ABU DHABI - UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - 08MAY2013 - Al Maryah Island (formerly Sowwah Island) Sowwah Square under construction and which is now a freezone and may have new security in place in Abu Dhabi. Ravindranath K / The National
Abu Dhabi's financial free zone on Al Maryah Island will increase the size of the financial services pie. Ravindranath K / The National

A chance to work in tandem as free zone fever starts to build



The prospect of the new financial free zone in Abu Dhabi has a lot of people excited.
Lawyers in the capital are working overtime to produce the legislation needed to get the project, decreed by the federal government, on track to be operational by the end of the year.
The recruitment firms are busy working on the lists of international heads to hunt to staff the free zone.
Financial professionals in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are weighing their options with regard to the project, the biggest thing to hit the UAE financial industry since the launch of the Dubai International Financial Centre in 2004.
While we await the details of the institutions and authorities that will form the core of the project, it's a useful exercise to assess how we got here. It tells us a lot about where the initiative might be heading.
Lawyers have dissected the original legislation that enabled the UAE to set up financial free zones. It all goes back to federal law number 8 of 2004, which decreed the right of the seven emirates to each set up a financial free zone.
This was a federal law, but was a Dubai initiative, lawyers point out, because Dubai was the only emirate back then to have the intention and the will to launch a financial free zone. The emirate had to pass its own legislation, which eventually became Dubai law number 9 of the same year, to get the DIFC up and running.
Although the decree that appeared in the Abu Dhabi Official Gazette last February was a federal decree, it was also obviously an initiative by the capital. Nobody is seriously suggesting financial free zones in the other five emirates that do not currently have one. Scrutineers also point out another interesting fact from the limited information that is in the public domain.
Although the Abu Dhabi plan leans fairly heavily on the DIFC model in terms of regulation, courts and legal systems, it does not appear to be proposing the establishment of the equivalent of the DIFC Authority, the independent body created to oversee operations in the Dubai free zone.
This suggests that the new Abu Dhabi entity might be more closely integrated into the existing administrative structure in the emirate, rather than being run by an apparently independent body like DIFC Authority.
This is food for thought, in particular, for the regulators in the UAE. The two federal regulators, the UAE Central Bank and the Securities and Commodities Authority, are already joined by the Dubai Financial Services Authority, the DIFC watchdog.
When the new Abu Dhabi centre is born, there will be a fourth significant financial regulatory force in the UAE (or a fifth if you include the little-known body the Insurance Authority), provisionally entitled the Financial Services Regulations Bureau.
Sceptics point out that this could be a level of regulation too much, and that it might add significantly to the cost of doing business in the country for global financial and investment institutions.
However, the logic of Abu Dhabi having a financial free zone dictates that it should also have its own regulator, to increase the appeal to potential international customers. Lines of responsibility between the Central Bank, the Securities and Commodities Authority and the Financial Services Regulations Bureau will have to be clearly delineated to avoid costly duplication.
The tone of reaction in Dubai so far has been all about the "complementary" nature of the proposed Abu Dhabi project. In the regulatory environment, this comes across as a belief that anything that helps to raise standards of governance in the UAE financial services industry is a good thing and should be welcomed.
No doubt behind the scenes financial professionals will be doing the calculations on what material effect the new Abu Dhabi free zone will have on the existing business of DIFC and on its ambitious expansion plans over the next few years.
But so far there is a general feeling that the new Abu Dhabi free zone will increase the size of the financial services "pie" in the Emirates and Dubai is welcoming the challenge of ensuring its slice of that pie continues to grow.
 
fkane@thenational.ae

The bio

Academics: Phd in strategic management in University of Wales

Number one caps: His best-seller caps are in shades of grey, blue, black and yellow

Reading: Is immersed in books on colours to understand more about the usage of different shades

Sport: Started playing polo two years ago. Helps him relax, plus he enjoys the speed and focus

Cars: Loves exotic cars and currently drives a Bentley Bentayga

Holiday: Favourite travel destinations are London and St Tropez

How to get there

Emirates (www.emirates.com) flies directly to Hanoi, Vietnam, with fares starting from around Dh2,725 return, while Etihad (www.etihad.com) fares cost about Dh2,213 return with a stop. Chuong is 25 kilometres south of Hanoi.
 

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
On sale: Now

57 Seconds

Director: Rusty Cundieff
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Morgan Freeman, Greg Germann, Lovie Simone
Rating: 2/5

Feeding the thousands for iftar

Six industrial scale vats of 500litres each are used to cook the kanji or broth 

Each vat contains kanji or porridge to feed 1,000 people

The rice porridge is poured into a 500ml plastic box

350 plastic tubs are placed in one container trolley

Each aluminium container trolley weighing 300kg is unloaded by a small crane fitted on a truck

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Profile of Hala Insurance

Date Started: September 2018

Founders: Walid and Karim Dib

Based: Abu Dhabi

Employees: Nine

Amount raised: $1.2 million

Funders: Oman Technology Fund, AB Accelerator, 500 Startups, private backers

 

TWISTERS

Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Glenn Powell, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Anthony Ramos

Rating: 2.5/5

Key changes

Commission caps

For life insurance products with a savings component, Peter Hodgins of Clyde & Co said different caps apply to the saving and protection elements:

• For the saving component, a cap of 4.5 per cent of the annualised premium per year (which may not exceed 90 per cent of the annualised premium over the policy term). 

