Dubai International Financial Centre

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Dubai International Financial Centre
Industry Banking, financial services, insurance, wealth & asset management, brokerage & capital markets, professional service providers, corporate offices and retailers
Founded 2002,[1] operations started 2004[2]
Headquarters Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Key people
Sheikh Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum (President)
Essa Kazim (Governor)
Arif Amiri (DIFC Authority CEO)
The Dubai International Financial Centre as seen from The Dubai Mall

Established in 2004 in Dubai, Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a 110-hectare district and major global financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) markets.

DIFC has its own independent, internationally regulated regulator and judicial system, common law framework, global financial exchange, tax-friendly regime, and a large, cosmopolitan business community. The district houses hundreds of financial institutions, including wealth funds and private investors, although it also hosts multinationals, retail outlets, cafés, restaurants, residential space, public green spaces, hotels and art galleries.

DIFC is one of Dubai’s independent free-zones, which means it offers companies 100% ownership without the need for a local partner. The district is governed by a common-law framework distinct from the UAE legal system with laws and regulations issued in English. DIFC offers clients a 50-year guarantee of zero taxes on corporate income and profits complemented by the UAE’s network of double taxation avoidance treaties.


Established in 2004, the DIFC – positioned between the financial centres of New York and London in the West, and Hong Kong and Singapore in the East – is a global centre for trade and finance.


  • DIFC’s first bi-annual meeting of the DIFC Governors is held


  • DIFC’s landmark Gate Building starts
  • Construction on the Gate District commences[3]
  • Construction of DIFC Gate Building is completed


  • HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, appoints two judges to the DIFC Court[4]
  • Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX) is launched[5]
  • HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum officially launches DIFC.


  • Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance is established[6]
  • Several professional education programmes, including the world’s first Executive MBA in Islamic Finance developed by Cass Business School, are offered from the DIFC Centre of Excellence
  • DIFC Judicial Authority publishes the draft Rules of Court[7]


  • DIFC issues its Data Protection Law[8]
  • DIFC Investments issues landmark USD1.25 billion sukuk[9]
  • DIFC Real Property law is enacted, allowing companies and individuals to hold freehold ownership of real estate within the financial district


  • DIFC Authority achieves ISO Certification
  • DIFC Courts appoints the first female judge in the UAE
  • HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum establishes a joint venture with the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) and inaugurates the DIFC LCIA Arbitration Centre
  • HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum enacts new Arbitration Law of DIFC[10]
  • HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum swears in first UAE National Judges to take office in an International Court of Appeal at DIFC Courts[11]


  • DIFC hosts release of Regional Economic Outlook for the Middle East and Central Asia by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • DIFC Courts creates the first pro-bono programme in the Middle East


  • DIFC is awarded the inaugural Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Patrons of the Arts Award[12]
  • The Ministry of Finance signs MoU with DIFC Authority to promote cooperation and exchange of expertise


  • The jurisdiction of the DIFC Courts is expanded to include any case beyond the DIFC, in which both parties agree to its jurisdiction[13]


  • DIFC and the Australia Gulf Council sign a Strategic Partner Agreement[14]


  • FTSE opens new offices in DIFC[15]
  • DIFC unveils updated master plan at Cityscape Global[16]


  • DIFC Investments launches and prices a USD700 million sukuk
  • DIFC sees the enactment of the Netting Law that provides legal certainty in DIFC on the enforceability of close-out netting in the case of insolvency[17]


  • DIFC launches 2024 Strategy, which aims to triple the size of the Centre over the course of a decade[18]

Governing Bodies[edit]

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is governed by three independent bodies:

The DIFC Authority is the management body established to oversee the strategic development, operational management and planning of the Dubai International Financial Centre.

The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) is a central and independent regulator that grants licenses, oversees the activities of all financial and non-financial institutions in DIFC and regulates all financial and ancillary services conducted in the centre, including disclosure requirements. The DFSA is also responsible for the regulation and supervision of persons in DIFC in relation to anti-money laundering, counter-terrorist financing and sanctions compliance and has the power to impose restrictions, suspensions and sanctions, including financial penalties.

The Dispute Resolution Authority (DRA) incorporates DIFC Courts, DFIC-LCIA Arbitration Centre, DIFC Academy of Law, and the Will & Probate Registry and is in charge of independent administration and enforcement of justice in the Centre.

Laws and Regulations[edit]

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) operates within a unique legal and regulatory framework entrenched in the UAE’s constitution and the country’s laws, both at Federal and Dubai levels, permitting DIFC to have its own civil and commercial legal framework, inclusive of financial services regulation and a courts system modelled closely on international standards and principles of common law, tailored to the region's needs.

The DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre was launched in 2008[19] and then re-launched under a new legislative structure in November 2015 to operate in parallel to and independently from the DIFC Courts.

The Wills and Probate Registry was launched in 2015[20] to provide legal certainty and a comprehensive inheritance solution for non-Muslims with assets in Dubai, allowing them to register English language wills that allow their Dubai-based assets to be transferred upon death according to their instructions.

