The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) saw a "remarkable" 25% year-on-year increase in licensing over the course of 2023 to reach just shy of 800 firms, it revealed its annual report published today (10 May). 

This surge in licensing activity "underscores the growing confidence in the DFSA’s regulatory framework and the attractiveness of the region for financial services firms", the regulator said in a statement.

"Notably, there was a remarkable 50% year-on-year increase in applications across all business models, reflecting the robust growth and diversity of the financial services sector within the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)."

The wealth management sector experienced significant growth, with increases in licencing applications from private banks, asset managers, and fund management companies.

More than 40 domestic fund registration applications were received during the year.

The DFSA further said it witnessed robust growth in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) securities listings, recording $11.72bn in total value of new ESG bonds and Sukuk listed – bringing the total outstanding ESG securities to $27bn as of year-end.

Fighting financial crime "remained a priority" for the DFSA as demonstrated by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with the UAE’s Financial Intelligence Unit, enhancing efforts in anti-money laundering (AML) and combating the financing of terrorism (CTF). Amendments to the DFSA’s AML, CTF and Sanctions Module aligned the DFSA’s rules with new regulations and guidelines at the UAE Federal level.

Throughout 2023, the DFSA said it signed a total of 115 bilateral MoUs, five multilateral MoUs, and eight innovation agreements in 2023.

In line with safeguarding and enhancing the cybersecurity landscape within the DIFC, with their Threat Intelligence Platform (TIP) achieving "a significant milestone" with more than six million compromise indicators issued to users since its launch in 2020.

Fadel Al Ali, Chairman of the DFSA, said: “Looking ahead to 2024, the 20th anniversary of the DIFC, we remain committed to supporting the vision of UAE and Dubai, fostering development, and collaboration within the DIFC community.

"As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we reflect on our achievements and legacy while paving the way for continued engagement and delivering regulation that upholds the integrity of the DIFC.”