The Dubai Financial Services Authority has a mission to develop, administer and enforce world-class regulation of financial services within the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC). Also recognised as DFSA, the board aims to lead the development of the financial markets through a fair regulatory framework. This review will discuss what this means for traders, including the rulebook, ownership, board of directors, company register, regulatory actions and more. We’ve also listed the top DFSA brokers below.
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What Is The Dubai Financial Services Authority?
The Dubai Financial Services Authority strives to maintain an environment that embraces the DIFC guiding principles of integrity, transparency and efficiency. The authority aims to protect and enhance trading conditions for retail investors and service providing entities. The board does this by embedding high standards in a concise, clear and flexible regulatory framework. This is based on international best practises relevant to the modern international finance centre.
The vision of the board is to be an internationally respected regulator, leading the development of financial services in the UAE through a fair yet strong directive.
The Dubai Financial Services Authority is now well established. Here we outline some key dates in the history of the DFSA to understand how it got to where it is today:
- 2004 – On 13th September 2004, the ruler of Dubai enacted the Dubai Law creating the DFSA as an independent entity within the Dubai International Financial Centre. This is a purpose-built financial-free zone in Dubai, UAE
- 2004 – The first meeting of the regulatory council under the law was held in October
- 2005 – A move to a registered headquarters address in 2005 saw the Dubai Financial Services Authority make the first steps to become an internationally respected regulator
- 2010 – Broadening establishment in the market was felt. The DFSA launched its official website in the Arabic language, meeting the needs of local stakeholders and broadening dialogue with the market. Since then, publications are produced in both Arabic and English
- 2012 – The European Commission granted the regulatory body’s audit monitoring system equivalent status with European Union Member States
- 2014 – The DFSA published its first Anti-Money Laundering (AML) report
- 2016 – Launch of the revamped official website and innovative mobile application provides stakeholders direct access to DFSA’s initiatives
- 2017 – The Dubai Financial Services Authority announces that FinTech firms can apply for a financial services licence referred to as an Innovation Testing License (ITL)
The authority has been successfully operating ever since, and in 2019 the DFSA marked its 15th anniversary by registering the 500th firm conducting services in or from the DIFC.
Why Was The DFSA Created?
The Dubai Financial Services Regulatory Authority legislation was established to ensure fairness, transparency and efficiency in the markets, but why are they really there? The agency oversees regulated entities and monitors their compliance with the relevant laws and rules. New entities must be authorised and registered with the regulatory body to conduct financial services within or from the Dubai International Financial Centre.
The functions and main responsibilities of the Dubai Financial Services Authority are comprehensive. With the regulatory obligation, the board has a statutory responsibility to pursue the following objectives:
- To endorse public understanding of the regulatory guidelines of the financial services industry in the DIFC
- To protect direct investors and offer guidance to prospective new traders within the financial services industry in the DIFC
- To detect and prevent activities that may cause damage to the reputation of the DIFC using appropriate actions
- To preserve the economic stability of the financial services industry in the DIFC including the reduction of systemic risk
- To create and maintain fairness, efficiency and transparency in the financial services industry. Specifically, the services and related activities of these carried out in or from the DIFC
When exercising responsibilities and functions via the regulatory framework, the board follows guiding principles of integrity, transparency and efficiency. These include:
- Using resources and assets in the most efficient manner
- Perusing the purposes of the DIFC as set out under the Dubai Law
- Nurturing the development of the DIFC as a globally respected financial centre
- Certifying that the cost of regulation is proportionate to its benefit to individuals and registered entities
- Collaborating with and providing support to regulatory authorities in the United Arab Emirates and other jurisdictions
- Implementing powers and performing all functions in a transparent manner including the publication of an annual report
Dubai’s Financial Services Authority regulatory mandate covers various services in or from the DIFC. This includes asset management, insurance, international commodities derivatives exchanges, commodities futures trading, banking services, collective investment funds, securities and more. Additionally, to regulating these categories of services, the DFSA is accountable for overseeing and implementing Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing within the DIFC.
The Regulatory Law of 2004 permits the Dubai Financial Services Authority to create rules related to objectives, powers and functions. Any new guidelines tend to comprise of a period of public consultation. Thus, as a trader, you are given the right to comment on proposed rules. It should be noted that the DFSA’s regulatory regime is subject to international standard reviews from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. This ensures that a specific jurisdiction’s regulatory system is fair and reassures traders that international best practice is being implemented.