Established in 2015, the Academy of Law’s[21] core functions include training and regulating lawyers, and publishing court reports and academic literature. The Academy of Law also provides free legal advice for people in need through the region’s first pro-bono programme.

Data Protection[edit]

The Dubai International Financial Centre’s (DIFC) Data Protection Law[22] prescribes rules and regulations regarding the collection, handling, disclosure and use of personal data in DIFC, the rights of individuals to whom the personal data relates and the power of the Commissioner of Data Protection in performing their duties in respect of matters related to the processing of personal data as well as the administration and application of the Data Protection Law. The Data Protection Law is consistent with EU directives and OECD guidelines.

Business Areas[edit]

DIFC hosts both financial and non-financial firms, with the financial areas of its business including banks, insurance, wealth markets and capital markets, and the commercial areas of its business encompassing professional services, global corporates, retailers and management offices.


DIFC provides for a variety of banks, including wholesale, investment, private and Islamic, contributing to regulatory policies.

Specialist areas include:

  • Commercial banking
  • Investment banking
  • Trade and export finance
  • Project and infrastructure funding
  • Treasury services
  • Correspondent banking

Capital Markets

DIFC is a key regional location for banks and capital markets firms conducting investment banking and commercial banking activities in the region.

Nasdaq Dubai [23]– located at DIFC – is considered a leading international financial exchange in the Middle East, where companies raise capital through US dollar denominated shares. The Dubai Mercantile Exchange (DME), also at DIFC, is one of the region’s top international energy futures and commodities exchanges.

Wealth and Asset Management

The Centre hosts firms active in wealth management and asset management as well as multi-family offices and private banks. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region hosts nine of the top 20 sovereign wealth funds globally, with assets estimated at USD 2 trillion.

In addition to Private Equity funds, Dubai's recently enacted Collective Investment Law provides a regime for fund domicile at DIFC and those marketing foreign funds in and from DIFC to include a legal framework for mutual funds, real estate funds, funds of funds and Islamic funds.

DIFC’s regulatory framework enables:

  • Special purpose companies for financing transactions that facilitate the economic ownership of GCC real assets by non-GCC investors
  • Investor vehicles with tailored regulatory requirements
  • Open and closed-ended funds
  • Funds of funds
  • Private equity funds
  • Hedge funds
  • Real estate funds
  • Shari’ah compliant funds

DIFC-domiciled investment funds can be marketed internationally, including in the European Union, through private placement regimes.


The insurance sector of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) was the first to establish its own trade association. In 2015, the not-for-profit Professional Association of Insurance Entities at DIFC was established to support and represent the needs of DIFC’s (re)insurance market.

DIFC’s regulatory insurance framework enables:

  • Re/Insurance
  • Re/Insurance broking
  • Underwriting agency
  • Managing general agent (MGA)
  • Coverholder
  • Third party administration
  • Captives
  • Protective cell companies
  • Captive manager

Professional Services Providers

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) sees a wide-range of professional services providers in its centre, including multinational law firms, big-four accounting firms, management consultants and recruitment firms.

DIFC-based service providers specialise in:

  • Accounting and auditing
  • Corporate service provision
  • Compliance
  • Consulting
  • Education & training
  • ICT solutions
  • Legal
  • Market information & research
  • Recruitment
  • Risk management


The Dubai International Financial Centre’s (DIFC) legal framework and tax offering supports the following corporate structures:

  • Holding companies
  • Proprietary investments offices (including investment in commercial, education etc.)
  • Intermediate Holding Companies / Special Purpose Vehicles
  • Special Purpose Companies (legal entities established to facilitate one particular transaction)


The Centre features several hotels and residences as well as a community of art, culture and cuisine in the following retail zones:

  • Gate Village, located adjacent to The Gate building, focusing on art galleries and fine dining outlets
  • Marble Walk, located beneath The Gate building, focusing on takeaway meals, retail convenience and essential services
  • The Balcony, which is the terrace surrounding The Gate building, focusing on casual dining options


DIFC is made up of commercial office spaces, residential spaces, hotels, business centres, modern data centres, retail spaces, galleries and more.

In July 2012, DIFC announced the restructuring of the centre’s core functions[24] into two independent entities: DIFC Authority was named as the business development and legislation arm, and DIFC Properties was established as part of DIFC Investments to manage the centre’s existing real estate portfolio and develop the remaining plots in DIFC’s Masterplan.

DIFC Properties oversees the property management and development of real estate assets in DIFC.

Data Centres

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) has four data centres that serve global and regional companies based in the Centre. The data centres provides a minimum N+1 redundancy for each cabinet, and offer connection via dark fibre or two complete diversified routes.

Business Centres

DIFC’s business centres’ features include:

  • Conferencing and meeting facilities
  • Communication tools
  • Instant internet and telecom connectivity
  • Mail receipt and distribution
  • Storage space
  • IT support
  • Housekeeping
  • Hot and cold beverages
  • 24-hour security


A ‘city within a city’, the district includes retail offerings within an easily walkable, open-air and air-conditioned space featuring a blend of retail, fine dining and café options.

