Abu Dhabi grants us their first retail license for financial services! How did we make this happen?

Abu Dhabi grants us their first retail license for financial services! How did we make this happen?

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As an investor, I am focused on 3 key areas: financial services, real estate and tech startups. This is my bread and butter, this is where I’ve built my expertise and strengths in over a decade. I’ve participated in the setup and development of two major fintechs, and after those two successful exits I’m now directing my resources into building a new enterprise in this area – the Key Way group.

I am constantly looking for new segments and new markets and at the end of 2018 I started to research opportunities in the GCC area (Gulf Cooperation Council – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia).  More specifically, the United Arab Emirates, which are establishing themselves as one of the most dynamic markets in the world.

A short few months later, I’m very pleased to announce that I was granted in principle approval for the first ever license for online trading for retail clients, on the GCC market! We’ll be opening there in the first quarter of 2020!

How did this all happen and how did this happen so fast?

Well, I started with the famous “first step” of any thousand-mile journey: research! I did my homework.

Once I set my focus on the UAE, I researched the market regulators in the area and contacted them online via their websites or LinkedIn accounts. In only a few days, we set up a series of meetings with the financial markets regulators in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai!

ADGM, the Abu Dhabi Global Markets regulator, was established quite recently and I was absolutely impressed with their professionalism.

They gave me full support and very clear, detailed information on what and how I need to do to start trading in the UAE. I met with representatives from both the ADGM registration department (where all new businesses have to register before they start trading) and from the FSRA (Financial Services Regulatory Authority).

They were very clear on the procedure, steps to follow and criteria we need to meet, which is a fantastic help for an investor on a new, highly regulated financial market.

Furthermore, their “enthusiasm”, or appetite for new business, equaled mine! They’re happy to welcome new businesses, they work hard to attract them and to set them up for success. I was very impressed that they genuinely appreciate the fact that investors, however big or small, choose their market to set up a company.

In a few days I started the onboarding procedure – everything happens online, everything is digital, everything is set up for maximum ease and transparency. After about a year of rigorous assessment and due diligence, several meetings where I detailed our business plan and longterm vision, and a minimum capital of USD 2 million, the ADGM gave me the first ever financial services retail license!

They hadn’t even had this type of license before, but they were open to new ideas, they listened to our plans and strategy and they were willing to make things possible!

Now as a footnote, I’d love to see this same level of energy, hard work and appetite for business in my home country, Romania. While other jurisdictions welcome investors and work hard to create the framework for development and success, I often feel that the Romanian regulators, for financial markets and not only, start from a default position of suspicion or, at best, indifference. I think they should remember that their whole purpose of existence is to enable business, not hinder it. And as investors, especially once we see best practices from other jurisdictions, we need to remind them of this reality.

 


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