As the finance sector in the GCC continues to boom, service providers in the region are playing a critical role in that success.
Ask anyone to name an industry associated with the Middle East and it’s highly likely that ‘oil’ will be the first. This isn’t surprising considering how countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are among the world’s largest oil producers.
The global climate crisis, however, is creating a need to shift from fossil fuels, and countries that have relied on oil to power their economies have had little choice to look elsewhere and start building other sectors that will see them into the future. With the sheer amount of wealth in the Middle East, it’s understandable that the finance industry might be seen as the natural choice.
Establishing a globally recognised financial centre is no small feat, however, and relies on the interaction of many moving parts – from regulators and lawmakers to banks, asset managers, and financial and corporate service providers. Any finance centre wishing to make its presence felt also needs to have a compelling proposition.
Of the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE – it is the latter that is leading the charge. According to the Global Financial Centres Index, which measures the competitiveness of the world’s leading finance centres, Dubai was the highest ranked location in the GCC in September 2022 at 17th, putting it alongside cities such as Boston, Tokyo, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam. Abu Dhabi was second in the GCC, ranked 32nd overall on the list.
Dubai’s position is perhaps all the more remarkable because of how nascent the financial sector is in the region. The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) – a key financial hub for the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia region – was only established in 2004. Yet with its independent regulator and a proven judicial system with an English common law framework, it is now home to more than 29,700 professionals working across 4,000 companies.
“At first glance, it’s an astonishing success story,” says Nina Auchoybur, Managing Director – UAE Private Clients at Ocorian. “But underpinning that success has been a truly innovative and progressive approach to creating a modern financial industry.”
As well as being home to traditional financial services such as banks and asset managers, the DIFC has a strong fintech and venture capital presence. And in August 2022, it launched a hub for family businesses and ultra-high net worth individuals to assist them in legacy and succession planning.
Everyone plays their part
According to Nina, all of the financial organisations and service providers have a role to play in ensuring the ongoing success of the Middle East. “Ocorian has been in the UAE since 2010,” she says. “And we have actively contributed to the growth of the finance industry in the country.”
A large part of this has been in educating clients, stakeholders, and other parties, such as local providers and regulators, about some of the intricacies of structuring, administration, and compliance. “There have been instances where we have had to work closely with the Land Department and the DIFC regulator in order to come up with specific solutions around structuring property,” says Nina. “We’ve had to be very involved and hands-on.”
Similarly, Ocorian has been very involved in helping develop a burgeoning family office market. “I’d say one of the key things is educating all stakeholders about family offices and what they can offer,” says Nina. “So, we contribute to raising their profile by attending or organising conferences, forums, and roundtables, for example.”
The newness of the sector also means there is a lack of talent and a skills shortage in the region. While this is gradually being resolved as a pipeline of qualified people is developed, Ocorian has created a strong presence in the recruitment market as well as bringing in talent from its other offices. “We also focus on training and developing our people, so they have the highest level of skills,” says Nina.
This dedication was rewarded in 2022 when Ocorian was recognised for its significant impact in the private client sector in the region at the Ninth Annual WealthBriefing MENA Awards 2022 – scooping the award for ‘Best Family Office Service Provision’.
With operations in both the DIFC and the Abu Dhabi Global Market, Ocorian has a dedicated and professional team in the GCC, working with local and expat families, offering a wide range of corporate and private client services.
These range from helping navigate the complexities of the UAE and choosing the right structure to meet specific needs to the ongoing administration of the chosen structure, including providing corporate secretarial services, fiduciary services, accounting, and other support services.
But, as Nina concludes: “While our clients are always our absolute focus and priority, we remain very aware of the important ongoing role we have in the success of finance in the UAE. And that means keeping on top of changing domestic and global legislation, remaining solution-oriented, and supporting the dynamic finance ecosystem in the region.”
Ocorian in the UAE
Combining local experience with professional expertise, we help untangle what is a complex regulatory environment so you can deliver on your goals.
From corporate to visa services, the establishment of special purpose vehicles (SPVs) and private client services, we provide a one-stop shop so you can take full advantage of the region’s opportunities.
We offer full establishment and administration services for the increasingly popular Abu Dhabi Global Market and DIFC foundation vehicles, tailoring them to clients’ specific needs and objectives.