• On the protection component, there is a cap  of 10 per cent of the annualised premium per year (which may not exceed 160 per cent of the annualised premium over the policy term).

• Indemnity commission, the amount of commission that can be advanced to a product salesperson, can be 50 per cent of the annualised premium for the first year or 50 per cent of the total commissions on the policy calculated. 

• The remaining commission after deduction of the indemnity commission is paid equally over the premium payment term.

• For pure protection products, which only offer a life insurance component, the maximum commission will be 10 per cent of the annualised premium multiplied by the length of the policy in years.

Disclosure

Customers must now be provided with a full illustration of the product they are buying to ensure they understand the potential returns on savings products as well as the effects of any charges. There is also a “free-look” period of 30 days, where insurers must provide a full refund if the buyer wishes to cancel the policy.

“The illustration should provide for at least two scenarios to illustrate the performance of the product,” said Mr Hodgins. “All illustrations are required to be signed by the customer.”

Another illustration must outline surrender charges to ensure they understand the costs of exiting a fixed-term product early.

Illustrations must also be kept updatedand insurers must provide information on the top five investment funds available annually, including at least five years' performance data.

“This may be segregated based on the risk appetite of the customer (in which case, the top five funds for each segment must be provided),” said Mr Hodgins.

Product providers must also disclose the ratio of protection benefit to savings benefits. If a protection benefit ratio is less than 10 per cent "the product must carry a warning stating that it has limited or no protection benefit" Mr Hodgins added.

Top 10 most competitive economies

1. Singapore
2. Switzerland
3. Denmark
4. Ireland
5. Hong Kong
6. Sweden
7. UAE
8. Taiwan
9. Netherlands
10. Norway

LOS ANGELES GALAXY 2 MANCHESTER UNITED 5

Galaxy: Dos Santos (79', 88')
United: Rashford (2', 20'), Fellaini (26'), Mkhitaryan (67'), Martial (72')

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Supy
Started: 2021
Founders: Dani El-Zein, Yazeed bin Busayyis, Ibrahim Bou Ncoula
Based: Dubai
Industry: Food and beverage, tech, hospitality software, Saas
Funding size: Bootstrapped for six months; pre-seed round of $1.5 million; seed round of $8 million
Investors: Beco Capital, Cotu Ventures, Valia Ventures and Global Ventures

TOURNAMENT INFO

Women’s World Twenty20 Qualifier

Jul 3- 14, in the Netherlands
The top two teams will qualify to play at the World T20 in the West Indies in November

UAE squad
Humaira Tasneem (captain), Chamani Seneviratne, Subha Srinivasan, Neha Sharma, Kavisha Kumari, Judit Cleetus, Chaya Mughal, Roopa Nagraj, Heena Hotchandani, Namita D’Souza, Ishani Senevirathne, Esha Oza, Nisha Ali, Udeni Kuruppuarachchi

RESULT

Argentina 0 Croatia 3
Croatia: 
Rebic (53'), Modric (80'), Rakitic (90'+1)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: ASI (formerly DigestAI)

Started: 2017

Founders: Quddus Pativada

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Artificial intelligence, education technology

Funding: $3 million-plus

Investors: GSV Ventures, Character, Mark Cuban

Four-day collections of TOH

Day             Indian Rs (Dh)        

Thursday    500.75 million (25.23m)

Friday         280.25m (14.12m)

Saturday     220.75m (11.21m)

Sunday       170.25m (8.58m)

Total            1.19bn (59.15m)

(Figures in millions, approximate)

Company Profile

Company name: myZoi
Started: 2021
Founders: Syed Ali, Christian Buchholz, Shanawaz Rouf, Arsalan Siddiqui, Nabid Hassan
Based: UAE
Number of staff: 37
Investment: Initial undisclosed funding from SC Ventures; second round of funding totalling $14 million from a consortium of SBI, a Japanese VC firm, and SC Venture

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

THE STRANGERS' CASE

Director: Brandt Andersen
Starring: Omar Sy, Jason Beghe, Angeliki Papoulia
Rating: 4/5

Company profile

Name: Homie Portal LLC

Started: End of 2021 

Founder: Abdulla Al Kamda 

Based: Dubai

Sector: FinTech 

Initial investment: Undisclosed 

Current number of staff: 14 

Investment stage: Launch 

Investors: Self-funded