These include:

Art Galleries

DIFC’s art galleries showcase artwork and culture from across the region and from the wider world. Works of art have been deployed at public spaces across the district to complement the centre’s award-winning architecture. In addition to its galleries, DIFC also hosts its bi-annual Art Nights event, featuring live music, gallery shows and performances in the Gate Village district.

Restaurants and Cafes

DIFC is home to over 60 food and beverage outlets.

Retail Outlets

DIFC offers a variety of retail and convenience offerings, including department stores, bespoke boutiques and high-street stores set in a walkable open-air and air-conditioned retail space.


Currently, the luxury Ritz Carlton hotel – that offers a direct walkway into DIFC – and the five-star Four Seasons hotel are both based in the district. The Waldorf Astoria is expected to open in DIFC in autumn 2017.

Master Plan[edit]

DIFC is 20 minutes from the Dubai International Airport, and the business districts of Downtown Dubai and Business Bay are located less than a 15-minute drive away. The district is close to Sheikh Zayed Road, the city's main, central highway. DIFC is also located between two metro stations.

DIFC’s master plan has been designed with subterranean passages connecting one end of the development to the other, as well as accessible roadways and a metro station to facilitate the smooth operation of business.

Designed with pedestrian access in mind, the district is augmented with greenery and public spaces as well as a European street setup that encourages people to explore the area on foot.

DIFC-owned Buildings

  • The Gate Building
  • Precinct Buildings
  • Gate Village Buildings

Third-Party Owned Buildings

In addition, a number of third-party owned or managed buildings are located in the DIFC district – these include:

Gate Avenue at DIFC

Gate Avenue at DIFC is a retail project launched in April 2016, that will connect all buildings across the financial district. It consists of more than 150 retail locations with a built-up area of 660,000 square feet.

2024 Strategy[edit]

DIFC aims to triple in size over the next decadeby drawing firms from China, India and Africa, growing assets under management at DIFC from USD17.4 billion to USD250 billion.

As part of the 2024 plan, DIFC aims to double the amount of leased space at the free zone from 2.5 million square feet in 2014 to 5.5 million square feet in 2024, increasing its workforce from 17,860 people to 50,000 by 2024.

DIFC sees 50% of future growth coming from China and the surrounding Asia and Asia-Pacific regions – the South-South trade corridor that stretches right across from Africa and possesses a combined GDP of USD7.4 trillion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ DIFC announces project overview for real estate development | DIFC | Archived June 23, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is open for business | DIFC | Archived June 23, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "DIFC begins construction of 11th Gate District office building | Middle East Construction News". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  4. ^ Reporter, A Staff. "Shaikh Maktoum appoints two judges to DIFC court". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  5. ^ Jenos, Nasdaq Dubai - Created and Maintained by Muhammed. "Nasdaq Dubai". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  6. ^ "Hawkamah | Hawkamah - The Institute for Corporate Governance established by DIFC and International Organisations". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  7. ^ "The DIFC Courts: A New Decade, a New Era In Dispute Resolution Part II - Al Tamimi & Company". Al Tamimi & Company. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  8. ^ "New DIFC Data Protection law comes into force - Al Tamimi & Company". Al Tamimi & Company. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  9. ^, CPI. "CPI Financial | CPI Financial | Features | Details financial analysis and comments". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  10. ^ John, Issac. "Dubai Enacts DIFC Arbitration Law". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  11. ^ "Mohammed bin Rashid issues Law on DIFC Courts". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  12. ^ "Awards - His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  13. ^ "Dubai widens jurisdiction of DIFC Courts". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  14. ^ Report, Staff (2015-06-10). "DIFC's timeline: gaining prominence as trade and finance centre". GulfNews. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  15. ^, CPI. "FTSE opens new offices in Dubai International Financial Centre". CPI Financial. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  16. ^ Report, Staff (2015-06-10). "DIFC's timeline: gaining prominence as trade and finance centre". GulfNews. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  17. ^ "The DIFC Netting Law - Al Tamimi & Company". Al Tamimi & Company. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  18. ^ "Dubai International Financial Centre outlines plans to triple in size". The National. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  19. ^ News, Essam Al Tamimi, Special to Gulf (2008-11-30). "DIFC-LCIA arbitration centre revisited". GulfNews. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  20. ^ Editor, Jumana Al TamimiAssociate (2015-06-01). "Registering wills in Dubai: A necessity for expatriates". GulfNews. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  21. ^ "International thinking unites DIFC Academy of Law and NYU Abu Dhabi". MENA Herald. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  22. ^ Dubai, TenTwenty | Webdesign, Webshops & E-marketing |. "Data Protection | Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC)". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  23. ^ Jenos, Nasdaq Dubai - Created and Maintained by Muhammed. "Nasdaq Dubai". Retrieved 2017-12-06. 
  24. ^ "DIFC splits its property and finance operations". The National. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 25°12′51″N 55°16′53″E / 25.21417°N 55.28139°E / 25.21417; 55.28139