DIFC appoints chief operating officer, outlines strategy

08 March 2002

Senior management posts are starting to be filled at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Hussain al-Qemzi has been appointed chief operating officer and the appointment of a permanent commissioner is expected within three months. Unveiled in mid February by UAE Defence Minister and Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the DIFC will be fully operational by the end of the year (MEED 22:2:02, Cover Story).

Al-Qemzi was previously with First Gulf Bank, where he served as strategic managing director. Prior to that, he worked at Citibankand HSBC. He joins Ian Hay Davidson, who is acting commissioner of the DIFC. Once a permanent commissioner has been appointed, Hay Davidson is expected to take up the post of part-time chairman of the five-member regulatory council.

In a late February interview with MEED, Hay Davidson corrected the impression that he would be resident in the UAE. 'There is no question of me living in Dubai, ' he said. 'I hope that within three months we will appoint a permanent commissioner. At that time, it is expected that I will be appointed part-time chairman of the regulatory council.'

'The regulatory council will have five members. I will be part-time chairman and there will be three senior and very experienced international regulators who have not yet been appointed.' The fifth member of the council will be the commissioner who will be based in Dubai. Hay Davidson said he would expect to visit the UAE about once a month.

'The commissioner will be responsible for the rules in the market, licences, supervising the market and dealing with any problems that arise,' Hay Davidson said. He said that he is in contact with the Central Bank of the UAE. 'I had a very productive meeting with the governor [Sultan al-Suwaidi] 10 days ago,' he said. 'It is my view that our paths don't cross.There will be an agreement between ourselves and the Central Bank of the UAE about who does what. I am sure we will need to inform them about what we are doing and seek their advice.' Hay Davidson said he has made it clear that the DIFC will not license retail banks or promote retail financial activity.

Hay Davidson confirmed that licences will be issued to a variety of financial institutions, including insurance companies, but that only banks operating in wholesale markets will be allowed. The DIFC will also be confined to banks with primary locations either in London or New York. He said that a memorandum will have to be concluded with the Financial Services Authority (FSA) of the UK and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The appointment of Hay Davidson has brought a heavyweight figure with an international reputation to the development of the DIFC. An accountant, Hay Davidson was a managing partner at Andersenand held a number of official roles in the UK, including membership of the UK's Price Commission, which was closed in 1979. In 1983, he joined the Bank of England (central bank) and was seconded to a variety of posts including being chief executive of Lloyd'sof London.

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