Keynote Address by HE Ahmed Al Sayegh, Chairman of ADGM

Middle East Investment Conference 2017 on 23 Feb 2017 ADGM Auditorium

1. (Your Excellences) Ladies and gentlemen! Good morning. To our overseas guests, a warm welcome to Abu Dhabi and everyone, welcome to Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi’s international financial centre. We are proud to host you today in ADGM Authorities building and to support the 2017 Middle East Investment Conference. I hope this is the beginning of many more of such leadership forums and industry networking that will take place in our IFC.

2. 2017 kicked off as another eventful year with a new US President in office, Greece and France back in the limelight, more confident mood driven by evidence of having a balanced approach and strong trade growth in China, and improved firming of commodity prices. Despite the heightened uncertainty, there seems to be an obvious renewed optimism, as seen in the market’s exuberance and performance, in anticipation of the contours of the incoming US Administration’s trade policies and the possible deployment of fiscal policy in advanced economies. So, rather than attempting to provide forecasts, a risky business which I think our speakers today are better at, let’s look at the developments and growth in the Middle East, particularly the UAE.

3. As a major economic centre for the MENA region, and an international trading nexus for the East and the West, the UAE’s success is underpinned by a number of integrating factors – political stability, security, advanced infrastructure, and an enabling legislative environment. The UAE is also a compelling investment destination. In 2015, the UAE attracted FDI inflows of 13billion US dollars, a 25% increase from 2014.

4. Our country’s expanding role as a major international trade and finance hub continues to present investment opportunities in sectors such as infrastructure, finance, aviation, retail, tourism, consumer services and others. And we continue to invest heavily in diversification, local talent, innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives.

5. As an enabler of growth, the financial sector is one of the key pillars in facilitating investments in the Abu Dhabi economy.  Financial services sector is not only an engine of growth, it also supports growth more widely among the various sectors of the real economy. It enables efficient allocation of capital; management of risks; it brings about greater innovation to support consumption, production and growth in the real economy, and ultimately, it enables wealth creation.

6. There is also a great need for financial services in this region and this is due to several factors. Firstly the need to diversify from petrochemicals and the demand for financial intermediation to support new developments; Secondly, we anticipate that strong demographic growth in this region will generate the demand for more financial services such as corporate banking, treasury services, foreign exchange and capital markets. And Thirdly, greater demand for infrastructure, facilities and financial services will be required to support the needs of this region as a whole.

7. It is with this view in mind that ADGM was established to support the financial stability and long-term economic growth of Abu Dhabi and the UAE. It is our role, as an IFC, to identify, and cater to the current and future needs of the markets in our region.

8. We have set up an open, business-friendly and internationally-regulated ecosystem to assist local institutions to base their activities at home instead of abroad. We enable regional institutions to support and conduct business activities and we also help international institutions to tap into the ADGM platform to centre their outreach strategy and interests in Abu Dhabi to serve the wider region and beyond.

9. Over the course of the past 16 months or so since we became fully operational, ADGM has had the privilege to work closely with local and international stakeholders to understand and further their aspirations and innovation. As an IFC and a regulator, we embrace all aspects of innovation that enable growth and facilitate greater developments.

10. We understand the necessity of preparing for the future by strengthening our core and embracing new changes. We are living in a world where transformational technologies are pushing the boundaries of economic opportunities while challenging current business models. Today the word “disruption” is mainstream and we hear it being used across all industries and sectors. All of this will have significant bearing on the scale and nature of jobs in our markets & economies. For instance, FinTech developments such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, biometric applications and virtual currencies are expanding the frontier of financial services.

11. 2016 saw more than 17.6 billion dollars of VC investments in 1,436 global FinTech deals across 66 countries. So it is quite clear that the next decade will be a highly transformational one for financial institutions worldwide.

12. At ADGM, we recognised the potential and impact of FinTech on our economy since we first began operations. Thus last year in March we were the first jurisdiction, in this region, to announce our ambition to be the FinTech hub to support, enable and accelerate FinTech activities and development. We moved quickly on two fronts to create the right and sustainable ecosystem.

(i) Firstly, we established a conducive and balanced regulatory environment to support FinTech.

(ii) Secondly, we launched a RegLab regime in November 2016. A regulatory sandbox, to encourage and allow FinTech start-ups to develop, test and deploy their solutions before going out to the market. This is the first RegLab in the MENA region and I am proud to share with you that so far we have received 11 applications from local and regional stakeholders, including an application from Singapore on digital banking.

13. We are also working closely with strategic stakeholders and partners to enable the continuous growth and development of not only the FinTech front, but the wider Abu Dhabi financial sector and region.

14. To plan ahead for the future and to build the economy of tomorrow, we recognise that both “knowledge” and a deep pool of highly skilled human capital are essential factors of sustainable production. “Knowledge” is also proven to be one of the most important pillars in maintaining our country’s and our economy’s competitiveness.

15. The UAE has been responsive and committed to new technology, innovation, diversification and education, paired with becoming a knowledge economy. At ADGM, we will also do our part as an IFC to provide an inclusive environment that incubates and generates knowledge, innovation and high standards that will empower the financial services and other key sectors to be competitive and responsive in all circumstances. To achieve this, we are working closely with key industry & academic stakeholders to address this area.

16. As much as we fortify ourselves in having a knowledge-based regime, we need to attract talent (both local and international), cultivate a highly skilled local workforce and retain the talent capital to strengthen our own base and to support the strategic growth of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.

17. We believe that an informed and knowledgeable economy not only generates greater growth, it creates opportunities and jobs for our community, companies and institutions. On this note, we at ADGM hope to have the support of leading industry bodies such as the CFA and others to enhance the business and financial environment in this region.

18. At ADGM we are committed to our responsibility as an IFC to be a centre of knowledge and a platform for talent development for our sector and industry. We plan to share some key announcements on this front with you all soon but in the meantime I invite you to consider ADGM to be your talent partner in Abu Dhabi.

19. Before I conclude, I would like to wish everyone a very rewarding and engaging day of sharing expertise and ideas. I hope today’s conference is a beginning of friendships and new potential partnerships. Thank you.

Author: Dylan Jones

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