Abu Dhabi Global Market, the capital’s new investment free zone, has awarded its first full financial licence to a member company.
Afkar Capital, an incubator for asset management fund start-ups, received an ADGM licence this month, making it the first financial operation to join the market since it declared itself officially open for business in October.
Afkar is the brainchild of Seif Fikry, the former chief executive of the EFG-Hermes business in the GCC outside Saudi Arabia, based in the Dubai International Financial Centre.
He has teamed up with Sylvain Vieujot, who runs the DIFC-based Emirates Reit property investment business, and who becomes a non-executive director of Afkar.
Mr Fikry said: “It is an honour to be first but it’s also pretty scary. ADGM has put a lot of responsibility on us and we need to live up to it. We agree with ADGM that we need to start a real global asset management industry in the region, it’s as simple as that.”
Afkar will act as an facilitator for asset management businesses wanting to set up in the UAE. “We provide the backbone and infrastructure for a would-be asset manager. Afkar allows for the influx of innovative financial instruments to regional markets by providing fund managers with the necessary tools to bring their ideas to life,” Mr Fikry said.
He left his job at EFG in the summer after 14 years to focus on setting up Afkar. He met Mr Vieujot, once an executive with the management company of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, while advising on the Emirates Reit market flotation in 2013.
Afkar is likely to be the first of many debutants at ADGM’s Al Maryah Island headquarters in Abu Dhabi, which has already admitted 17 non-financial licencees.
Ahmed Al Sayegh, ADGM’s chairman, told a conference of regional regulators in the capital: “ADGM’s purpose is to set up a sustainable business and financial ecosystem in Abu Dhabi for local and international financial and non-financial entities to thrive.
“At ADGM, entities can now efficiently set up trusts, special-purpose vehicles, family offices, collective investment schemes, open-ended and closed-ended companies within a one-stop shop environment in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
It is believed that ADGM’s executives are considering several applications from national, regional and global financial institutions.
At the 10th GCC Regulators Summit, Richard Teng, the chief executive of ADGM’s Financial Services Regulatory Authority, said the market had joined two international financial regulatory bodies, the Basel Consultative Group and the International Association of Insurance Supervisors.
He said: “Through global memberships, we will keep abreast of international developments and financial innovations to develop a conducive ecosystem to foster sustainable growth.”
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