Last year, DIFC partnered with Digitus to become the first jurisdiction in the world to develop English common law digital wills. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Dubai: Financial technology or Fintech as it is more commonly known, has emerged as the buzzword of the decade in the rapidly changing financial services industry. Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has been taking a pioneering role on the global and regional stage.

As a founding member of the Global Blockchain Council, a strategic initiative of the Government of Dubai, the Centre has been exploring opportunities to apply blockchain technology to financial services.

Last year, DIFC partnered with Digitus, a leading crypto currency software provider, to become the first jurisdiction in the world to develop English common law digital wills which are easy to set up online, highly secure and enforceable across the world.

Traditionally, the DIFC has been known to be a premium community for financial and professional services firms, including lawyers, insurers, banks and asset managers. Lately, it has been actively developing its existing ecosystem of Fintech firms.

The regulatory infrastructure put in place by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) has gone a long way to develop the Fintech ecosystem in the Middle East Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

“Six months on from Eureeca becoming the first Equity Crowdfunding platform to be licensed by the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) to operate with a representative office in the DIFC, we have already seen the country’s innovative ecosystem go from strength to strength,” said Sam Quawasmi, Co-CEO and Co-founder of Eureeca.com.

Hive of opportunities

In looking to further enhance the growth of Fintech, DIFC announced the launch of Fintech Hive at DIFC earlier this year. The first-of-its-kind accelerator in the region will link cutting edge financial services technology to the region’s 3 billion people and $7.4 trillion (Dh27 trillion) of GDP by facilitating collaboration with leading regional and international financial institutions. It will function as a platform to convene financial firms and technology companies together along a collaboratively innovative supply chain to guide, mentor and customise technology for local markets.

The accelerator is currently accepting applications from technology firms around the world that are keen on accessing MEASA markets, and will take entrants through a series of mentorship and co-working sessions for a period of 12 weeks. This will culminate with a “demo day” where start-ups will display their work and engage with tech firms as potential customers and investors.

Global investment

The opportunity to get in front of potential investors from the finance community is what makes the Fintech Hive at DIFC especially attractive to entrepreneurs. Laurent Lemaire, Chairman & CEO, Elseco Limited, a DIFC-based InsurTech firm established a decade ago that has grown to be the largest space insurer in the world, believes there is a significant investment being made into the growth and development of the sector: In 2016, global investment in Fintech companies hit 24.7 billion across 1,076 deals in the fourth quarter of 2016. All those initiatives are aimed at unbundling, disrupting and optimising the banking and insurance industry.

“In my view, Dubai and particularly the DIFC can play a major role in encouraging the build out of an ecosystem for DIFC-based Fintech companies by facilitating the availability of capital and clarifying and enabling the regulatory frameworks. The initial steps in this direction have been very encouraging, but we need to ensure that the legal environment remains supportive of business ventures and protects Intellectual Property rights,” said Lemaire.

Fintech is well-positioned to revolutionise the way financial services are delivered to consumers, from online and mobile payments to digital will making — quickly, flexibly and securely. Through fostering an environment of financial technology firms, such as Fintech Hive at DIFC, the Centre is catalysing tangible impact in this dynamic sector across the MEASA region and beyond.