By Bernd Debusmann Jr
DIFC governor and board chairman Essa Kazim said that DIFC is 'on track' for its DIFC 2.0 expansion plans
The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) announced record growth in 2019, with the total number of firms in the centre rising 14 percent to 2,437, according to Essa Kazim, the chairman of DIFC Authority Board of Directors and governor of DIFC.
On Sunday, the DIFC said that it is now home to 737 active financial firms – an 18 percent increase since 2018 and 64 percent increase compared to five years ago.
The centre is now home to 17 of the world’s top 20 banks, eight of it’s the 10 leading global law firms, three of the top five insurance firms and six of the top ten asset managers among its clients.
Notable registrations in 2019 included global payments firm WorldFirst, Malaysia’s Maybank Islamic Berhad, Mauritius Commercial Bank and US financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald.
Additionally, the DIFC said that 2019 saw the creation of 2,034 new jobs, increasing its total workforce to 25,600 – up 9 percent from 2018.
“This has been another momentous year for DIFC and we are pleased to have produced record results having achieved a number of milestones including firms registered, number of employees at the centre and total assets,” Kazim said.
“The centre’s success is being powered by our focus on sector diversification, investment in innovation and our unwavering commitment to attracting the best global and local talent,” he added.
In total, banking assets booked in DIFC stood at $178 billion in 2019 – up 13 percent from 2018, with an additional $99bn of lending arranged by DIFC firms.
DIFC’s total wealth and asset management (WAM) business is worth $424bn.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference announcing the results, Kazim said that plans for ‘DIFC 2.0’ remain on track.
Announced by UAE Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in January 2019, the plans call for 13 million square feet of space to be added to the centre.
Upon completion, the new district will comprise 6.4m square feet of office space, 2.6m square feet of creative space, 1.5m square feet of residences, 1.3m square feet of retail space and 700,000 square feet devoted to leisure and entertainment.
“The expansion, DIFC 2.0, is [going according] to plan, but it’s going to be done gradually,” he said. “We are not going to build unless we have tenants that are interested in taking the space.”
However, in the future Kazim said that many of DIFC’s tenants may be more tech-focused firms that do not require the considerable space required by ‘traditional’ firms.
“The environment that we’ll be creating there and the workplaces that will be there will be completely different from the old style workplace,” he said. “We hope to create something that will support future finance [firms] and attract more FinTech companies, innovation labs, educators.”
“For the type of companies that will be there, the requirements will not be as much as someone who is running a back office operation, version 1.0,” Kazim added.