FINANCE AND BANKING
Dubai is a leading global business hub and the de-facto financial centre of the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region. It offers a host of different advantages for any financial company that chooses the city either to start-up, or as their regional base.
The city is a world class business environment that offers the stability of UK Common Law, independent courts and pro-business regulation, giving financial institutions and supporting companies from around the world the opportunity to be a part of the region’s largest financial ecosystem. In recent years, Dubai has become a major financial powerhouse ranking in the Top 10 Global Financial Centres Index in 2019 recognising the city’s strengths within the five major areas of Business Environment, Human Capital, Infrastructure, Financial Sector Development and Reputation. Many of the region’s largest banks are located in Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), a major financial Free Zone with a domestic stock exchange and an international market with one of the largest concentrations of Islamic bonds.
Strategically located, Dubai fills the time-zone gap for a global financial centre between London and New York in the West and Hong Kong and Tokyo in the East. The city also offers access to the region’s best financial services talent. There are currently over 25,600 professionals working in more than 2,400 active registered companies in DIFC alone which comprises the largest and most diverse pool of industry talent in the region.
Gateway to both established and emerging financial markets
Dubai’s unique geographic location positioned between East and West makes it an ideal gateway between both the established economies of the West and the emerging financial markets of the East. The city gives financial institutions the opportunity to cater to the 3 billion residents of the burgeoning economies of the MEASA region. These customers are primary users of the broad range of new financial services and Islamic financing options that are emerging today. Equipped with a combined GDP of $US7.7 trillion across 72 diverse countries, the region represents a unique investment opportunity with 40 percent of this population under the age of 25 and many currently unbanked. The untapped growth of the region lends itself to fintech investment, which increased by 66 percent between 2014-2019.
An innovation-focused Fintech hub
Dubai’s pro-business regulation and progressive attitude to technology lends itself well to innovative companies in the financial space. As technology transforms the nature of finance, Dubai has taken the lead in the region’s fintech and regtech sectors. DIFC alone is home to over 100 international and local fintech firms and an additional 43 startups registered at the beginning of 2020. Supportive government-backed finance initiatives have also led to steady growth of fintech businesses in Dubai.
With a focus on attracting investment in technology including artificial intelligence and robotics, Dubai is well positioned to lead the fintech revolution, and is already recognised as one of the world’s top fintech hubs. Dubai’s support of the fintech industry, its rapid adoption of blockchain technologies and its moves to improve financing options are all factors in creating a dynamic and future-ready financial technology environment. Cryptocurrency, crowdfunding, and e-payment companies can all be found within this thriving ecosystem, and the market is growing. The city is now home to over a 100 blockchain firms and was recently awarded the ‘World Capital of Blockchain’ at the Smart City Expo in Barcelona in 2019.
The perfect home for financial start-ups
Not only is Dubai uniquely suited to financial companies in general, but it is a supportive environment for new companies that are looking to develop in the space, with many stakeholders focused on giving start-ups the resources they need to grow, expand and thrive. Dubai has become a magnet for fintech entrepreneurs with over 200 such companies based in DIFC alone, comprising 50 percent of the total in MENA.
Dubai is home to a large number of accelerators and incubators, many of which offer financial options to start ups. The DIFC FinTech Hive is the first and largest financial technology accelerator in the MEASA region, helping accelerate many types of financial start-ups to new heights through dedicated accelerator programmes that provide them with opportunities to connect with the region's largest stakeholders and institutions. It also offers a dedicated collaborative space to work and a community of like-minded individuals. The city is also home to the largest number of investors and venture capitalists in the region, and a rise in the popularity of crowdfunding platforms and lower-cost portfolio investment products has created a community of investors with an appetite for technology and financial start-ups in particular.
Dubai International Financial Centre
Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is home to an internationally-recognized, independent regulator and a proven judicial system, with an English common law framework. The financial centre is also home to the region’s largest financial ecosystem of more than 25,600 professionals working across over 2,400 active registered companies.
DIFC is focused on relaxed licensing and offers one of the region’s most comprehensive fintech and venture capital environments, including easy and cheap licensing, fit-for-purpose regulation, innovative accelerator programs, and funding for growth-stage startups. It also has a regulatory sandbox, which gives startups the chance to test their products with relaxed regulations.