Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading financial hub for the US$7.4 trillion Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, announced today that in the first half of 2017 it has grown 6.2% to 1,750 incorporated companies, reports Albawaba.
Of those registered companies, the number of regulated financial institutions has increased to 463. The DIFC workforce increased to 21,628 professionals and is expected to rise as new companies become established at the Centre. An additional 144,000 square feet of commercial space has been leased.
The first half of the year has also seen significant progress made towards enhancing DIFC’s infrastructure – physical as well as legal and regulatory. Meanwhile, the launch this year of FinTech Hive at DIFC has created a hub that connects cutting edge technology companies with leading financial institutions to drive innovation. These initiatives, coupled with DIFC’s steady growth, ensure that the Centre is on track to achieve the targets set out in its 2024 Strategy, which will see DIFC triple in size and rank within the top 10 financial centres globally.
On announcing the Centre’s half-year performance, HE Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, commented: “DIFC’s strong performance in the first half of 2017 confirms the Centre’s position as MEASA’s leading financial centre. The DIFC ecosystem is second-to-none in this region in terms of business environment, infrastructure, scale, and human capital, which allows companies in the Centre to thrive. In doing so, DIFC and its community are supporting the growth of Dubai and asserting its status as the best place to do business in the region. As a financial centre, we remain focused on achieving our strategic aim to triple in size by 2024.”
Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Authority added: “DIFC is a dynamic financial community that continues to evolve in order to serve the needs of its growing number of institutions and companies. In line with our 2024 strategy, the last six months has seen real progress made towards enhancing DIFC’s physical as well as its legal and regulatory infrastructure. This underlines the Centre’s role as a robust platform with reliable modern infrastructure, enabling companies to transact business in the MEASA region from their regional headquarters in Dubai.”
The first half of 2017 featured a number of major projects and initiatives that will enable DIFC to maintain the competitive advantage it provides to its business community, enabling it to access business opportunities throughout MEASA.
Enhancing DIFC’s infrastructure by connecting all the elements of the DIFC Master Plan
The ongoing expansion of DIFC’s modern infrastructure took a leap forward in the first half of 2017 with major progress being made on its two large development projects – the AED 1 billion Gate Avenue at DIFC and the AED 180 million Exchange Building.
Gate Avenue at DIFC, which is on track to open in 2018, connects all elements of the Centre’s Master Plan. Upon completion, it will link the podium levels of all buildings located in DIFC, from the Gate Building to Central Park Towers. It will enhance the DIFC’s position as a 24/7 destination with over 200 dining, boutique, retail and entertainment options, as well as an iconic new mosque. Gate Avenue at DIFC will span across 660,000 square feet of built up area and 880 metres in total length.
DIFC’s new Exchange Building will “top out” in the middle of August and work is on schedule for the completion of the building in Q1 2018. The latest addition to DIFC Gate Village will provide 147,000 square feet of leasable space, including NASDAQ Dubai, offices and retail units.
A dynamic regulatory and legislative environment that responds to the evolving market
In May 2017, DIFC signed two separate memorandums of understanding (MoU) with Dubai Land Department (DLD) and Dubai Economy. These strategic moves demonstrate DIFC’s ability to innovate and evolve, responding to the changing needs of the market. The MoU with DLD provides a mechanism for DIFC companies and funds to purchase and register properties in Dubai with the Land Department. Meanwhile, the MoU with Dubai Economy allows companies operating within DIFC to obtain dual licenses to operate in mainland Dubai, which allows them to operate across the two jurisdictions in a more efficient way.
On the Wealth Management front, DIFC’s Wealth Management Working Group, which includes expert representatives from leading institutions and organisations, delivered its recommendations which will result in DIFC having one of the world’s leading trust and fund regimes. DIFC has the largest concentration of financial expertise in MEASA, which enables the Centre to ensure, through active consultation, that its policies, regulations and initiatives stay relevant to the needs of the modern financial services industry.
Over 200 Intermediate Structured Purpose Vehicles and Special Purpose Companies are now registered in DIFC, reinforcing how the Centre is supporting clients with innovative legal structures.
Driving innovation and encouraging the development of new technologies for the financial services sector.
In the first half of 2017, FinTech Hive at DIFC was successfully launched. An accelerator the likes of which the region has never seen before, FinTech Hive at DIFC will facilitate collaboration between cutting edge technology companies and the leading regional and international financial institutions. Financial institutions and technology companies will be able to work together in a space that encourages innovation, supporting the growth of new products and new technologies for the financial services sector. To complement FinTech Hive at DIFC, the Dubai Financial Services Authority has introduced its Innovation Testing Licence to facilitate the development and application of new technology.
The accelerator programme has reviewed applications from over 100 technology firms from 32 countries around the world that are keen on accessing MEASA markets, and will take entrants through a series of mentorship and co-working sessions for a period of 12 weeks. FinTech Hive at DIFC is the first initiative of its kind to give special consideration to Shariah-compliant FinTech with the allocation of spaces within its programme for companies specialising in new digital technology for online Islamic finance. This will culminate with an “Investor Day” where the selected companies will display their work and engage with tech firms as potential customers and investors.