Raja Al Mazrouei, the acting executive vice president of Fintech Hive at the Dubai International Financial centre, talks to The National about the year in fintech
Was 2017 the year fintech really took off?
Absolutely. Really it started with announcement of [DIFC's] FinTech Hive in January of 2017 and then in August we started actual programmes. We received more than 200 applications and 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's 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 its expected in 2018 it's expected to be $270m for the region. It shows that the region is ready. It's grown beyond our anticipation. We found that the interest in 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 that 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.