‘UAE serves as fi­nan­cial hub for the Mid­dle East’

The National - News - - BUSINESS - Mah­moud Kasem

Raja Al Mazrouei, the act­ing ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Fin­tech Hive at the Dubai In­ter­na­tional Fi­nan­cial cen­tre, talks about the year in fin­tech

Q Was 2017 the year fin­tech re­ally took off in the UAE?

A Ab­so­lutely. Re­ally it started with an­nounce­ment of [DIFC’s] Fin­tech Hive in Jan­uary this year and then in Au­gust we started ac­tual pro­grammes. We re­ceived more than 200 ap­pli­ca­tions when we were ac­tu­ally ex­pect­ing 50. It means the in­dus­try is ready and that the tim­ing was just right.

What is Dubai’s po­si­tion as a fin­tech hub in a global con­text?

I think the UAE is tak­ing a lead in the whole re­gion by hav­ing the reg­u­la­tion, the fund­ing, the in­cu­ba­tors. I think it’s a step ahead of the whole re­gion.

In terms of size, how does it com­pare?

The UAE is serv­ing the whole re­gion as a hub and not just the UAE. The UAE mar­ket is small in size rel­a­tive to the whole re­gion but be­cause we have the plat­forms that en­able these tech­nolo­gies to ex­port in­no­va­tion to the whole re­gion through these fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tional part­ner­ships we cre­ate a big­ger im­pact. The UAE mar­ket is reg­u­lated and is small for these banks but they are us­ing the tech­nol­ogy from here to serve the wider re­gion which I think is a good move. What is the way to gauge the size of a fin­tech hub?

We mea­sure it in terms of the num­ber of fin­tech com­pa­nies in the re­gion. There are 80 in the re­gion and 30 per cent are in the UAE. With re­gards to fin­tech, US$18 mil­lion has been in­vested in 2016, $50m in 2017 and in 2018 it is ex­pected to be $270m for the re­gion. It’s grown be­yond our an­tic­i­pa­tion. We found that the in­ter­est is huge, which means the in­dus­try is ready. They just need the reg­u­la­tion.

What can we ex­pect for fin­tech in 2018?

In the DIFC, we have an­nounced two pro­grammes. We’re go­ing to have a pro­gramme for in­cu­ba­tion and one for ac­cel­er­a­tion. We will in­clude ar­eas like regtech [reg­u­la­tory tech­nol­ogy], and in­suretech and fin­tech and will be work­ing on the fund that has been an­nounced of $100m. I be­lieve all of these pro­grammes to­gether will help us ex­port fin­tech to the re­gion.

Will the DIFC be­come the lead­ing hub for fin­tech?

Bahrain, Saudi Ara­bia and Abu Dhabi are also work­ing on fin­tech hubs. And if you look at the way they are all work­ing on it to­wards boost­ing this in­dus­try, it’s a tes­ta­ment that it is an op­por­tu­nity for the re­gion and every­body is try­ing to cap­ture it from dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives.

Vic­tor Besa for The Na­tional

Raja Al Mazrouei of Fin­tech Hive

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