On behalf of DIFC, I would like to thank you for your support during 2017.
It has been a year where we have been working with our clients and prospects to shape the financial landscape of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region. I would like to share a few highlights with you.
FinTech and the future of finance
In January, we launched FinTech Hive at DIFC, the first FinTech accelerator in the region. During the course of the year it has become the most popular FinTech programme in the region, attracting over 45 global, regional and local partners and participants. Feedback from the programme participants has been that DIFC’s ecosystem of over 1,750 companies and Dubai’s long standing reputation as the gateway to the region contributed to its success. Building on this year’s achievements, we recently announced plans to triple our commitment to FinTech for 2018 with a focus on RegTech and InsurTech.
The DFSA has played an important role by launching an Innovation Testing Licence and putting collaboration agreements in place across the globe to ensure we remain at the forefront of developments.
Last month, DIFC announced that we will be launching a USD 100m fund to support incubating and growth stage firms. This helps to ensure that our FinTech proposition is the most comprehensive in the region.
FinTech is just one way that DIFC is shaping the future of finance. Other examples are how our platform is being used by companies now includes, peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding and alternative payment methods. Increasingly important to the region is Financial Inclusion. DIFC and our clients are leading the way in terms of this agenda.
Supporting our clients by developing regulation and propositions
This year, our clients were the first in the region to benefit from enhanced regulation and laws which enabled them to launch REITs. ENBD REIT, redomiciled from Jersey to DIFC, and Equitativa Limited launched the first Sharia-compliant REIT in the UAE. Activity in this sector has the potential to drive the future of real estate, a critical component of the local, UAE and regional economy. This coincided with DIFC entering into an agreement with Dubai Land Department (DLD) to allow entities based in the Centre to purchase and register properties with the DLD.
DIFC provides the most robust approach in respect of substance requirements for Companies and Special Purpose Vehicles adhere to high, international standards.
We have updated our Companies and Employment Laws to ensure they remain best in class. Our Trust Law and Foundations Law regime went to public consultation and ready for enactment. This regime has independently been described as one that other Centres will use as best practice.
DIFC’s codified Common Law framework is preferred by our clients and continues to help retain and attract new clients. The number of cases being heard through the DIFC courts continues to grow, thanks to its strong reputation.
During 2017, we have continued to develop our physical infrastructure to ensure DIFC remains the most attractive, sought after business environment in the region. Next year, we will open significant infrastructure projects which will further enhance the district, specifically Gate Avenue and The Exchange.
Enabling professional development and industry thought leadership
Dubai and DIFC is fortunate to attract the best talent which consists of around 22,000 people. We are keen to help them advance their careers.
Ten years ago, DIFC established a learning environment for professional development. This year, we have enhanced the proposition and relaunched it as The Academy. Its facilities are unrivalled and used by partners include the top ranked business schools in Europe and Americas - London Business School and Wharton. Our other partners include highly regarded names such as City, University of London and Financial Times IE Business School.
We continued to partner with our clients on a range of events throughout the year on topics that are pertinent to the industry. We were also pleased to continue our long term relationships with the IMF for their half yearly economic outlooks and also the IIF as the host for their MENA Financial Summit and anchor sponsor of their Annual Meeting.
Additionally, DIFC has been driving thought leadership for the industry in MEASA. We were proud to be the co-host of the inaugural Dubai World Insurance Congress and in November organised the world’s first Global Financial Forum which was programmed by The Economist. DIFC has launched the outlook for Wealth & Asset Management with Thomson Reuters.
DIFC was the first international financial centre in the region to support the aviation industry back in 2009. It was therefore appropriate to work with our clients and prospects during the Dubai Airshow on an event that highlighted the long term collaboration between the finance and aviation sectors, both of which have play significant part in Dubai being the region’s leader for economic diversification.
On reflection, it has been an incredible year and one that has deservedly helped us retain our position as the region’s leading financial centre, both from the FT’s The Banker magazine where we are now placed in the top ten, and also by Z/Yen’s Global Financial Centre Index. We have welcomed a significant number of new firms to DIFC throughout the year and are committed to helping them and our existing clients use the Centre to access the MEASA region. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank staff at the Centre for the role they are playing in making us a success.
With your support there is more to achieve and we are looking forward to working with you in 2018.
DIFC Authority CEO
DIFC Authority CEO, Arif Amiri