Here is why the UAE will become the number one global fintech hub
Financial technology, better known as fintech, has been a burgeoning sector for a few years now.
It is the evolving intersection of financial services and technology. From mobile banking and insurance to cryptocurrency and investment apps, fintech has broad applications.
Last year, global funding in the sector rose to $135 billion, up from $111 billion in 2018 and $50 billion in 2017.
Fintech is booming as it is meeting growing demand for on-the-go service and products, it is speeding up the advance of global financial inclusion which helps social advancement around the world, plus costs are lowered for firms, they are able to use it to diversify and the client experience is enhanced.
2019 saw fintech deals and funding spread to emerging and frontier markets. South America, Africa, Australia, and Southeast Asia (SEA) all saw funding top annual highs.
Whilst fintech is 'hot' right around the world, I believe that the Middle East region, and in particular the UAE, is set to become the fintech hub of the world in the next few years.
It's for this reason deVere, one of the world's largest independent financial advisory and fintech organisations, has recently announced that it is to develop a major digital finance operation from Dubai.
The bullish view on the industry in this region is being echoed by other industry insiders and also by extensive research.
According to a report by Accenture in partnership with FinTechHive, fintech will account for eight per cent of Middle East financial services revenue by 2022. The number of start-ups is expected to top 250 by 2020 and will grow by up to $125 million a year to reach $2.5 billion in 2022.
There are several key reasons why the UAE is likely to lead the way in this sector.
One major factor is demographics. There are an estimated 350 million people under the age of 24 in the Middle East, and these people are so-called 'digital natives' - that's to say, they've largely grown up in the digital era, making them more willing and able to embrace all kinds of advancing technologies.
Therefore, it has this incredible opportunity to develop itself as a digital-first region when it comes to banking, payments, and financial technology.
In addition, the Middle East region, at 173 per cent, has the highest mobile penetration in the world. 65 per cent of the population are also active internet users, which offers a large client base for fintechs launching into this region.
In a similar vein, a report co-compiled by Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) found that 83 per cent of UAE residents were receptive to adopting fintech solutions by non-financial institutions and 76 per cent trust at least one financial technology company with their money over their banks.
Another considerable driver for the region's eventual dominance of the sector is the pro-business regulatory landscape.
For instance, last year, the UAE's minister of economy issued a decree adopting a regulatory framework for fintech firms conducting operations under experimental licenses. Under the decree, these license holders are able to apply to be exempt from some regulatory requirements with appropriate and robust consumer protections.
Also in the UAE's favour in this regard is a stable, pro-active government, a high proposition of high net worth individuals, a dynamic business community, world-class infrastructure, superior communications networks, English as its de-facto business language, and its enviable geographical location and time zone.
And, of course, the commitment to and expertise in innovation. We've seen this in real-time as the emirates diversify from oil to become global leaders in trade, transportation, finance, tourism, retail and real estate.
There's no doubt that fintech is an industry for the present and the future with virtually endless ways to improve upon our financial systems and our financial lives.
As society, individuals, businesses and agencies become ever-more reliant upon it, I am confident the Middle East, and especially the UAE, will be leading the global charge.
- Nigel Green is the founder and CEO of deVere Group. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.