(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The size of the wealth and asset management sector at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) stands at $424 billion, equivalent to roughly 30 per cent of the combined gross domestic product of all GCC countries.
Essa Kazim, governor of the DIFC, which is the leading financial hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region, said on Monday that over the past 15 years, the centre has grown into what is today a focal point for the global business and investor community.
He said a testament to the remarkable success of the DIFC is amount of capital being raised in the centre. "The approximate size of the wealth and asset management industry in the DIFC is now $424 billion. To put this in context, that is equivalent to roughly 30 per cent of the combined GDP of all GCC countries."
Speaking at the second edition of the Global Financial Forum, which drew 700 leading figures from across the financial services industry, the DIFC governor said the wealth and asset management sector is the cornerstone of a thriving financial services industry, and is playing a significant role in attracting new businesses to Dubai and driving the increasing contribution of the sector to the emirate's GDP.
The contribution of the sector has risen from 3 per cent to 3.9 per cent, a 30 per cent increase, in the past five years. "This incredible momentum is a reflection of the enhancements we have made in our ecosystem, and in laws and regulations to support growth," Kazim said during his welcome address at the forum.
He said DIFC has risen from 15th to 12th on the latest Global Financial Centres Index, reflecting the record-breaking success of DIFC over the past 12 months.
Speakers at the forum included investment guru Mark Mobius; Sir Gerry Grimstone, former chairman of Barclays Bank; Nicolas Cary, co-founder of Blockchain; economic commentator Martin Wolf from the Financial Times; Shayne Nelson, group chief executive officer of Emirates NBD; and Sunil Kaushal, regional chief executive officer for Africa and the Middle East at Standard Chartered.
Grimstone, who is now chairman of a joint-venture between Bahrain-based Investcorp and Aberdeen Standard Investments, said the fundamental economic changes taking place in the Mena region and the need to build adequate infrastructure for its diversified economies give rise to huge opportunities.
Mohamed Rafique Merican, group chief executive officer of Islamic Banking at Maybank, and chief executive officer of Maybank Islamic Berhad, said among the GCC nations, the UAE is the largest trading partner for Asean with half of trade flows between GCC and Asean originating from the UAE.
"We commend the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre for developing several initiatives in developing the halal economy which is currently being used as a benchmark by many countries and institutions."
Bahren Shaari, chief executive officer at Bank of Singapore, looked at the opportunities for wealth and asset managers in the region.
"Industry 4.0 is transforming economies, businesses, jobs and even society itself. Smart and connected technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, are not only being embedded in organisations, but also our daily lives," said Shaari.
"Together with machine learning, robotics and automation, these technologies have become the new normal. With the proliferation of the technological hype, businesses including financial institutions are racing ahead with 4.0 initiatives of every shape and size. No one wants to be left behind," he said.
Fintech was one of the hot topics at the GFF, which focused on the opportunities presented by disruptive technology, demographic shifts, new trends and a greater focus on sustainability in the region.
Nicolas Cary, co-founder and vice-chairman of Blockchain, said cryptocurrency is the first financial system designed specifically for the internet age using distribution ledger technology.
"Now anyone with an Internet connection has the ability to send, receive, secure and exchange value instantly and without an intermediary. Finance is being completely reimagined and we have yet to realise the true potential of this revolutionary money," he said.
The forum also witnessed the official appointment of Middle East Venture Partners and Wamda Capital to manage part of $100 million of the DIFC FinTech Fund. The event also witnessed the signing of a number of key agreements aimed at driving the future of finance, including an MoU with Dubai SME to help foster entrepreneurship in the UAE and further the National Innovation Agenda.
Issac John Associate Business Editor of Khaleej Times, is a well-connected Indian journalist and an economic and financial commentator. He has been in the UAE's mainstream journalism for 35 years, including 23 years with Khaleej Times. A post-graduate in English and graduate in economics, he has won over two dozen awards. Acclaimed for his authentic and insightful analysis of global and regional businesses and economic trends, he is respected for his astute understanding of the local business scene.