DIFC plans to attract financial technology (fintech) innovation, with the launch of its new FinTech Hive accelerator programme.
The launch of the accelerator comes just two months after the unveiling of a fintech “sandbox” initiative by fellow free zone Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and a month after Bahrain announced its own plan to become a fintech hub for the region.
FinTech Hive will select leading technology entrepreneurs and companies, offering them the opportunity to test and modify fintech innovations in collaboration with executives from the DIFC and regional and international financial institutions.
Emirates NBD, Mashreq, Visa International and HSBC are already participating.
Essa Kazim, DIFC’s governor, said the financial hub was “pioneering innovative developments” within the regional financial services sector.
FinTech Hive will start accepting applications for interested companies towards the end of March, Mr Kazim told The National, with between 12 and 15 companies due to be selected by July.
The programme expects to work with 150 to 200 companies over a five-year period, Mr Kazim said.
Fintech companies globally have attracted about $50 billion of venture capital and private equity since 2010, according to the consulting firm William Garrity Associates, although the Middle East and Africa has only attracted about 1 per cent of this figure.
The DIFC’s launch of FinTech Hive comes two months after ADGM unveiled its own Fintech Regulatory Laboratory (RegLab) incubator programme, also designed to foster innovation in the sector.
RegLab will allow participants to develop and test business ideas in a lighter regulatory “sandbox” environment for a two-year period, with an option to apply for a full financial licence after that.
The initiative is part of ADGM’s aspiration to make Abu Dhabi a fintech hub for the GCC region, as laid out by Ahmed Al Sayegh, the free zone’s chairman, in March last year.
Such an aspiration is shared by the UAE’s close neighbour, Bahrain, as a means of reviving its financial sector.
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