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Abu Dhabi Finance Week

Quite simply they're all here in Abu Dhabi for the 2nd annual edition of Finance Week.

These big hitters all know something important. At this time of year, there's no more important place to be than Abu Dhabi - the self-described 'Capital of capital'.

Perhaps this accounts for the largely unprecedented assembly of leaders representing several tens of trillions, all in one venue. Come one, come all, it seems, including dozens of CEOs and chairmen of some of the world’s biggest financial and industrial concerns, dozens of billionaires and, of course, heads of some of the biggest sovereign funds.


ADGM rising

A first impression of ADGM - Abu Dhabi Global Market for the uninitiated – is one of unrestrained ambition. It also helps that this festival of capital and investment takes place in an imaginatively conceived outdoor park around the ADGM building. And then there's the weather - 27c since you ask.

Yet there is considerably more to the Abu Dhabi story. Indeed, three key factors stand out.

  • Regulatory facilitation
  • Sovereign wealth opportunities
  • A bridge from Asia to Europe and the US

Each one is pivotal and taken together, are hugely significant.


Regulatory facilitation

Abu Dhabi wasn’t the early leader in being the magnet for foreign capital, including banks and investment firms, in the UAE. That honor fell to its near neighbor Dubai.

Being No 2 meant that when Abu Dhabi decided to join the contest, it tried harder. This is notably reflected in the constructive regulatory regime ushered in over recent years by the ADGM.

Investment firms setting up shop in Abu Dhabi are effusive with praise for ADGM. Anecdotes abound about its efficiency in getting firms registered, help with infrastructure and support with finding appropriate legal structures for funds in a variety of overseas markets.


Sovereign wealth opportunities

Everyone is aware of the vast pools of sovereign capital across the Gulf. Right now Abu Dhabi is likely the most open source for firms from around the world to raise capital from the Gulf region.

Sovereign investors like ADIA, Mubadala and the Emirates Investment Authority have an extensive track record in building investment teams in-house and allocating overseas. Now the logic has evolved to allocating with partner firms who are keen to put down roots in the local market.


A bridge from Asia to everywhere

One of the key factors that drew investment firms to Dubai initially was the emirate’s geographic positioning mid-way between Asia and western Europe. This applies equally to Abu Dhabi, but there’s a new twist.

There are signs that Abu Dhabi sees the 21st century giving it the opportunity to become the pivot between the big Asian financial centers and the US, leapfrogging the main Europe market centers in the process. At the moment, this is far from being assured, but the scale of the ambition is palpable.



All in all, what’s happening in Abu Dhabi shows that innovation and thinking big are in the ascendancy. The Children’s Investment Fund announced plans to expand here just last week, following on from other leading players like Ardian, Brevan Howard, Florin Court Capital and others who have already committed to the capital.

Discussion on the sidelines of Finance Week is that the pipeline of firms planning to open in Abu Dhabi shows no sign of slowing. We can thus expect more blockbuster announcements to underscore the ambition driving this rapidly expanding capital of the UAE.

Written by Bill McIntosh, Director at Peregrine Communications.