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Wed 27 Jan 2016 01:38 PM

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Abu Dhabi's new financial free zone awards first licence

Afkar Capital is backed by ex EFG-Hermes CEO and Emirates Reit deputy chairman

Abu Dhabi's new financial free zone awards first licence

Abu Dhabi’s new investment free zone has awarded its first financial licence, it has emerged.

Afkar Capital, an incubator for asset management fund start-ups, received a licence from Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) on January 13, a spokesperson for ADGM told Arabian Business.

It is the first financial firm to join ADGM since the free zone opened for business last October.

Afkar Capital has been set up by Seif Fikry, former CEO of investment bank EFG-Hermes’ GCC business, and Sylvain Vieujot, executive deputy chairman  of the UAE’s only real estate investment trust, Emirates Reit.

Fikry told The National this week. “It is an honour to be first [to win a licence] but it’s also pretty scary. ADGM has put a lot of responsibility on us and we need to live up to it.

“We agree with ADGM that we need to start a real global asset management industry in the region, it’s as simple as that.”

Fikry said he left his job at EFG last summer to set up Afkar Capital. He reportedly met Vieujot – who becomes a non-executive director of Afkar Capital – while advising on the Emirates Reit flotation in 2013.

“Afkar will act as a facilitator for asset management businesses wanting to set up in the UAE,” he said. “We provide the backbone and infrastructure for a would-be asset manager.

“Afkar allows for the influx of innovative financial instruments to regional markets by providing fund managers with the necessary tools to bring their ideas to life.”

ADGM has already awarded 17 non-financial licences. On Tuesday it announced the creation of a regulatory committee to oversee the free zone’s financial and investment operations.

The chair of the free zone’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority committee is Jane Diplock, former chairman of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions and a renowned financial regulatory expert.

ADGM chairman Ahmed Al Sayegh told a conference this week: “ADGM’s purpose is to set up a sustainable business and financial ecosystem in Abu Dhabi for local and international financial and non-financial entities to thrive.

“At ADGM, entities can now efficiently set up trusts, special-purpose vehicles, family offices, collective investment schemes, open-ended and closed-ended companies within a one-stop shop environment in Abu Dhabi.”

ADGM is reviewing several applications from national, regional and global financial institutions before awarding further licences.

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