A lot happened at the second edition of Abu Dhabi Finance Week, held from November 27-30 under the patronage of HH Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
Under the theme ‘Investing in the Transition Era,’ the four-day conference drew a large crowd of officials, founders, investors, capital allocators, and business leaders from more than 100 countries, who gathered to share insights, learn from experts, ink deals, and prepare for the future. The event thus showcased how the UAE capital has truly emerged as an international financial centre, particularly on the climate finance front ahead of COP28. Legendary businessman and billionaire founder of Bridgewater Associates Ray Dalio, who opened a new branch of the Dalio Family Office (DFO) in Abu Dhabi in April, put it best during the opening ceremony, telling the audience that the “GCC is becoming an important region. It’s very classic. It’s a renaissance state within this greater geopolitical and economic environment.”
A further demonstration was the launch of the Abu Dhabi Economic Forum, where comprehensive discussions explored Abu Dhabi’s evolving economy within the changing global context, including the rise of the Falcon Economy, macroeconomic considerations, and Abu Dhabi’s role as the ‘Capital of Capital.’ As Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan Chase & Co, said, ‘’The determination of the emirate that is forging ahead with its reform agendas is extremely impressive, be it their economic, financial, and social agendas. These are not easy changes but there is clear progress on all fronts towards the goal to create a safe and secure society and a dynamic Falcon Economy.’’
Meanwhile, climate finance was at the top of the agenda with the second edition of the R.A.C.E (Regulation, Awareness, Collaboration, Ecosystem) Sustainability Summit. The conference aimed to identify strategies to bridge the $11 trillion capital gap between what is required for achieving net-zero emissions and the capital currently available for such initiatives. In many ways, R.A.C.E. served as a pre-prep event for COP28.
FinTech in Focus
Most importantly for our community, ADFW hosted the 7th edition of Fintech Abu Dhabi, welcoming an impressive turnout of financial tech leaders and innovators from across the globe to discuss ‘The Convergence of Finance and Technology.’ Expectedly, artificial intelligence (AI), crypto, blockchain, web3, and social media were at the heart of conversations.
For example, AI was presented as a game-changer for the financial sector by both Jill Lagos Shemin, Head of Cambridge Fintech Market Observatory at the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, and Alex Fraser, CEO of the London Institute of Banking and Finance. Presenting the preliminary findings from a global collaborative research between Cambridge and the World Economic Forum, Lagos Shemin highlighted AI as a critical tool for FinTech strategies looking to scale services and address key industry issues in the next five years; notably, the study showed a higher-than-average 65% customer growth rate in the MENA region in 2021-2022, indicating strong demand for fintech services. As for Fraser, he predicted a 15-to-20-year journey for the technology to significantly impact banking operations.
Meanwhile, Stefan Kimmel, CEO of crypto exchange M2, was one of the many speakers who explored the transformative impact of blockchain on traditional financial systems and emphasised the necessity for industry players and regulators to collaborate in a productive manner. Jeremy Allaire, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Circle, also explained how blockchain can help solve the inefficiencies in the traditional financial system, predicting that the technology would become mainstream in 2024 thanks to smart regulations. “The grown ups in the room will take a larger role,” he said.
Of note, Wai Lum Kwok, Managing Director of Licensing and FinTech at the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of ADGM, unveiled interesting insights on the sidelines of ADFW. Speaking to news agency WAM, Kwok said the FinTech sector has made great progress compared to eight years ago; he expects it to see strong growth in the UAE in the next two to three years, explaining that out of the 200 companies registered with ADGM and active in the financial services sector, an impressive 20% specialise in FinTech.
A Space for Startups
Every day, 15 startups, such as Grubtech, Archireef, 44.01, Green Future Project, and Fortyguard, joined the Startup Campus, held in partnership with Hub71 on ADFW Falcon Square, to showcase their innovative products and service, while on the Venture Stage, an impressive lineup of speakers explored a flurry of entrepreneurship-centric topics, from the makings of a fintech unicorn with Tabby’s Hosam Arab to navigating the winds of change in crypto with Binance’s Bader Al Kalooti.
In a move critically important for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the UAE, ADGM also launched cutting-edge digital platform Numou during the second edition of Asset Abu Dhabi. Tailored to bridge the funding gap faced by SMEs by simplifying the process of loan application and credit assessment, Numou efficiently collects data from various sources to create a comprehensive view of their business that meets lender’s requirements. Al Maryah Community Bank, RAKBANK, Commercial Bank International, CredibleX, and Khalifa Fund are launch partners that will extend credit to SMEs via the platform, which also gives SMEs access to a curated network of service providers, such as accountants, auditors, lawyers, etc. that can support them during this process.
Another high point of the event was the live recording of “Meet the Drapers,” the globally acclaimed television show featuring venture capitalist Tim Draper and inviting founders to a high-stakes pitch competition. BioSapien, a biotech startup that develops a 3D printed drug delivery platform to deliver drugs in a localised, sustained manner for cancer indications with reduced systemic side effects, was crown the winner of the day and will participate in the show’s semi-finals.
Lastly, ADFW saw the launch of The Entrepreneur Journey, the ultimate guide to navigating Abu Dhabi’s entrepreneurial landscape, sponsored by Abu Dhabi DED, Al Maryah Bank, and Aldar, and supported by ADSMEHub.ae and Hub71. Some of the 60 movers & shakers who contributed to the book were available for signing after a fascinating panel discussion about entrepreneurship with Mouza Obaid Al Nasri, Executive Director SMEs Sector at ADDED; Mohammed Wassim Khayata, CEO of Al Maryah Community Bank; Noor Shawwa, Managing Director of Endeavor UAE; and Ronaldo Mouchawar, Vice President of Amazon MENA, moderated by our very own Victor Kiriakos, Founder and CEO of Dunes Ventures. More on that very soon.