The DIFC Authority chief executive officer, speaker at this year’s Dubai World Insurance Congress (DWIC) 2018 event, talks innovation and insurtech in the MENA region

DIFC Authority chief executive officer Arif Amiri oversees the strategic and operational functions of the Dubai international Financial Centre (DIFC). Under his leadership, DIFC has grown substantially and set out an ambitious 2024 Strategy, which will see it further enhance its position as the leading financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

His vision for DIFC reflects the UAE’s commitment to innovation and economic diversification. As part of this vision, DIFC is further developing its FinTech proposition and leading a number of initiatives to move the innovation agenda towards a broader conversation about the future of finance.

Amiri answers our buzz round three questions and talks insurtech in the MENA region.

What impact has innovation and insurtech had on the MENA region, and specifically Dubai?

In the past 10 years, technological advances have transformed business models in every sector – and insurance is no exception. Cutting-edge technologies, like artificial intelligence, automation, big data, blockchain, are being integrated into the insurance sector by new startups, new products and new thinking. While the MENA region is under-insured compared to other global regions, promoting more awareness about an ease of access to insurance in the region will undoubtedly drive the regional insurance market forward – and this is exactly the role of innovation and insurtech.

For instance, I’m familiar with a technology start-up insurer who is using a FinTech platform that allows worldwide capacity to be efficiently deployed to specialty insurance lines. Another company in the region is equipping engineers with wearable devices and drones to enable insurance carriers and loss adjusters to remotely see, inspect and assess any risk from the comfort of their desks to make faster and more informed underwriting decisions.

What are some of the key opportunities for Dubai and the MENA region over the next five years?

This market is significantly underinsured – across the Middle East, insurance penetration figures range from around 0.7% to 2.5%, so there is significant room for growth. The more we see insurtech firms emerge in the region and break the barriers of traditional distribution channels bringing creative and smart solutions to the market, the more demand and opportunities the insurance sector will see.

We also see potential growth in cyber risks, trade credit, infrastructure and renewable energy in the MENA region.

How is the DIFC helping to facilitative growth and progression in Dubai? And what impact could this have on the wider region?

DIFC continues to take the lead in driving innovation and the development of the financial sector in the MEASA region.

As one of the world’s top ten financial centres and the leading financial hub for the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, DIFC is creating an infrastructure that supports the establishment of an innovation ecosystem. We are also streamlining our processes to increase ease of doing business for startups looking to establish in the DIFC. In addition, we are focusing on collaborating with government entities and private organisations to promote collaboration and facilitate knowledge exchange. We very much intend to play a key role in promoting financial inclusion in the wider MEASA region by promoting financial innovation out of the centre.

The focus of DIFC-based insurance and reinsurance firms has traditionally been on five key lines: Property and Construction, Health, Energy, Marine and Trade Credit.

In January 2017, we launched FinTech Hive at DIFC, a first-of-its-kind accelerator in the region aimed at bringing cutting-edge technologies to the emerging MEASA markets. Throughout the 12-week programme, tech entrepreneurs from around the world were able to engage with our dynamic community to test, adapt and develop their solutions to meet the needs of the market. Our independent regulator, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) continues to develop fit-for-purpose regulation, following the introduction of the Innovation Testing Licence, which allows qualifying tech-focused firms to develop and test their concepts from the DIFC.

We also launched a USD 100 million FinTech-focused Fund during the Global Financial Forum to accelerate the development of financial technology by investing in start-ups.

This year, we will be introducing two new programmes focused on regtech and insurtech and we look forward to updating the market with all the exciting details in the near future.


Arif Amiri will be speaking at Dubai World Insurance Congress (DWIC) 2018, taking place 27 – 28 February. Click here to find out more and register.