The U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council led a week-long FinTech trade mission to Abu Dhabi and Dubai from 20-24 October, 2019. The U.S. Department of Commerce-certified trade mission was held in conjunction with Abu Dhabi Global Market’s Fintech Abu Dhabi, the region’s leading FinTech Event, and occurred as part of Discover America, a U.S. Embassy-led program designed to showcase American goods and services in the U.A.E.
The delegation comprised of executives from leading American companies including Boloro, Chainyard, Cigna, DLA Piper, Facebook, HPE, IBM, MasterCard, MongoDB, NASDAQ, Oracle, PayPal, Quantum Computing Inc., SAS, and Visa. Other U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council members and partners participated in select aspects of the week’s programming in the U.A.E.
From Left to Right: Danny Sebright, President of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council; Richard Teng, CEO of ADGM Financial Services Regulatory Authority; Wai Lum Kwok, Senior Executive Director, Capital Markets at ADGM; Thomas Bruns, Regional Senior U.S. Commercial Officer for the Gulf; and Chris Kiew-Smith, Head of FinTech Strategy at ADGM
The mission kicked off Sunday morning 20 October with a briefing by officials from the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi. After providing an overview of U.S.-U.A.E. bilateral trade ties, the Embassy team highlighted the importance of the tech and financial services sectors to this relationship. The morning continued with a meeting at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, where delegates explored the bank’s innovative range of products and services. Next, delegates met with the leadership team at Abu Dhabi Global Markets (ADGM), one of the region’s leading financial hubs. There, they heard about how ADGM promotes a culture of innovation, supports businesses, and draws on collaboration and competition to foster a favorable business environment.
In the afternoon, the U.A.E. Central Bank provided delegates with an overview of the bank’s FinTech development plans and expanded on the role of FinTech in promoting financial inclusion. The day concluded with an evening reception hosted by the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council at the Rosewood Abu Dhabi. Local Emirati and American business leaders attended.
The U.S. FinTech Delegation meets with the U.A.E. Central Bank in Abu Dhabi
The second day of the mission provided delegates with a firsthand look into the role of financial technology in developing Abu Dhabi’s personalized, collaborative, and increasingly digital government services. Delegates began the morning with a meeting hosted by First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), the largest bank in the U.A.E. This was followed by a meeting with His Excellency Dr. Obaid Saif Hamad Al Zaabir, CEO of the Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA), who reviewed the regulatory framework guidelines and operational models for financial technology in U.A.E. capital markets.
Delegates then visited Emirates Water & Electricity Company (EWEC), where they heard from CEO Othman Juma Hamaid Al Ali. Later in the afternoon, Abu Dhabi Digital Authority hosted the delegation for a discussion on how to leverage the benefits of advanced tech, tap into the value of data, and create innovative solutions. Finally, the group met with Jessica Renier, a Senior Counselor in the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crime at the U.S. Department of the Treasury who was visiting the U.A.E. at the same time.
From Left to Right: Shakir Farsakh, Principal U.S. Commercial Officer; H.E. Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA; and Danny Sebright, President of the U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council
The third day of the delegation’s visit had an international focus. First, the group met with Ibrahim Ajami, Head of Mubadala Ventures and with Mahmoud Adi, CEO of Hub71. Mubadala Ventures, the branch of Mubadala Capital responsible for investment in advanced technology, leverages a presence in Silicon Valley and connectivity with European and Chinese venture capital markets to build and support leading advanced technology companies.
Delegates then visited Fintech Abu Dhabi, the MENA region’s leading FinTech and financial event. There, delegates explored exhibits and networked with FinTech professionals from around the world. That afternoon, the delegation traveled to Dubai to meet with officials from Expo 2020 Dubai. Drawing on the three sub-themes of Expo 2020 – sustainability, mobility, and opportunity – Expo officials outlined how the Expo will showcase new technologies during the six-month event and how the Expo site will become a home for innovative companies after Expo concludes.
Delegates meet with officials at Expo 2020
Wednesday, the mission’s focus turned to Dubai’s FinTech ecosystem. The morning began with a visit to Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, where delegates engaged in conversation with Managing Director and CEO, His Excellency Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, on the organization’s use of groundbreaking technology. The group then met with Arif Amiri, CEO of Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), before listening to a presentation and engaging in a Q&A with DIFC’s FinTech Hive, the region’s first and largest FinTech accelerator and hub.
Delegates meet with H.E. Omar Al Olama, U.A.E. Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, and Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation
That afternoon, delegates met with His Excellency Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, and Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation. Attendees discussed the U.A.E.’s 2031 A.I. Strategy, the latest applications of artificial intelligence in the U.A.E., and the importance of looking to the future. The evening concluded with a private dinner hosted by Mr. Hussain Sajwani, Founder & Chairman of DAMAC for delegates and U.S. and U.A.E. executives.
Mr. Hussain Sajwani, Founder and Chairman of DAMAC, hosts U.S.-U.A.E. Business Council official FinTech mission dinner in Dubai
On the final day of the mission, delegates met with executives from Dubai Multi Commodities Centre and Dubai Gold & Commodities Exchange. Next, the group met with His Excellency Juma Al Kait, Assistant Undersecretary of Foreign Trade Affairs at the Ministry of Economy, who outlined the latest developments in foreign direct investment laws.
Later in the day, delegates met with His Excellency Marwan Lutfi, CEO of Al Etihad Credit Bureau (AECB). Delegates learned how AECB is using technology to help borrowers and financial institutions make well-informed decisions. The day ended with a meeting at Smart Dubai, where delegates discussed Dubai’s latest smart city initiatives and potential partnership opportunities.
H.E. Younus Al Nasser, Assistant Director General of Smart Dubai, engages in conversation with delegates on the U.S. FinTech Mission
Overall, the mission offered delegates a deep and comprehensive understanding of the U.A.E.’s evolving FinTech industry and ecosystem. Delegates benefited from high-level dialogue on FinTech in the U.A.E., exposure to opportunities for public-private partnerships, and insight into the future of the U.A.E.’s FinTech ecosystem.
Already the largest FinTech community in the region, the U.A.E. is set to solidify its reputation as a global FinTech center in the coming years with the number of FinTech companies in the region expected to grow by 230 % before 2022.
According to a recent report by the Milken Institute Centre for Financial Markets, this progress can be attributed to institutions the U.A.E.’s strong regulatory framework and well-developed ecosystem, thanks in large part to institutions like ADGM and DIFC.