Abu Dhabi Global Market Square on Al Maryah Island. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Abu Dhabi Global Market Square on Al Maryah Island. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Abu Dhabi Global Market announces capital’s financial free zone ‘open for business’



Abu Dhabi Global Market, the UAE capital’s financial free zone, has declared itself “open for business” and ready to accept applications from potential member firms.

“Today marks an important achievement in our journey to develop ADGM, an international financial centre in the heart of the capital of the UAE, a centre of wealth and a gateway to the growing economies of the region and beyond,” said Ahmed Al Sayegh, the chairman of ADGM, who has overseen the two-and-a-half year preparation for its launch.

“We have been steadfast in our strategy of building a centre based on collaboration and input from local, regional and international institutions to ensure that we offer a jurisdiction that provides businesses with what they need and want in order to grow and succeed,” he added.

The announcement follows the formal publication of ADGM’s rules and regulations, after an extended period of consultation with some of the biggest names in regional and global finance.

Firms and individuals can now apply for the appropriate financial services licences under an internationally recognisable legislative and regulatory framework that facilitates their local, regional and international expansion, ADGM said in a statement.

But while the announcement that ADGM is “open for business” is regarded as an important operational milestone, one executive familiar with ADGM warned that the process of preparing and considering applications and granting membership to financial firms could take some months, and it was likely to be the first quarter of 2016 before the first member firms formally start operations in the ADGM headquarters on Al Maryah Island in the capital.

“Over the next few weeks and months, we will continue to closely engage financial institutions to help them understand our regulations and assist them with the application process,” said Richard Teng, chief executive of the ADGM Financial Services Regulatory Authority. “As an international financial centre, we are dedicated to forging long-term and mutually beneficial partnerships with like-minded members and market participants.”

ADGM is regarded as an essential element of Abu Dhabi’s long-term strategy of economic diversification, as set out in the Economic Vision 2030. It will initially focus on private banking and wealth and asset management, but has been designed to accommodate the full spectrum of the financial services industry.

Private banking and wealth management are considered to be boosting parts of the global financial industry, especially in the Middle East. A recent report from the Swiss bank Credit Suisse forecast a growing number of millionaires in the UAE and Saudi Arabia over the next five years, despite the fall in oil prices.

Mr Al Sayegh added: “As we look ahead, we will continue developing ADGM, with our courts’ regulations currently in open market consultation phase and the announcement of our courts’ judges to be made imminently.

“We have established ADGM with an initial core focus based on Abu Dhabi’s strength of wealth management, asset management and private banking. However, we have the flexibility to grow into a broad based centre, attracting a wide spectrum of financial institutions who will choose ADGM as their home. This will cement ADGM’s global position and ensure we contribute to the global ecosystem of international markets and business networks.”

Several big regional and international banks are believed to be weighing up applications for ADGM membership.

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