The Dubai Financial Services Authority follows a corporate structure. At the time of writing the chairman of the DFSA was Fadel Abdulbaqi Al Ali. Board members are made up of directors and an executive team across various departments. These committee subdivisions include governance and nominations, audit, risk and remuneration. The hierarchy structure consists of the following members:
- General Counsel
- Human Resources and Operations
- Committees – including risk, audit, and legislative
- Board of Directors – including a chairman and Chief Executive
- Reporting to the Chief Executive – supervision, legal, strategy policy, market and enforcement
The DFSA holds strong relationships with other regulatory boards across the globe. The pursuit of common objectives via the exchange of information ensures fair guidelines for traders under the DIFC. Specific cases can be referred to the Financial Markets Tribunal (FMT).
In October 2021, the Dubai Financial Services Authority updated its regulatory framework for crypto and digital currency investments. This guidance includes protocols for all investment tokens such as security tokens or derivative tokens.
Directors of the board, including Peter Smith, and previously Apurv Bagri, promote the guidelines as a strategy for the future of the market in a safe trading environment. A full consultation paper is due by the end of 2021 but is expected to follow similar values published by the UK’s FCA. The framework applies to all individuals issuing, trading, or holding such tokens.
The entity has been recognised in various awards ceremonies since its inception in 2004. Honours include the Best Regulator for Islamic Funds in 2007. This followed the DFSA’s efforts to facilitate cross-border marketing of Islamic investment funds.
The Dubai Financial Services Authority adopts an effective strategic approach to corporate social responsibility with several social initiatives. This includes launching the Tomorrow’s Regulatory Leaders Programme in 2006. The DSFA Tomorrow programme has developed sustainable careers, jobs and high salary opportunities for UAE nationals.
A financial services awareness initiative was also launched for the UAE community to learn, share and understand financial markets. Alongside this, an in-house magazine originally named ‘13th Story’, offers an educational resource for individuals wanting to learn within the DSFA community, including prospective traders.
The Dubai Financial Services Authority regulatory board has made significant progress in its quest to become a globally respected authority. The website update and statutory regulations now provide transparent information for both financial entities and traders. This induces the online publication of the annual report, the outsourcing of reviews and simple entity search functionality.
However, license fees are costly when compared to the likes of the CySEC, which may deter companies from registering. On the positive side, traders can be assured of the stringent compliance, listing rules and qualification requirements of financial service firms.
Final Thoughts On The DFSA
The Dubai Financial Services Authority is an independent regulator that ensures a safe and transparent trading environment within the DIFC. Alignment with global regulators and a focus on corporate social responsibility is an added benefit. Remember, when signing up with a brokerage, don’t just check for the DFSA logo on the broker’s website. Always check they are on the register of the board by using the entity search function on the DFSA’s official website. See our list of DFSA regulated trading brokers to get started today.
How Do I Know If A Broker Is Registered With The DFSA?
You can use the online Dubai Financial Services Authority company search to see if a broker is regulated by the board. This tool allows you to search through all firms associated with the regulator.
How Can I Contact The Dubai Financial Services Authority?
Traders can contact the DFSA via telephone at +971(0)43621500. The regulator follows standard office hours Sunday to Thursday 8 AM to 5 PM (GMT+4). Unfortunately, we did not find an email address contact and LinkedIn updates are infrequent.
Does The Dubai Financial Services Authority Regulate FinTech Firms?
Yes, licensing became available in 2017. Ian Johnston, Chief Executive, suggested FinTech is providing opportunities to seek financing and inclusion within the online trading landscape. The DFSA allowed FinTech firms to apply for a class of financial services license for sustainable development.
Is Cryptocurrency Trading Regulated By The DFSA?
Yes, from October 2021, the DFSA implemented guidelines for security token and derivative token trading. The framework includes requirements for digital wallet providers, appropriate marketing of digital currency trading and facilitating direct access to approved trading venues of investment tokens.
When Was The DFSA Established?
The DFSA was established in September 2004, when it was approved as an independent entity within the Dubai International Financial Centre. The authority was created to ensure fairness, transparency and efficiency within financial services.