The governments of the UAE and UK aim to strengthen their co-operation in FinTech, as they look to attract and increase the pool of talent to complement significant investments being made in the sector that is driving transformation across industries.
Several clusters for entrepreneurship can be found in both countries – backed by programmes such as those from Abu Dhabi Global Market and London’s Startupbootcamp – which are ready to provide assistance to aspiring people and companies that want to make their mark in the opportunities presented by FinTech, a growing industry complementing today's digital shift.
“We have the facilities for entrepreneurs and founders to come together and have access to capital. But it's no good building businesses unless you have a pipeline of qualified people to take on these big roles in the FinTech community,” said Matthew Hurn, chief financial officer for disruptive investments at Mubadala Investment Company, at the FinTech Abu Dhabi Festival on Wednesday.
The UAE and UK acknowledge the mutual benefit that arises from enhancing trade relations. The UAE is a key market for Britain's expanding trade ambitions, with the latter aiming to cement a trade deal with the wider GCC region. London plans to export £1 trillion ($1.34tn) worth of goods and services a year by 2030 – a significant increase from the £600 billion exported in 2020 – with the UAE and wider GCC a vital part of that target.
This year, Abu Dhabi's Mubadala committed ₤800 million to UK life sciences. In September, it signed an agreement with the UK Office for Investment to significantly expand the UAE-UK Sovereign Investment Partnership, a framework for investment announced in March, committing ₤10bn to invest in technology, infrastructure and energy transition over the next five years.
Last month, the governments of both nations agreed on a new action plan to strengthen their economic ties across a wide range of vital and future sectors, including clean energy, research and development, innovation, infrastructure, tourism, food security, new technologies, artificial intelligence, space and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Northern Ireland's FinTech community is also capturing the attention of the UAE and the acceleration of its home-grown company Regtick into the Emirates' market is the kind of success Andrew Jenkins, FinTech envoy for the UK and the panel's moderator, hopes for a number of businesses.
“The development of talent will be crucial” and can strengthen the bridge between the UAE and UK's FinTech ambitions, said Dominic Perks, chief executive of Hambro Perks, an investment firm focused on the private sector.
FinTech investments result in other tangible economic benefits, including job creation and promoting inclusion in the financial sector, according to Lord Edward Udny-Lister, chairman of the UAE-UK Business Council.
“This isn't just about making banks more efficient or profitable. We have so many people who are unbanked; for them, mobile phones are a safer and cheaper method, and will let them buy into the system”, he said.
With FinTech, “you can bring in large numbers of people who are just being missed by the system”, such as those in the wider parts of Africa and Asia, he added.
There are almost 91,000 employees working in the UK FinTech industry this year – up almost a fifth from 2017's 76,500 employees. The number is expected to grow almost 16 per cent to hit 105,000 by 2030, data from Statista shows.
A recent report from financial IT solutions provider Sepa Cyber Technologies said there are about one billion unbanked or underbanked adults globally. Consultancy EY estimates that broader access to banking products could boost gross domestic product by up to 14 per cent in large emerging countries such as India, and by up to 30 per cent in frontier economies such as Kenya.
Banks are realising this and they are investing more into improving their digital channels. While they may have different approaches, the ultimate goal is to capture a share of and serve the underserved population, Mr Udny-Lister said.
“We find most banks are on different digital journeys, which definitely moves them out of their comfort zones because they have to be part of that operating model and tweak their systems,” said Rola Abu Manneh, chief executive of Standard Chartered UAE.
“As you're investing in your digital channels, with FinTech moving fast, you need to keep innovating to keep up.”
Mr Hurn said that Mubadala is also strengthening its focus on the “very strong” areas of the buy-now-pay-later model, mobile advisory and blockchain. Both Mr Hurn and Mr Perks agreed that insurance technology is another area to look out for, the latter describing it as a high-value opportunity.
“Priorities for investment from a UK point of view are in new technologies and new areas. For the UAE, that just makes financial sense,” Mr Udny-Lister said.
“It's a partnership that goes beyond money and two countries – it's between people working closer together, looking to support each other.”