The Dubai International Financial Center on Sunday announced it had passed a landmark of 200 firms in the fast-growing wealth and asset management sector that had chosen to be based in the center, a rise of 6 percent from the halfway point last year. Some 13 of the top 25 firms in the wealth management sector are included in that total.
The number of financial funds under management by DIFC entities has leapt by 240 percent in the same period, from 25 to the latest figure of 60, making it the largest funds domicile in the region, the DIFC said.
Arif Amiri, chief executive of DIFC, said: “The wealth and asset management sector is a cornerstone of a thriving financial services industry, and as the DIFC has developed into a top global financial center, it has become one of our hallmarks. Major financial institutions see Dubai and the DIFC as a preferred platform to access investment opportunities and sources of investment across regional and global markets.
“To date, the center has seen consistent and significant growth in this field, reflecting the industry’s ongoing confidence in Dubai and the DIFC. We expect to see this growth continue as we introduce new regulations to our attractive legislative and business environment in line with our ambitious 2024 Strategy. Our flexible structures, which also benefit private wealth management and family trusts, continue to give us the edge,” he added.
The DIFC is committed to a ten-year strategy of trebling in size by 2024 in terms of the number of member firms and employees as well as the value of assets under management.
In the first half of 2018, the DIFC attracted three of the biggest names in global finance, Chinese firm Everbright Group and American giants State Street Global Advisers and Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.
Last month, Fidelity International, the Bermuda-based investment management group, announced it too was to set up in the DIFC.
“These companies benefit from three types of fund structures, as well as tried-and-tested special-purpose companies and insurance special-purpose vehicles, used in structured financing transactions or related to entities of substance. The DIFC’s international-standard regulatory framework and flexible business environment are already paying dividends to global and regional companies within the Center’s community,” the center said.
In total, the DIFC reported a 17 percent rise in new financial institutions registering in the first half of the year, bringing the total to 2,003 with a combined workforce of nearly 23,000.
That period coincided with the decline of Abraaj Capital, the private equity fund manager that has been at the heart of the DIFC since it opened in 2004, but which was ultimately owned by a Cayman Islands holding company.
Financial and legal experts believe there will be no significant damage to Dubai from the Abraaj affair. Habib Al Mulla, one of the UAE’s leading corporate lawyers, told Arab News recently: “I don’t believe Dubai’s reputation has been damaged. The DIFC entity is not involved. There are various Abraaj entities which are subject of different jurisdictions.”
Nigel Sillitoe, chief executive of market research group Insight Discovery, which specializes in wealth and asset management sectors, said: “In the past quarter our company has received more requests than ever to support asset management companies within the DIFC.
“The recent woes at Abraaj did make us think that business might slow down but so far we haven’t seen any impact.”
The center enacted two new laws in March: The trust law, which provides an appropriate environment for the operation of trusts in the DIFC, and the foundations law, a new regime to provide greater certainty and flexibility for private wealth management and charitable institutions.