The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) today granted Sarwa Digital Wealth Limited (Sarwa), an automated investment advice service, in-principle approval for its Innovation Testing Licence (ITL). The DIFC-based company becomes the first FinTech operator to receive approval for this special class of financial service licence developed specifically for FinTech firms.
The DFSA’s ITL is a restricted financial services licence that allows qualifying FinTech firms to develop and test innovative concepts from within the DIFC, without being subject to all the regulatory requirements that normally apply to regulated firms. It was introduced in May this year, as part of the DFSA’s efforts to develop a regulatory framework that promotes growth and innovation in the sector.
Ian Johnston, Chief Executive, DFSA, said: “The DFSA has worked closely with Sarwa’s management to understand its business proposal and the appropriate controls for the safety of customers involved, as the company works towards receiving an ITL.”
Sarwa is the first automated investment advice service for young professionals in the Middle East, which combines investment strategies with technology to reduce investments costs. It is among the 12 start-ups to participate in the FinTech Hive at DIFC, the region’s first accelerator programme launched by the DIFC in partnership with Accenture in January this year.
The 12-week programme went live in August to facilitate collaboration between cutting-edge technology companies and leading regional and international financial institutions. It intends to catalyse growth and efficiency in a variety of areas including Regulatory Technology (RegTech), alternative finance and mobile payments, and concludes with an Investor Day on 12 November 2017.
Mr Johnston added: “We have been impressed by the proposals presented by the Hive participants. We expect several others to apply for DFSA regulation and are already considering the regulatory test plans of some.”
Ms Raja Raja Al Mazrouei, Acting Executive Vice President of FinTech Hive at DIFC, said: “This announcement is a true testament to the success of Fintech Hive at DIFC and the opportunities we provided to our finalists. We remain committed to driving the development of the financial sector in the region and we look forward to seeing more success stories coming out of this Programme.”
In addition to the FinTech Hive at DIFC finalists, the DFSA is in discussions with a range of FinTech firms interested in applying for the ITL or a full financial services licence, with business models including robo-advisors, crowdfunding platforms and digital wallets and payment services. The DFSA is also engaging with a number of RegTech firms, who do not need to be licenced, to understand developments in this area and facilitate progress where possible.
The DFSA’s efforts to support the sustainable development of FinTech and RegTech in the DIFC compliments the UAE National Innovation Strategy set out by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to make the UAE a hub for innovation and technology. In addition to the ITL, the DFSA introduced a tailored regime for loan and investment crowdfunding platforms in August, the first such framework in the GCC region.
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