Partnerships Between The United States and The Gulf Cooperation Council Region in Fintech, Tech and The Financial Services Sector by Richie Santosdiaz for The FinTech Times
Fintech Middle East & Africa Regtech

The Dubai Financial Services Authority Invite New Wave of Fintechs to the ITL Programme

Local and international firms have been invited to join the next cohort of companies on The Dubai Financial Services Authority‘s (DFSA) Innovation Testing Licence (ITL) Programme. The cohort will be open to applicants from 1st to 31st July. Successful cohort applicants will be invited to apply to enter the DFSA’s Innovation Testing Licence (ITL) Programme.

Launched in 2017, the ITL is a licensed regulatory sandbox that enables approved firms to test new and innovative financial products, services, and business models in and from the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) within a restricted regulatory environment. Firms must provide a clear explanation of their planned business model and the proposed innovative product or service.

There are four cornerstones that are essential to be accepted onto the ITL.

  1. It must involve innovation and the use of financial technology:
    • The DFSA will take into consideration:
      (i) whether the business model, product or service uses new, emerging or existing technology in an
      innovative way; and
    • (ii) if it brings a new benefit to customers or industry.
  2. It must involve an activity that, if carried on in the DIFC, would amount to a financial service (or
    combination of financial services).

    • The activity proposed must involve a financial service within the scope of the DFSA’s regulatory regime.
  3. It must be ready (or soon be ready) to start live testing with customers or industry:
    • The DFSA will want to see a regulatory test plan (“Test Plan”) that for example: sets out the objectives and parameters for testing, and the timeline and key milestones for that testing.
  4. The FinTech firm must intend to roll out its business on a broader scale in or from the DIFC after it has successfully completed the testing phase:
    • The DFSA will want to see evidence of how the FinTech firm intends to roll out its business at the end of the test period.

Once these eligibility criteria have been satisfied, the FinTech firm seeking an ITL must initiate discussions
with the DFSA and the DIFC Authority in respect of the general regulatory requirements that it will be subject to.

The general regulatory requirements that may apply to the applicant will be dependent on a case by case basis; however, the DFSA may waive or modify the relevant rules and requirements that may have been otherwise applicable. This allows the FinTech firm to test its innovative products, services and business models without having to comply with the all the general regulatory requirements that may be inappropriate or disproportionate to the innovative nature of the FinTech business.

Bryan Stirewalt, Chief Executive of the DFSA said: “Innovation brings a promise of increased competition, financial inclusion, improved consumer choice, and new products and services which are more efficient or beneficial. As the need for these solutions increases, so does the need for trusted solution providers. The ITL Programme enables a direct testing environment for these innovative products, services and business models, pursuant to a testing plan. Operating within the framework of a sandbox can reduce regulatory uncertainties and provide clarification on regulatory and supervisory expectations. We look forward to receiving a fresh batch of applications for technology-driven companies with unique solutions.”

The programme reflects the DFSA’s continued commitment to new and emerging technologies in the DIFC. Since the May 2017 launch of the ITL, a total of 105 companies have applied to enter the programme and 51 applicants have been accepted into the programme.  At present, five firms are operating in the ITL, three firms have successfully completed and exited the programme, and seven firms have an In-Principal approval.


  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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