- Number of registered licences jumped 3 times, with 92 approved finance licences, and fund management AUM surged more than 500%
- The award follows a number of industry awards including FinTech Regulator of the Year 2018
27 November 2018: Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM), the International Financial Centre in Abu Dhabi, has been named ‘Financial Centre of the Year (MENA)’ for a third year in a row by Global Investor magazine. The accolade, presented at the annual MENA Capital Markets Summit Awards in Dubai, is a testament to ADGM’s achievements and innovations across all three of its authorities (the Financial Services Regulatory Authority, the Registration Authority and the ADGM Courts) in 2018.
ADGM’s approach to innovation, its commitment to providing a well-regulated environment and its customer-oriented ecosystem have resulted in continued strong growth into its third year of operations in 2018. Registered licenses have almost tripled from 430 in 2017 to about 1250 in 2018. ADGM has approved 92 financial entities and added another 20 local and foreign funds, bringing assets under management to a total of USD$23 billion from USD$4.2 billion in 2017. Firms anchoring in ADGM include Citibank, State Street, Unicredit, BNP Paribas and Softbank. Today, ADGM is recognised as the top REIT-management hub in the region and continues to have a strong pipeline of financial and non-financial firms pending applications and approvals.
ADGM has been championing innovation, pioneering new regulations and establishing innovative solutions to enable financial intermediation, attract more liquidity and investments, and anchor financial services in the region. Year-on-year, ADGM has launched a broad range of regional’s first initiatives and innovations to reinforce a dynamic and global international financial centre and business hub in Abu Dhabi.
Initiatives include: transforming the financial and capital markets via innovative solutions; advocating thought-leadership FinTech solutions; revolutionising the delivery of civil and commercial judicial dispute-resolution services with a fully digital eCourts platform; introducing the competitive aviation financing regime, launching a holistic tech start-up licence and an entrepreneurship programme for the SME community; and establishing the world’s most comprehensive crypto asset regulatory framework. (Please refer to Annex for more details).
H.E Ahmed Al Sayegh, Chairman of ADGM said, “ADGM’s commitment to the economic advancement of Abu Dhabi has been recognised since our first year in operation and we would like to thank the UAE government, Abu Dhabi leadership, industry participants and Global Investor Group’s panel for their endorsement and encouragement. It gets more challenging yearly to vie for these awards and we are heartened to receive the industry endorsement for a third consecutive year.”
“ADGM has advanced at an exceptional pace with transformational initiatives in all aspects of its operations from financials to non-financials to its judicial regime. Our thought-leadership achievements in FinTech, innovative financial offerings, world-class arbitration services to forward-thinking business programmes and services have reinforced our value propositions as an IFC and business hub to the local and global communities. We will continue to maintain our common law jurisdiction and provide an efficient and inclusive ecosystem that attracts and facilitates even more investments and new business opportunities now and well into the future.”
Annex: ADGM’s Achievements and Milestones for 2018
Creating New Financial and Capital Market Opportunities
- ADGM welcomed more global systemically important financial institutions such as BNP Paribas, Citibank, Unicredit, and State Street Corporation and international investment firms such as Softbank and McKinley Capital now call ADGM “home” in seeking to fulfil their global ambitions. Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth funds have also lent their weight. ADIA and Mubadala have announced plans to expand their presence and operations in ADGM. The decision to move existing, or start new, operations in ADGM validates our efforts and strategy as an IFC and a global business hub.
- Transforming the capital markets, ADGM opened its China Beijing office in May 2018 and partnered with Shanghai Stock Exchange to establish a “Belt-and-Road” Exchange in ADGM. First of its kind in MENA, the new Exchange will signal an advantageous development and bring new avenues of investments and financial opportunities along Belt & Road region.
- Endorsing ADGM, the Jiangsu Government has established a Financial-Services-Platform in ADGM with a commitment of US$2 billion to support the needs of Chinese enterprises. This financial services commitment is the first and only such initiative confirmed in the presence of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and President Xi during his visit to Abu Dhabi in July 2018.
Transforming Capital and Financial Markets via Digital Innovation
(a) Advancing the global FinTech and tech start-up sectors
- In 2016, ADGM became the first jurisdiction in MENA to start licensing FinTech firms, and the first to create a regulatory sandbox (known as the Regulatory Laboratory – the RegLab). Taking a step further, ADGM launched the region’s first FinTech digital sandbox in September to accelerate financial services innovation and financial inclusion in the UAE and MENA region. Today, the ADGM RegLab is the second most active regulatory sandbox globally.
- More recently, ADGM successfully completed the world’s first cross-border testing of FinTech digital sandbox connectivity with ASEAN Financial Innovation Network (AFIN) between Abu Dhabi and Singapore. ADGM partnered with AFIN, who are building a digital marketplace – the API Exchange (APIX) – to support financial inclusion. The APIX was launched by H.E Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India at the 2018 Singapore FinTech Festival.
