By Shane McGinley
A leading executive rejected claims the free zone was too focused on retail
A leading executive from Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has hit out at “silly” jibes the free zone was too focused on retail and hospitality and claimed it was now a thriving financial hub.
During the financial downturn in Dubai, when the real estate bubble burst and prices slumped by around 60 percent, many high profile observers claimed the DIFC was too concerned with real estate and needed to refocus on attracting global financial institutions. Some less generous online analysts claimed the financial free zone was nicknamed the ‘Dubai International Food Court’.
“The Dubai International Financial Centre is more of a shopping centre and more of a real estate project,” Dr Habib Al Mulla, founding chairman of the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), told Arabian Business in June 2010.
“They need to get back on track to the initial goals of the DIFC,” added Al Mulla, who was responsible for the drafting of the regulatory regime of the DIFC upon its inception in September 2004.
However, as the free zone announced its latest performance results, a leading DIFC executive has hit back at the claims. “I thought it was a silly comment,” Kevin R. Birkett, head of financial services at the DIFC Authority, said of Al Mulla’s comments and similar ‘food court’ jibes.
“We have a thriving financial services business… people need to eat,” he added.
To reiterate the point, the DIFC Authority on Tuesday announced it is aiming for 100 percent growth over the next five years, on the back of seven percent growth in the number of companies located within the free zone last year.
“The centre does have the potential to double in size in the next five years because of the rate of progression we have seen so far,” Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of the DIFC Authority, told reporters at a media roundtable.
The authority reported that the number of companies registered in the free zone rose seven percent to 848 as of the end of December 31.
Al Awar reported the number of staff employed in the free zone last year rose to around 12,000, a rise of over ten percent since 2010.
Al Mulla previously claimed the DIFC “has moved away from the path we set out on, which was to build a financial centre with high standards, to attract the 500 top companies in the region, to become a hub for doing business for the whole region.”
This was refuted by Al Awar, who reported that the DIFC is currently home to 21 of the world’s top banks, six of the world’s ten largest insurers, six of the biggest law firms and eight of the top 20 global money managers.
In a sign of changing global demographics, the DIFC Authority reported that 37 percent of companies originated from the Middle East and Asia exactly the same proportion of firms which were based in Europe.
“Although the past two years were exceptionally challenging from a global perspective, the community in DIFC was resilient and this was noticed in the net positive growth in the number of clients that tapped the DIFC during this period,” Al Awar added.For all the latest banking and finance news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
I have my company registered in DIFC and its a pleasure to have so many good restaurant here.... But where are the Hedge funds , the real asset managers? With the rise of tax in Europe its an opportunity for the DIFC to attract them and instead the Brevan Howard, Citadel, Tudor. Moore Capital move their operation in Switzerland or Singapore....Thats is a reality. Any new firm coming in is family moving in with housing, cars, shopping, mortgage, schools etc and it brings a lot of cash inflow to the UAE.... Lets make it happen as the platform is perfect but need promotion and target the right potential clients and sell them the story of Dubai
so a valid comment made 2 years ago still worries the Head of Financial services in DIFC.
Clearly the comment was far more perceptive than could ever have been realised.