The Dubai International Financial Centre has just turned its best annual performance ever, with a 20 per cent increase in the number of licensed firms to total 2,919 companies.

This includes 915 entities licensed to provide financial services, up 24 per cent from 2019’s tally of 735. The gains were led by fintech-focussed businesses, which now number 303, doubling their presence during 2020.

DIFC’s operating profit was $125 million, “broadly consistent with the prior year despite global economic headwinds,” the free zone, which launched in 2004, said in a statement.

“The expansion across the Centre’s sectors validates Dubai’s unyielding focus on diversification, innovation and value addition,” said Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and President of DIFC. “And its deep commitment to providing a supportive environment for businesses across the spectrum – from the world’s largest financial institutions to local entrepreneurs.

“The remarkable growth in 2020 enhances the diversity and sophistication of DIFC’s financial ecosystem, further raising Dubai’s status as a major focal point for global finance and a growth multiplier for the industry.”

Among the notable sign ups were TATA Asset Management, Saudi Arabia’s Samba Financial Group, and AfricaRe. The fintechs who joined included Ebury, Ripple, Adyen, KoFax Me and tabby.

In 2020, total banking assets booked in DIFC was up 6 per cent to $189 billion. An additional $64 billion of lending was also arranged by DIFC-based firms.

Wealth and asset management investments channeled from the DIFC base totalled $203.5 billion, up 106 per cent, from $99 billion in 2019. Gross written premiums for the insurance sector reached $1.7 billion.

The DIFC workforce increased by 4 per cent year-on-year. In all, 1,135 new jobs were created by client companies, taking the total workforce to 26,773.