Social Impact

Dubai International Finance Centre

The case for an innovation hub to facilitate MEASA financial inclusion


The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a special economic zone in Dubai covering 110 hectares. Established in 2004, it is a financial hub for the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia (MEASA) markets. When the DIFC released its future strategy, one major theme was that in the MEASA region, many people do not have access to financial services. This is an issue for the population and for financial services firms and the financial centers: such an under-penetration of financial services reduces not just retail banking, but also broader financial services flows. Fortunately, DIFC’s innovations promise tools to reduce the costs of access to finance and to increase its reach.

1.7 billion of the world’s global working population still lacks access to formal financial services – 50 percent of these individuals are situated in the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia, highlighting the large pool of opportunity in the region. The research and analysis undertaken by Oliver Wyman has been integral in highlighting the role that financial innovation hubs, such as Dubai, can play in increasing access to financial services for the unbanked population. As one of the world’s top financial centers, this is a priority for the DIFC. It’s been a pleasure working with the Oliver Wyman team to raise awareness around the importance of financial inclusion and the action required to reduce income disparity while boosting economic growth
Arif Amiri, Chief Executive Officer, DIFC Authority


Oliver Wyman helped DIFC assess digital strategies for reducing financial exclusion in the MEASA region and identifying key barriers across the region. Moreover, we helped define what digital financial inclusion could look like for the Centre. We began with the core objectives of mandating primary research, accelerating the design of customer centric digital solutions, supporting dissemination on a large scale of a new lead develop products. For DIFC, it means fostering awareness in capacity building and driving the articulation and adoption of common regulatory standards. We helped put together a value proposition for stakeholders that could join in an innovation hub, including investments firms, NGO organizations, and government authorities.

Financial inclusion is a huge challenge for economic development, and a global hub had been missing for too long
Greg Rung, Partner


The projected impact of this project is the establishment of a financial center, which includes the following three services:

  1. A coworking space and innovation lab for different stakeholders to collaborate;
  2. A digital platform that allows for online collaborations;
  3. A set of events that will raise awareness and facilitate collaboration among stakeholders.

To date, some of the leading financial sector players have announced they are keen to participate and the center is now being formed at an operational level by the DIFC.

Combining a powerful idea with Oliver Wyman’s credibility, we were able to quickly generate substantial momentum among leading players in the industry for the idea of Dubai as a hub for innovation and financial inclusion
Dominik Treeck, Partner