Dubai and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the leading global financial centre in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, have topped the global ranking in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) projects in the financial services sector in 2021, according to a report by the Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI), an agency of the Department of Economy and Tourism (DET).
The ranking is based on the ‘fDi Markets’ data of the Financial Times, the most comprehensive database of cross-border greenfield investments available, covering all countries and sectors worldwide.
DIFC also ranked first during the five-year period from 2017 to 2021, led by the Centre’s reputation as a global financial centre, in addition to its continued focus on shaping the future of finance by attracting leading companies and innovative start-ups to set up, operate and scale in Dubai. This recognition reaffirms DIFC’s Strategy 2030 objectives to support sustained economic growth and further differentiate Dubai as a global hub for financial institutions, FinTech businesses and innovation companies. The ambitious strategy aims to see DIFC double in size and its economic contribution to Dubai’s GDP.
According to the FDI Monitor Report, published by Dubai FDI, Dubai attracted 58 FDI projects in the financial services sector, totalling AED926.2mn and generated around 1,432 jobs in 2021. Dubai surpassed major financial cities, such as London, Singapore, New York and Paris, reaffirming DIFC’s status as a global financial hub.
Some of the FDI projects include SRI Group Global, an international group of companies offering financial and strategic business advisory services; Teamup Ventures, an incubation and acceleration platform working with young entrepreneurs and start-ups; FFA Private Bank, one of Lebanon’s leading investment firms in the fields of capital markets and wealth management; and Pretium, a specialised alternative investment firm. Another substantial investment was by Union Capital, a broker-dealer and investment adviser and member of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Merger and acquisition projects included ONE Swiss Bank, a Swiss private bank; and Brakket Invest, a privately held holding company.
Between 2017 and 2021, Dubai attracted 184 FDI projects worth AED5.2bn and created approximately 5,727 jobs. By the end of 2021, Dubai ranked first globally in the financial services sector in attracting FDI projects, third in job creation and fifth in FDI capital generated.
Arif Amiri, CEO of DIFC Authority, commented: “The global financial services industry and wider business community’s confidence in DIFC consistently enable us to facilitate substantial foreign direct investment into Dubai. This has supported Dubai’s top ranking globally in attracting FDI projects in the financial services sector in 2021, and DIFC ranking as the best performing free zone for the last five years. The Centre’s commitment to further differentiate itself as the region’s leading global financial centre, positioned alongside other global cities, such as London, New York, Paris and Singapore, reflects our commitment to continuously evolve our existing world-class business-enabling ecosystem, legal and regulatory framework, and innovation proposition to attract companies from around the world.”
Fahad Al Gergawi, CEO of Dubai FDI, said: “We are proud to announce that DIFC has achieved the top position in attracting FDI in the financial services sector, reinstating its position as the leading global financial centre in the region. The Centre’s world-class infrastructure, as well as its stable and innovative environment, have been the reasons for its success. On the other hand, Dubai’s top ranking in FDI is a testament to its strong fundamentals and the confidence that investors and multinationals have in this region. Despite the challenges the world has faced in the past few years – the pandemic and economic changes – Dubai has provided a strong and sustainable investment environment. We, at Dubai FDI, will continue working on enhancing Dubai’s attractiveness for FDI by providing specialised and reliable services to the investor community.”
The Dubai FDI Monitor data also revealed that the United Kingdom (UK) continued to lead as the top source country based on FDI projects in the financial services sector in 2021, followed by the United States (US), Switzerland, India and Cyprus. The UK also maintained its position as the leading source country based on FDI capital, followed by the United States, India, Switzerland and Lebanon in the same year.
Between 2017 to 2021, the top five source countries based on FDI projects were the UK, the US, Switzerland, India and China. In terms of FDI capital, during the same time, the UK ranked first, followed by the US, Cayman Islands, Bahrain and India.
According to the report, Greenfield (wholly-owned investments) projects accounted for 84 per cent of the total FDI projects in Dubai’s financial services sector in 2021, up from 81 per cent between 2017 to 2021; Reinvestment projects accounted for 9 per cent, up from 8 per cent; and Greenfield (joint venture) projects accounted for 2 per cent, up from 1 per cent during the same period.