With all the talk of downsizing and global firms retrenching from the Middle East, it’s slightly reassuring to note that the number of people employed within the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has increased by around 700 over the last year and that the number of new firms operating there rose by 7%.
There are now 848 companies operating in the DIFC, up from 792, and around 12,000 people are employed there, compared to approximately 11,300 at the end of 2010.
The past two years have been challenging for the DIFC, with the centre being forced to pare back its headcount as demand dwindled for office space among international financial services firms. Now, 95% of its commercial office space is filled, compared to 92% in 2010, and Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of the DIFC Authority, says it has the “potential to double in size in the next five years”.
In part, the increase in companies can be attributed to the fall out from the Arab Spring – Dubai was seen as a relative safe haven, and number of firms relocated staff to the emirate last year. It issued new licences to the likes of BNP Paribas Wealth Management, Bank Vontobel and Jefferies last year.
However, there was also increased interest in companies from Asia setting up shop in the DIFC, and the proportion of firms from the continent increased to 11% last year. Perhaps worryingly, however, the largest proportion (37%) of firms still herald from crisis-ridden Europe and financial institutions there are paring back headcount more aggressively than their US counterparts.