bloc which is emerging as the economic and financial hub for the MENASA region, which accounts for a quarter of the world's population, with a GDP of more than US $2 trillion and some US $1.9 trillion invested abroad. The GCC achieved average real GDP growth of 6.9%e over 2004-2008 vs. 4.6% in 1998-2003, with increased diversification of economic activity and increased links with Asia and other emerging markets. "As the centre of world's economic geography moves East, the DIFC will be the hub of MENASA financial flows and capital markets" he said.
  • During a presentation, Dr. Saidi highlighted DIFC's crucial role in the growth and innovations in Islamic Finance in a region where Islamic Finance is an integral part of banking infrastructure. "We have a model regulatory framework that makes us the international financial centre of choice for financial institutions offering Islamic products.".

He pointed out that the DIFC has created an international base for providers of Islamic financial products, including Sukuk, that meet the needs of both institutional and individual investors, whose appetite for such products is increasing both in the Muslim World and across the globe.

The DIFC also offers a new domicile for the registration of Islamic collective investment schemes, reflecting an increasing investor preference for Shariah-compliant investment products originating and managed in the region.

The DIFC, through Nasdaq Dubai, offers a pool of liquidity for the primary listing and secondary trading of sophisticated Islamic financial instruments, such as Sukuk. Nasdaq Dubai is the largest exchange with listed value of Sukuk.

Dr. Saidi went on to explain about the trends and development of Dubai as a Financial Centre : "the UAE and GCC banking and financial sector has proved resilient to the global financial crisis", with a multitude of factors contributing: limited direct exposure to 'toxic assets' and the small stock of outstanding domestic securitised/structured products; regulatory and prudential requirements that limited exposure to sub-investment grade investments & instruments; the growing importance of Islamic banking & compliance with Shari'a principles; ample liquidity from accumulation of current account surpluses and international reserves; and the sound mix of monetary, fiscal & financial policy measures taken by the authorities that strengthened the soundness of the banking systems. "The financial crisis and the policy response is leading to a stronger and sounder banking and financial sector in the UAE and the GCC, with higher capital adequacy ratios, better risk management and greater transparency and disclosure standards. We are well poised to enter a period of greater economic & financial integration in the GCC, with the impending Gulf Monetary Union and eventually a Gulf Common Currency. The new emerging opportunities create potential synergies between Dubai and the Swiss banking & financial sectors." Dr. Saidi also discussed the role of the DIFC in lowering access barriers to financial services by providing quality retail services, building linkages between the region's financial markets, striving for a greater harmonization of laws & regulations in the region, and developing a Regional Bond Market.

Ian Johnston, Deputy CEO of Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) and Mark McGinness, Director International Relations, spoke about the unique regulatory structure of the DFSA regime and how effective it has been to cope with the current economic scenario and issues such as combating money laundering.

In his speech the President of Swiss Bankers Association, thanked the hosts and said there were several areas where the DIFC and Swiss banking industry could complement and benefit from each other.

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