File photo: Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) in Dubai. Total number of companies operating from the DIFC grew by 14 per cent to 2,437 in 2019. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) reported on Sunday that the total number of companies operating from the financial free zone grew by 14 per cent to 2,437 in 2019 compared to 2018.

The DIFC, which attracted a record-breaking 493 new businesses in 2019, now counts 17 of the world’s top 20 banks, 8 of the 10 leading global law firms, 3 of the top 5 insurance companies and 6 of the top 10 asset managers among its clients.

In total, the Centre is home to 737 active financial firms, representing an 18 per cent increase since 2018, and 64 per cent growth in five years. Notable registrations in 2019 include AntFinancial’s global payments pioneer WorldFirst, Malaysia’s Maybank Islamic Berhad, US financial services firm Cantor Fitzgerald, and Mauritius Commercial Bank.

New jobs

Last year the DIFC contributed to the creation of 2,034 new jobs, increasing the combined workforce to more than 25,600 professionals, up 9 per cent compared to 2018, representing more than 140 nationalities.

“This growth reflects the Centre’s significant direct contribution to Dubai’s economy, in line with the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai to establish the emirate as a major global centre for the new economy,” said Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of the DIFC.

Growing assets

In 2019, total banking assets booked in DIFC stood at $178 billion (up by 13 per cent from 2018). An additional $99 billion of lending was also arranged by DIFC firms. DIFC’s total Wealth and Asset Management (WAM) industry is worth $424 billion, of which $99 billion was invested by DIFC portfolio managers. Gross Written Premiums for the insurance sector reached nearly $2 billion in 2019, representing a growth of 17.4 per cent versus 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,” said Essa Kazim, Chairman of DIFC Authority Board of Directors and Governor of DIFC.

During 2019, fDi Intelligence, published by the Financial Times, ranked Dubai seventh globally among the world’s top FinTech Locations of the Future 2019 / 2020 for Economic Potential Index. FinTech companies in the Centre grew four-fold to 129 in 2019.

We have a deep commitment to developing the technologies necessary for digitising the future economy of the region. The rapid growth of young tech firms setting up in DIFC is validation of our strategy to help start-ups to grow by providing access to capital, talent and mature partners with established networks. We are developing a tech ecosystem that will enable tomorrow’s entrepreneurs to flourish,” Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Authority.