Dubai’s popularity as a centre for financial trading continues to grow

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The 2024 IFX Expo Dubai, where the movers and shakers, of the online trading world, convene to see and be seen, to make contacts and win new business, from the gulf and beyond has just finished. The trade show is growing in popularity and is now a firm date in the online trading calendar. This year’s show attracted 3500 delegates and more than 100 speakers to the two-day event.

Dubai’s regulators are busy too

Hard on the heels of the Expo came news that the DFSA, or Dubai Financial Services Authority, had had a bumper year in 2023.

  • The DFSA saw a +25% rise in registrations of new firms, coming to do business in the emirate.
  • 117 asset and hedge funds managers were registered and authorised by the DFSA during 2023.
  • Many of these firms are opening offices in the DIFC, which itself saw +125% growth year over year.

The chairman of the DFSA, Fadel Al Ali, said of the growth in registrations and new businesses:

“The remarkable achievements of 2023 are a testament to our dedication to not only regulate the present but to also shape and govern the future”

He added

“We aim to become a global benchmark as an international regulatory body, delivering excellence in tandem with the government’s strategic vision – including Dubai’s Economic Agenda D33 ”

A growing Chinese presence

Another interesting development has been the growing interest among Chinese asset and money managers, in opening for business in Dubai.

Ian Johnston the CEO of the DFSA, recently told Reuters that:

“(Chinese) investment management and asset management firms have been coming to be licensed by us and that’s growing,”

He added

“Previously it was mainly China’s big commercial banks operating in the DIFC. Now Chinese asset managers are joining as well”

Mr Johnston believes that Chinese investors are looking to diversify their assets amid ongoing tensions between China and the USA.

Popular with UK and European firms

UK and European brokerages have long been attracted to Dubai Tthanks to its business and tax-friendly environment, its geographic location, mid-way between Europe and Asia. And, of course, the opportunity to access a well-heeled expat client base.

However, Dubai and the wider UAE are now becoming a financial centre in their own right.

Brevan Howard, the London-based hedge fund, that manages $33 billion in assets, established an office in Abu Dhabi in February last year. And is planning to expand its headcount, in the emirate, to 120 people. The fund manager clearly means business, because it’s moved its trade execution desk to its UAE hub.

Commenting, as it did so, that the region enjoyed the best time zone on the planet, from which to implement the firm’s global macro trading strategy.

Founding partner Alan Howard said of the desert states:

“As you get more top hedge funds, with their top senior people coming here, that can lead to the banks having to send their best people as well (in order) to service correctly those traders, and other parts of the financial sector,”

Mr Howard, who is 60 years old, was a major beneficiary of a £267.0 million payout, from the hedge fund that bears his name.

Whilst Brevan Howard’s 427 staff shared a pot of £119.0 million between them.

If the UAE is getting a vote of confidence from that calibre of investor, then this might just be the beginning of something much bigger for the region.

Why is Dubai so popular for brokers and traders?’s (one of the UAE’s fastest-growing brokers, that also won “best trading app” in our most recent award) Middle East CEO, Tarik Chebib, gave us his thoughts on why Dubai is booming for trading. Tarik told us,

“The UAE is the only growing CFD market according to investment trends. Since COVID the interest in opening trading accounts to invest in crypto and commodities the two asset classes people feel most drawn to hasn’t let up. Gold, Oil, Natural Gas, BTC and the Nasdaq are the most traded assets.

Investors now have a few years under their belt and become more savvy in choosing their brokers. Competition amongst brokers is heating up and if there isn’t a clear advantage it’s difficult to survive. At we focus on education especially across our social media to build trust across the Arabic speaking community.”

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