Abu Dhabi financial zone prepares to receive license applications

The launch of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) comes as the emirate seeks to diversify its economy away from oil

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Abu Dhabi’s new financial free zone is preparing to receive next year its first licence applications from firms seeking to operate there, after appointing a panel of 16 institutions to advise on its regulatory framework, it said on Wednesday.

The launch of Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) comes as the emirate seeks to diversify its economy away from oil and gas, while widening its footprint in the Gulf’s competitive financial services industry. Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain already have established financial centres.

Representatives from Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan , HSBC, Standard Chartered, Pacific Investment Management, Lazard, Credit Suisse, the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) and Man Group will help to tailor the ADGM’s rules.

The panel will also include United Arab Emirates-based National Bank of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, First Gulf Bank, Mubadala Development Co and ADS Securities. The remaining two panel members asked not to be named.

"The pre open market consultation process is a major step in preparing Abu Dhabi Global Market to receive its first licence applications from financial institutions in 2015," ADGM chairman Ahmed Ali al Sayegh said in a statement.

Abu Dhabi outlined plans in May last year for the full-service financial zone with its own administration, court system and tax incentives to attract banks and companies from around the world.

Richard Teng, a former chief regulatory officer at the Singapore Exchange, has been hired as chief executive of the ADGM’s regulatory body, overseing development and administration of the regulatory framework, the ADGM said in October.

The ADGM may face tough competition from the well-established Dubai International Financial Centre, which is only 90 minutes’ drive away, but Abu Dhabi’s vast oil wealth and status as capital of the UAE mean global financial institutions are unlikely to ignore it.

In its first phase, the ADGM will be a broad-based financial services hub centred around asset management, private banking and wealth management, it said in the statement.