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DIFC is Redesigning Dubai’s Fintech Following Best Performance in 16-Year History

Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), an international financial hub in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region has recently reported the best performance in its 16-year history.

Delivered under the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of DIFC, these achievements contribute to all pillars of Dubai’s 2021 strategy, including raising the emirate’s status not only as a pivotal global economic hub, but also as a smart and sustainable city.

Reaffirming Dubai’s growing reputation across the global finance industry, the number of new firms operating in DIFC grew by 20%, taking the total to 2,919. A total of 915 financial companies are now active in DIFC, up 24 per cent from 735 in 2019. The number of businesses in the fintech and innovation ecosystem more than doubled with 189 joining in 2020, taking the total to 303. This represents substantial progress on DIFC’s 2024 vision and strategy to drive the future of finance. The wide range of new clients further contributes to the breadth and depth of DIFC, underscoring the solid foundations that the Centre has been built on. Business sectors across DIFC achieved exponential growth, including banking, capital markets, wealth and asset management, fintech and professional services.

Sheikh Maktoum said: “DIFC’s exceptional accomplishments in 2020 demonstrate the strength of the economic foundations created by Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. His Highness’s far-reaching vision for progress has not only made Dubai deeply resilient to challenges but also enabled it to maintain its sustainable development trajectory in a tough global environment. DIFC’s best-ever annual performance in its history, achieved in the country’s 50th anniversary year, also reflects the UAE’s and Dubai’s ability to partner with its business communities to facilitate continued growth despite the most challenging conditions we have seen in the international economy.”

“Furthermore, the expansion across the Centre’s business sectors validates Dubai’s unyielding focus on diversification, innovation and value addition and its deep commitment to providing a supportive environment for businesses across the spectrum – from the world’s largest financial institutions to local entrepreneurs. The remarkable growth in 2020 enhances the diversity and sophistication of DIFC’s financial ecosystem, further raising Dubai’s status as a major focal point for global finance and a growth multiplier for the industry.”

Notable financial services firms opening headquarters and regional offices in DIFC in 2020 included TATA Asset Management, Samba Financial Group, Caixabank and AfricaRe. Fintechs included global and regional names such as Ebury, Ripple, Adyen, KoFax Me and Tabby.

Banking Assets Increased

In 2020, total banking assets booked in DIFC increased by 6% to $189 billion. An additional $64 billion of lending was also arranged by DIFC firms. DIFC-based Wealth and Asset Management portfolio managers invested $203.5 billion, up by 106%, from $99 billion in 2019, with the industry now worth $528.5 billion. Gross Written Premiums for the insurance sector reached $1.7 billion. DIFC’s operating profit was $125 million, broadly consistent with the prior year despite global economic headwinds.

His Excellency Essa Kazim, Governor of DIFC, commented: “Since DIFC launched in 2004, we have demonstrated our ability to sustainably diversify Dubai’s economy and contribute across all parts of its 2021 plan. During 2020, we have delivered exceptional growth across all business sectors, which reflects the confidence the global finance industry holds in DIFC. During 2021 we will continue to demonstrate resilience following the Covid-19 pandemic, are well-positioned to make further progress on our key 2024 priorities and will contribute further to Dubai’s long term economic growth.”

Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer of DIFC Authority, said: “DIFC has demonstrated that being focused on client needs and developing new propositions, laws and regulations delivers outstanding results. We have collaborated with our clients, community, partners and stakeholders to navigate challenging market conditions and help them take advantage of new growth opportunities in 2021. DIFC’s commitment to driving the future of finance has delivered tremendous growth in the fintech and innovation sector. This is an area where we will continue to lead the way in the region given the industry is accelerating its implementation of technologies, recognising strategies and operating models need to change in a post-pandemic world.”


  • Tyler is a fintech journalist with specific interests in online banking and emerging AI technologies. He began his career writing with a plethora of national and international publications.

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