As the race to become a regional Islamic fintech hub intensifies, Abu Dhabi revs up its engine by gathering allies in Europe and Asia.
Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) has been busy. Over the last month, the international financial center has been aligning with new foreign partners with the clear intention of enhancing its fintech environment to attract the best of minds and place itself in pole position in the international financial landscape leveraging both Shariah and conventional tech capabilities.
In Europe, ADGM has partnered with Swiss Finance + Technology Association and London-based Responsible Finance and Investment Foundation (RFI Foundation).
“As global wealth management centers, Switzerland and the UAE have nurtured decades of mutually beneficial and strategic bilateral ties. With Switzerland, as one of the world’s leading blockchain and cryptocurrency centers, this new fintech bridge and partnership dovetail well with Abu Dhabi’s focus as a global fintech hub,” shared Richard Teng, CEO of Financial Services Regulatory Authority at ADGM.
Agreeing on knowledge and expertise exchange as well as jointly forming new synergistic initiatives in this Swiss partnership also form the basis of the collaboration between RFI and ADGM; however, the latter is looking particularly at the realm of Islamic and ethical finance.
“RFI brings a wide network through our trustees, members and supporters who recognize the opportunity for fintech in addressing challenges including financial inclusion and the [UN] Sustainable Development Goals,” Blake Goud, CEO of RFI Foundation, tells IFN Fintech. “By combining this network with the regulatory framework developed by ADGM with their RegLab, together we will connect fintech entrepreneurs with appropriate resources to help entrepreneurs achieve the scale necessary to turn promising ideas into impactful solutions.”
The collaboration, says Goud, will help both to support growth efforts by fintech companies that already have an explicit ethical, responsible or Islamic finance approach built into their business model as well as identify the growth drivers in other fintech companies’ markets where a targeted responsible finance approach can accelerate growth.
The RFI-ADGM cooperation follows the signing of two agreements with Malaysian offshore center Labuan International Business and Financial Center, as well its statutory regulator Labuan Financial Services Authority. Focusing mainly on green finance, fintech and infrastructure financing, the alliance brings the emirate closer to one of the most sophisticated Islamic financial markets, Malaysia, as well as fortifying its presence in the region: days earlier, the ADGM formalized ties with the Australian Securities and Investment Commission. This month, ADGM also partnered with KPMG to roll out the Fintech Abu Dhabi Innovation Challenge, which includes a five-week program for start-ups to conceptualize and present market-ready solutions for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region across six focus areas: financial and investment management; financial inclusion; regtech; trade finance; insurtech and private capital markets.
These new fintech bridges are a continuation of aggressive efforts by the financial center to internationalize its fintech collaborations across different continents. ADGM has since the beginning of the year built relationships with the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the Capital Markets Authority of Kenya and the Authority of Qianhai Shenzhen-Hong Kong Modern Service Industry Cooperation Zone. And Abu Dhabi is not alone in making new friends: neighboring Dubai and Bahrain are also busy networking. Most recently, Dubai International Financial Center signed an MoU with the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Center to jointly develop the Islamic fintech sector.