Tuesday 4, October 2016

Dubai – MENA Herald: Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the region’s leading financial hub with over 1,500 firms and 21,000 professionals, hosted a major Brexit debate with PwC, one of the leading professional services firms in the region. Attracting over 250 industry leaders from across financial and professional services, especially banks, investors and investment banks, discussions focused on the implications of Brexit three months after the vote of the UK to leave the European Union. The event was part of the DIFC’s ongoing efforts to facilitate debates and discussions on key industry trends and developments as well as encouraging collaboration and knowledge sharing within its burgeoning community.
The event, held at the DIFC Conference Centre, kicked off with a presentation from PwC, led by David R Cox, Financial Services Assurance Industry Leader at PwC Middle East and Julia Onslow-Cole, Legal Markets Leader & Head of Global Immigration, PwC UK, Mustafa Kheriba, Chief Operating Officer, Abu Dhabi Financial Group and Tim Fox, Head of Research & Chief Economist, Emirates NBD.
Introducing the event, Chief Legal Officer of DIFC Authority, Jacques Visser, commented that the event could not come at a more important time for the industry and that it was important to keep sight of the larger picture as firms consider their future plans.
He said, ‘the challenges, opportunities, implications and considerations of Brexit are becoming gradually clearer for us all. It is important though that conversations around Brexit take place in as broad a context as possible and consider all the factors of a changing world. The bigger emerging markets picture is key here to help make informed decisions and consider future trends and opportunities.’
Following the opening remarks, PwC led a presentation outlining the political, economic and regulatory implications of Brexit, and its impact on the financial services sector.
David R Cox, Financial Services Assurance Industry Leader at PwC Middle East focused on the opportunities that are likely to come out of Brexit, stating that “The Financial Services sector is a key part of the UK and Global economy and creative solutions can be found to preserve and promote significant growth in the market.”
He added: “To date, the UK economy has not shown signs of significant weakness. This coupled with the depreciation of the Pound has created an opportunity for continued investment from the GCC.”
On Brexit’s potential ramifications for London as a global financial hub and ultimately, on the UK economy, David R Cox noted: “Whatever happens as part of Brexit negotiations, the UK will ensure that London remains an attractive hub for financial services.” “However, the single largest benefit for banks from EU membership is ease of EU market access via ‘passporting’. Any potential removal of passporting rights would require the establishment of an EU registration.”
Commenting on the significance of the Brexit debate, Julia Onslow-Cole, Legal Markets Leader & Head of Global Immigration, PwC UK stated: “Brexit is a process, not an act – one that will have profound implications for individuals and businesses globally. The impact on the global financial services market and Immigration are the two hot topics to watch in the Brexit debate.”
The panel discussion that followed was of particular interest to those firms in the DIFC with strong connections to the UK. 15% of the 425 active financial firms in the Centre come from the UK with a further 18% from Europe. These firms are attracted to the Centre not only by its strong regulatory and legal infrastructure but also by the fact that DIFC acts as an integrated financial ecosystem for companies to tap into the $7.8 trillion Middle East, Africa and South Asian market.
Visser recognised this, noting that ‘as the UAE leadership made very clear at the time of Brexit, the UAE is committed to the deep and historic partnership with the UK as one of its major trade partners, not least in financial services. Between now and 2020 the two countries plan to double the annual trade figures of 12 billion pounds sterling, with the UAE positioned as the UK’s 12th biggest trading partner. We need to work to find new ways of building multilateral trade and investment flows between the two regions and consider new structures for ease of doing business between Dubai, London and indeed wider Europe.’
Tim Fox, Head of Research and Chief Economist at Emirates NBD observed: “The main transmission channels by which Brexit will impact the GCC and Middle East region are likely to be through the direct impact of a weaker pound on trade, tourism and investment, and to a lesser extent the indirect effect of this on other financial markets such as global interest rates and oil prices’.
Mustafa G. Kheriba, Chief Operating Officer at Abu Dhabi Financial Group noted during the course of the discussion: “Since the Brexit referendum, ADFG has been monitoring developments in the UK closely, due to the significant real estate investments held in prime Central London. Of course there continues to be uncertainty as to how the UK will extricate itself from the EU, and to which destination these negotiations will lead. What is patently clear, however, is that London’s eminence as a leading global city, from commerce to culture, remains undiminished following the June vote, and ADFG will continue to seek out investment opportunities where it feels value can be attained.”
The event is one of several community engagement initiatives implemented by the DIFC, which supports and recognises the importance of open dialogue around key financial issues.