Dubai hits target in wealth management ambitions

The bright lights of Dubai are attracting some of the biggest names in global finance. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 September 2018
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Dubai hits target in wealth management ambitions

  • Dubai is fast becoming a global center for wealth management, according to new figures from the emirate’s financial hub.
  • Fidelity International, the Bermuda-based investment management group, announced it too was to set up in the DIFC

The Dubai International Financial Center on Sunday announced it had passed a landmark of 200 firms in the fast-growing wealth and asset management sector that had chosen to be based in the center, a rise of 6 percent from the halfway point last year. Some 13 of the top 25 firms in the wealth management sector are included in that total.

The number of financial funds under management by DIFC entities has leapt by 240 percent in the same period, from 25 to the latest figure of 60, making it the largest funds domicile in the region, the DIFC said. 

Arif Amiri, chief executive of DIFC, said: “The wealth and asset management sector is a cornerstone of a thriving financial services industry, and as the DIFC has developed into a top global financial center, it has become one of our hallmarks. Major financial institutions see Dubai and the DIFC as a preferred platform to access investment opportunities and sources of investment across regional and global markets.

“To date, the center has seen consistent and significant growth in this field, reflecting the industry’s ongoing confidence in Dubai and the DIFC. We expect to see this growth continue as we introduce new regulations to our attractive legislative and business environment in line with our ambitious 2024 Strategy. Our flexible structures, which also benefit private wealth management and family trusts, continue to give us the edge,” he added.

The DIFC is committed to a ten-year strategy of trebling in size by 2024 in terms of the number of member firms and employees as well as the value of assets under management.

In the first half of 2018, the DIFC attracted three of the biggest names in global finance, Chinese firm Everbright Group and American giants State Street Global Advisers and Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance.

 

 Last month, Fidelity International, the Bermuda-based investment management group, announced it too was to set up in the DIFC.

“These companies benefit from three types of fund structures, as well as tried-and-tested special-purpose companies and insurance special-purpose vehicles, used in structured financing transactions or related to entities of substance. The DIFC’s international-standard regulatory framework and flexible business environment are already paying dividends to global and regional companies within the Center’s community,” the center said.

In total, the DIFC reported a 17 percent rise in new financial institutions registering in the first half of the year, bringing the total to 2,003 with a combined workforce of nearly 23,000.

That period coincided with the decline of Abraaj Capital, the private equity fund manager that has been at the heart of the DIFC since it opened in 2004, but which was ultimately owned by a Cayman Islands holding company.

Financial and legal experts believe there will be no significant damage to Dubai from the Abraaj affair. Habib Al Mulla, one of the UAE’s leading corporate lawyers, told Arab News recently: “I don’t believe Dubai’s reputation has been damaged. The DIFC entity is not involved. There are various Abraaj entities which are subject of different jurisdictions.”

Nigel Sillitoe, chief executive of market research group Insight Discovery, which specializes in wealth and asset management sectors, said: “In the past quarter our company has received more requests than ever to support asset management companies within the DIFC.

“The recent woes at Abraaj did make us think that business might slow down but so far we haven’t seen any impact.” 

The center enacted two new laws in March: The trust law, which provides an appropriate environment for the operation of trusts in the DIFC, and the foundations law, a new regime to provide greater certainty and flexibility for private wealth management and charitable institutions.

FASTFACTS

FASTFACT

The DIFC reported a 17 percent rise in new financial institutions registering in the first half of the year, bringing the total to 2,003 with a combined workforce of nearly 23,000.


‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

Updated 17 June 2019
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‘Fuel of the future’ comes of age as Aramco opens first hydrogen filling station

  • Fatih Birol’s comments were a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges
  • Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving problems such as global warming

DUBAI: Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, cracked a joke in the Financial Times a couple of weeks ago.
“Hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and it always will be,” he wrote about the fuel that many experts agree could hold the key to the world’s energy problems.
It was a deliberate poke at those experts who think that the sheer logistics of hydrogen — generation, storage, and transportation — make it always an unlikely solution to global energy challenges.
Birol’s article was followed by a report from the IEA that put some meat on the bones of the argument that hydrogen is key to solving such problems as global warming and environmental degradation.
“The world has an important opportunity to tap into hydrogen’s vast potential to become a critical part of a more sustainable and secure energy future … The world should not miss this unique chance to make hydrogen an important part of our clean and secure energy future,” the report said.
That argument will get a critical boost today, when Saudi Aramco, the biggest oil company in the world, opens its first hydrogen fueling station in Dhahran Techno Valley, in the heart of the Kingdom’s oil producing region.
Aramco has partnered with Air Products, a US company that has been a pioneer in the use of industrial gases, to produce a filling station for hydrogen-fueled vehicles.

 

It is very much a test. “The collected data during this pilot phase of the project will provide valuable information for the assessment of future applications of this emerging transport technology in the local environment,” Aramco said when the project was first announced.
But it is something Aramco has been investigating for a long time. Ahmed Al-Khowaiter, Aramco’s chef technology officer, said: “The use of hydrogen derived from oil or gas to power fuel cell electric vehicles represents an exciting opportunity to expand the use of oil in clean transport.”
Hydrogen — essentially what is left when you take the oxygen out of water — has been recognized as a potential fuel source for many decades. Motor manufacturers developed a hydrogen motor engine 50 years ago, but the ease and accessibility of hydrocarbon fuels — oil, gas and coal — made it uneconomic to develop this technology beyond the prototype stage.
Now, as the debate over the role of hydrocarbons in the global environmental balance has become ever more intense, some experts, including Birol and other influential parts of the thought-leadership establishment, believe hydrogen is the next Big Thing in global energy trends.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) said recently that “green” hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, and that is the problem the theoreticians are struggling with: Hydrogen is released naturally in the process of burning hydrocarbons, but it is self-defeating, in an environmental sense. if you have to burn oil, gas or coal to produce it.
On the other hand, renewable sources, like sun, wind and water, do not produce enough hydrogen to be practically or commercially viable, and not at the right times, when people actually need it.
But, as the WEF noted recently “low-cost green hydrogen is coming”, as technology advances mean the cost of renewable energy falls dramatically each year. The Middle East already has a very big and very cost-efficient program for solar energy generation.
The other challenges lay in how to store and transport hydrogen. It can be loaded onto a tanker like LNG, or pushed through pipelines, but it would require a huge investment to change current logistics systems — essentially designed for oil and LNG — to handle hydrogen.
Many countries, including Saudi Arabia, already have the infrastructure associated with oil and gas refining and petrochemicals production to be able to equip “hydrogen hubs,” as long as there is government will and commercial incentive to do so.
For the Kingdom, it looks like a no-brainer for the future. As Birol said: “So, hydrogen offers tantalising promises of cleaner industry and emissions-free power. Turning it into energy produces only water, not greenhouse gases. It’s also the most abundant element in the universe. What’s not to like?”

FASTFACTS

Technological advances mean low-cost ‘green’ hydrogen offers a solution to the world energy challenge, according to the World Economic Forum.