- The ADGM Digital Sandbox is designed to provide a secure cloud-based environment for FinTech firms, banks and other financial institutions to connect, test products and share data through flexible platforms (APIs) with regulator engagement. This digital sandbox will accelerate the financial inclusion agenda and expand access to financial services locally and globally. In addition, it will help to reduce costs of procurement for institutions and start-ups alike.
- ADGM has also partnered with global accelerators and FinTech gurus - Plug & Play, the world’s most active technology venture-capital fund, launched its programme with ADGM to serve, nurture and attract local and global FinTech entrepreneurs and investors to Abu Dhabi. In May 2018, Plug & Play and KPMG Digital Village opened in the ADGM FinTech Innovation Centre.
- For the underserved SMEs, ADGM launched a new framework to regulate operators of Private Financing Platforms (PFPs) serving equity investment, debt financing and trade receivables, and funding needs of startups, private enterprises and SMEs. This complements ADGM’s venture-capital (VC) framework that supports VC activities and seed investments.
- The introduction of ADGM’s new and comprehensive regulatory regime in relation to the spot trading of crypto assets is a global first. ADGM’s best-in-class framework has been designed to address the full range of risks associated with crypto asset activities, including risks relating to money laundering and financial crime, consumer protection, technology governance, custody and exchange operations and regulates the activities undertaken by exchanges, custodians and other intermediaries within ADGM.
- It is second after the US to approve two global players to establish crypto derivative exchange and clearing houses; and first-in-the-region to approve a digital asset manager with other players in the pipeline.
- In 2018, ADGM was voted as “FinTech Regulator of the Year (MENA)” by Seamless Middle East and “Most Innovative MENA FinTech Regulator of the Year” by the FinX Award 2018.
(b) A world-class innovative, pro-business and trusted platform for corporates and SMEs
- ADGM has introduced more innovative and customer-oriented corporate and legal vehicles to enable corporates and financiers to protect key assets and secure capital for growth. ADGM enhances investability to entrepreneurs and their start-ups, providing structures for good governance in a safe and transparent legal environment with access to professional advisers, banks and investors throughout the SME lifecycle.
- The new tech start-up license is sector-agnostic and enables entrepreneurs to obtain an ADGM operational license to benefit from the same globally recognized international operating standards that current ADGMnfunds, multinationals, SMEs, advisers and other registered entities benefit from in a cost-effective way. Furthermore, the Entrepreneurship Support Programme launched in October this year, designed in collaboration with leading local and international advisors, offers ADGM registered entrepreneurs and startups an array of business services to develop and enhance entrepreneurship and start-up businesses.
- ADGM has also facilitated the transaction of a 12 year Sukuk issued by Natixis and Noor Bank marking a milestone reinforcing ADGM’s global lead in the aviation financing and leasing sector. It is the first instance where an ADGM structure has been used specifically to hold aircraft assets for issuing Sharia compliant bonds.
(c) Game-changing and transformational digital eCourts platform
- The eCourts platform, launched in April 2018, revolutionises the delivery of civil and commercial judicial dispute-resolution services and transforms the way courts interact with litigants and the legal profession. The integrated eCourts platform provides an end-to-end solution and offers the capability to adjudicate cases entirely remotely via video link using state-of-the-art technology to allow seamless and efficient litigation and court proceedings, and to facilitate holistic judicial dispute-resolution in real-time, multiple languages, regardless of difference in locations and time zones. ADGM Courts will continue to implement ground-breaking digital solutions across all aspects of ADGM’s dispute-resolution services.
- The ADGM Arbitration Centre, opened in October 2018, is a hearing facility with digitally advanced facilities and state-of-the-art technology. This milestone launch accommodates the growing popularity of arbitration as a form of dispute resolution. Any party wishing to have their arbitration case heard or mediation held in the ADGM Arbitration Centre can use the advanced facilities offered in the Centre.
Robust and Trusted Internationally-Recognised Regulatory and Legislative Environment
- Innovation sits at the heart of ADGM. The robust regulatory and legal framework of ADGM continues to win the trust and endorsement of investors and market participants locally and globally. In the last year, ADGM has successfully established a number of leading frameworks including data protection, the private financing platform, a robust prudential regime, venture capital manager framework, to provide for a responsive, open and trusted regulatory ecosystem to secure business assurance.
Establishing a Sustainable Future and Advocating Sustainable Finance
- ADGM has stepped forward to work with international and regional stakeholders to drive investments to achieve long-term good for society and future generations. ADGM aims to position Abu Dhabi as a centre for the raising and deployment of capital and the prudent management of risk in support of sustainablyoriented, long-term economic growth.