UAE's financial free zones sign agreements with Israel's largest bank

ADGM and DIFC will both look to strengthen links with Israel's FinTech ecosystem

FH1NBM Evening view of new financial and business district called Abu Dhabi Global Market square (ABGM) on Al Maryah Island Abu Dhabi. Alamy
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The UAE's two financial free zones signed agreements with Israel’s largest lender Bank Hapoalim on Saturday to jointly develop local FinTech ecosystems and explore market opportunities between the two countries.

The accord between Abu Dhabi's international financial hub and the Israeli lender will accelerate the digital transformation of financial services in both jurisdictions, ADGM said in a statement on Saturday.

“ADGM is continuously working with strategic partners, locally and internationally, to further the Abu Dhabi and UAE economic plans and technology agenda,” Dhaher AlMheiri, chief executive of the ADGM Registration Authority, said.

“ADGM will continue to collaborate with strategic industry leaders and introduce new initiatives that will effectively cater to the needs of the financial services community.”

As part of the agreement, ADGM and Bank Hapoalim will collaborate on a range of FinTech initiatives, including ways of developing business, international trade and financial services between the UAE and Israel. They will also support FinTech companies and entrepreneurs looking to grow in both markets.

The signing represents a “breakthrough pact that we hope will serve to extend and strengthen the financial corporation between the UAE and Israel”, Dov Kotler, chief executive of Bank Hapoalim, said.

“It will enable FinTech companies, customers of Bank Hapoalim, access to a new world of opportunities.”

Under its agreement with Dubai International Financial Centre, Bank Hapoalim will share knowledge, host delegations and promote industry events. Investment and FinTech specialists from Bank Hapoalim will also be invited to take part in DIFC Fintech Hive's forthcoming Investor Day.

The agreement "will provide Israeli FinTech entrepreneurs with a gateway to the dynamic and vibrant Dubai ecosystem, and help foster cross-border innovation", Mr Kotler said.

It offers the lender "access to the most developed, broad and deep financial ecosystem in the region, allowing them to capitalise on the most lucrative banking, capital markets, asset management, innovation and FinTech opportunities available", Arif Amiri, chief executive of the DIFC Authority, said.

Earlier this week, the ADGM Financial Services Regulatory Authority and the Israel Securities Authority (ISA) also signed a FinTech cooperation agreement.

The pact provides a framework for information sharing and facilitating the movement of start-ups, knowledge and talent between the two jurisdictions, ADGM's regulatory authority said on Wednesday.

Mr Kotler will also be speaking at ADGM’s FinTech Abu Dhabi event next week to discuss the potential of strengthening links between the FinTech ecosystems in the two countries.

The event, held from November 24 to 26, is one of the biggest FinTech gatherings in the Middle East and North Africa region, attracting global financial firms, investors and regulators.

More than 150 speakers including UAE Minister of State Ahmed Al Sayegh, Central Bank of the UAE governor Abdulhamid Saeed and Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority governor Ahmed Alkholifey will take part.

Other speakers include the UAE's minister of artificial intelligence Omar Sultan Al Olama, Monetary Authority of Singapore managing director Ravi Menon, Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Eddie Yue and Mashreq Group chairman Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair.