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A tale of how two cities thrive in FinTech world

A tale of how two cities thrive in FinTech world
The Abu Dhabi Global Market has set about establishing its FinTech credentials in the market just a year ago.

dubai - The Abu Dhabi Global Market has set about establishing its FinTech credentials in the market just a year ago

By Sanjiv Purushotham

Published: Mon 20 Nov 2017, 4:00 PM

Last updated: Mon 20 Nov 2017, 6:11 PM

The author's shorthand for Happiness Index, Infrastructure, Talent, Regulations, Access and Capital. The six pillars that make UAE a great place for a Startup. This week's article is about the infrastructure available in cities of the future.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope...

print preview1The opening lines of Charles Dickens' novel describes 19th century England and France. Society was transitioning from agriculture and local manufacturing to the Industrial Age - and with it came urban concentration, carbon-based energy, mass-transportation, the concentration of wealth, centralised corporate organisations and the banking system as we know it. Technology was power and it went to the highest bidder.

We live in a somewhat similar exciting and unsettling time, characterised by the democratisation and availability of technology. Unprecedented global warming is pushing us to find moonshot solutions to save our ecosystem. The ridiculous costs, pollution and traffic associated with urban living are creating an opportunity for digital technologies to dismantle the traditional 9-to-5 job paradigm. The population explosion in the next 50 years is making the availability of food and water a huge opportunity for entrepreneurship.

As old structures creak under the force of change, almost any industry is up for grabs.

Responding to news about a large Indian bank reducing employee count by a thousand (www.moneycontrol.com), an entrepreneur friend quipped on social media that his P2P lending company in Hong Kong was in fact hiring. Another friend, a celebrated business author and respected don at a top-three global business school openly, provocatively questioned Apple's future because the X (in his opinion) is just not "Artificially Intelligent enough".

Two cities thrive in this new world. Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Long before renewable energy was pervasive, Abu Dhabi had established Masdar. It has brought in the magic of the Louvre from Paris. Singapore has consistently been ahead of the curve of change. The world's largest vertical botanical garden paves the way for urban farming. The Marina Reservoir is a masterpiece of engineering and vision that turned an inlet of the sea into a strategically critical freshwater resource for the "Little Red Dot".

Recently, the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) held its inaugural FinTech Abu Dhabi Summit. An astoundingly successful event considering that the ADGM has set about establishing its FinTech credentials in the market just a year ago. Over 3,000 people applied for the 500 invitations for the event. The line-up of speakers and the content was on par with the best. The two winners of the FinTech Abu Dhabi Innovation Challenge, Silent Eight from Singapore and FRS Labs from India, went on to participate in the Singapore FinTech Festival.

Two major announcements were made at the event. The first was the launch of the ADGM FinTech Innovation Centre by the first half of 2018. The Innovation Centre's startup acceleration programme will attract and nurture FinTech entrepreneurs and companies. Fintechs from all over the world will be able to develop and deploy innovative solutions in the region. The centre will also be home to participants of the Regulatory Laboratory (RegLab) - ADGM's regulatory sandbox that allow companies to live-test innovative FinTech products in Blockchain, DLTs, biometrics, e-payments, RegTech and more.

The second was about a collaboration. ADGM and Plug and Play, the world's largest startup accelerator based in Silicon Valley, signed a new partnership to launch a startup acceleration programme in Abu Dhabi, focused on FinTech. The programme, first of its kind in the Mena region, will be housed within the ADGM FinTech Innovation Centre. The partnership was signed by Ahmed Al Sayegh, chairman of ADGM, and Saeed Amidi, CEO, Plug and Play. Some of Plug and Play's success stories include Google, Paypal, Dropbox and Lending Club.

Through this programme, ADGM will play a central bridging role. Working with partner banks, academic and financial institutions in the region, it will identify strategic needs and challenges. It will source for the most promising solutions from global innovators and assure the deployment of the solutions.

At the event, ADGM also held the first Middle East regional regulators' closed-door roundtable, well-attended by governors of central banks and financial regulators to discuss how each market could together take FinTech forward. Following this, ADGM and the UAE Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) inked the first regional FinTech bridge to foster financial innovation in capital markets in the UAE. The agreement was signed by Obaid Saif Al Zaabi, acting CEO of SCA, and Richard Teng, CEO, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of ADGM.

An interesting aspect of the event was an open flow of dialogue and discussion between the established Singapore FinTech ecosystem and the fast-rising one in Abu Dhabi. On November 13, Singapore opened its doors to an estimated 25,000 participants in the second edition of the Singapore FinTech Festival. The author was there to absorb what's new as well as reconnect with industry colleagues and decision makers.
But more of that in the next edition of this column.

The writer is founding partner at BridgeDFS, a bespoke digital financial services advisory firm (www.bridgeto.us). Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy. He can be contacted at sanjiv@bridgeto.us.

Singapore has a well-established FinTech ecosystem.
Singapore has a well-established FinTech ecosystem.

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