Dubai – MENA Herald: Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the global financial services hub connecting businesses and financial institutions with emerging markets across the Middle East, Africa & South Asia (MEASA), achieved another record year in 2015, it was announced today.
The number of new company registrations at DIFC increased by more than a quarter (27%) compared with 2014, from 242 to 309, the highest number achieved in a single year to date.
The size of the total workforce employed within DIFC also grew up to 19,808, an 11% increase compared with last year and around 40% of the overall target DIFC has set as part of its 2024 growth strategy.
Commenting on DIFC’s exceptional performance, His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of Dubai International Financial Centre, said: “DIFC passed a number of significant landmarks last year. The size and diversity of our client portfolio continues to expand alongside our evolution from an international financial centre into a global financial hub. Last year we unveiled our long-term growth strategy, and we are well on the way to achieving a number of its key objectives.”
His Excellency Essa Kazim added: “With MEASA expected to account for a substantial share of global economic growth over the next decade, DIFC is well positioned to benefit from the trade and investment flows entering the region and from the emergence of the South-South economic corridor linking Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
Key 2015 highlights:
1,445 active registered firms now operate within DIFC, compared with 1,225 firms at the end of 2014, an increase of 18% recording the highest number since DIFC inception.
Last year, the number of active registered firms in the financial services and non-financial services sectors grew 13% and 22%, respectively, compared with 2014
Among active registered firms, financial services account for 408 firms while the non-financial services sector is made up of 835 companies
DIFC continued to expand its retail offering in 2015, adding 18 retailers (a year-on-year increase of 11%)
An additional 335,600 square feet of office space was leased, 19% more new office than in 2014
South-South Corridor Strategy
In line with its 2024 growth strategy to enhance access to the South-South trade and investment corridor, the DIFC visited Mumbai in August to meet potential banking and financial sector clients, as well as leading Indian law firms, and asset and wealth management companies. Besides several partnered events during this visit, the delegation met with the UAE Embassy in India to discuss key areas of mutual interest including trade and investments as well as collaboration on implementing best practices in the business and finance sphere.
The following month, in September 2015, a high-level delegation led by His Excellency Essa Kazim visited Beijing and Shanghai, China, to meet finance and business leaders and regulators from across the country, and strengthen the increasingly important trade partnership between the UAE and China. The Governor presented an overview of the DIFC 2024 growth strategy to Chinese media representatives at a roundtable with a focus on the strategic partnership between China and the UAE.
Senior officials also conducted decision maker meetings with government and private sector leaders in South Africa in October, while also attending the Africa Financial Summit in Johannesburg, hosted by the Institute of International Finance (IIF), and the EY Strategic Forum Africa.
In November, His Excellency Essa Kazim led a delegation to Lima to attend the UAE Bank Reception which promotes the UAE finance sector on the global landscape.
Beyond the key countries located within the South-South corridor, DIFC continued in its efforts to build and maintain relationships with stakeholders across the globe. Delegations from the Centre visited a number of markets over the course of the year, including London, New York, Singapore, Frankfurt and most of the GCC countries to name a few.
The senior management team participated in 125 events and over 35 speaking engagements during the course of the year to effectively convey the DIFC’s vision and strategy for the next decade.
Expanding Client Portfolio
DIFC’s client portfolio continues to reflect a wide geographic spread, with both developed and developing markets well represented. Of DIFC’s 408 financial firms, a third (34%) are from the Middle East, while 18% are from Europe, 15% from the United Kingdom, 13% from North America, 11% from Asia, while the remaining 10% are from the rest of the world.
Among the new financial companies setting up operations in 2015, DIFC welcomed Lloyd’s of London in March, the global leader in specialist insurance and reinsurance.
BankMed, one of Lebanon’s fastest growing banks, also officially opened in March, the first MENA-based financial institution to receive a Category-1 licence at DIFC.
Bae, Kim and Lee, the first South Korean law firm joined DIFC in April, while Shinhan Bank, one of South Korea’s largest banks, opened in December.
Also joining DIFC in September 2015 was the Centre’s first bank from the Philippines, BDO Unibank. BDO Unibank was the first Filipino bank to set up at DIFC, establishing a presence in September.
Furthermore, Access Bank UK, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Access Bank Plc, the Nigerian Stock Exchange-listed company, launched at DIFC in October.
Development of Physical infrastructure
July saw Gate Building 11 break ground, a major expansion of the DIFC site masterplan. Due for completion by end of 2017, the AED205 million, 200,000 square foot building will house DIFC’s fifth business centre, as well as 160,000 sq ft of office space and 40,000 sq ft dedicated to retail and F&B outlets.
Further Technological Advancements
In line with Dubai’s ‘Smart City’ initiative, DIFC launched a fully-integrated client portal in 2015, offering registered entities a range of administrative services including employee services, registration and licensing, certification and an online payment facility.
In addition, DIFC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Middle East’s fastest growing telecommunications service provider du, offering preferential pricing to clients and savings of up to 50% on Global Connectivity and Ethernet services.
The move aims to build a unique and advanced infrastructure that offers efficient, value-added and streamlined services for tenants and residents. Fostering secure and resilient channels, these advanced services ensure greater integration and communication among clients and provide maximum international connectivity for business needs.
Awards & Industry Recognition
DIFC received several important industry distinctions in 2015. Some of the prominent ones included ‘Ijarah Deal of the Year award’, Islamic Economy Award in the ‘Money & Finance’ category, Bonds, Loans & Sukuk Middle East for Investment Grade Bond/Sukuk Deal of the Year and Sovereign/Quasi-Sovereign Financing Deal of the Year. These awards were presented in honor for the Centre’s successful closure of a US$700 million sukuk in 2014.
In addition, DIFC’s commitment and efforts in devising and implementing an innovative energy savings plan was recognised at Emirates Energy Awards where the Centre received a silver distinction in ‘Small Energy Projects’ category for the DIFC Truck Tunnel serving the majority of buildings in the financial centre.
These awards reflect the growing investor confidence in the Centre and augment DIFC’s leading role as a key contributor to the Dubai’s economic and financial services market.