Webinar: Abu Dhabi Global Market & a 'Digital Sandbox' for FinTech Innovation

ADGM had this idea of a Digital Laboratory. This is essentially a completely digital infrastructure we wholly own to allow start-ups to display their APIs and get certified.

Webinar: Abu Dhabi Global Market & a 'Digital Sandbox' for FinTech Innovation


Gabrielle Inzirillo joined the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) of the Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) in February 2021. As Head of Market Development in the Financial Technology & Innovation unit, she drives the relationship between financial institutions, venture capital firms and FinTech start-ups.

The following excerpt is from the full interview, which can be accessed below:

"There is a lot of innovation taking place in global financial markets. The Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) is positioned to take advantage of that. Structured on English common law, any regulatory frameworks published can be adopted by other global regulators as best practice. This creates a much more cohesive regulatory environment across jurisdictions for FinTechs.

Different countries have done different things. Paris has invested in its talent and has great engineering schools to push tech-based start-ups in AI and machine learning. Amsterdam has a dynamic ecosystem that amalgamates big companies but still allows for a good dialogue. Luxembourg punches heavily above its own weight in terms of geographic size as it basically serves all of Europe. Being such a small city state, everybody knows each other, so you can meet the Prime Minister in the line at the supermarket, which means that ideas get across very quickly.

Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a whole has a lot of top-down government support, which you do not get in a lot of places. Governments here are investing heavily in the start-up culture, in up-skilling citizens and creating a conducive environment. Start-up founders can come here and focus on the importance of actually proving that their product works in the marketplace.

Regulators have traditionally had so-called regulatory sandboxes that are basic spaces or frameworks where rules are essentially suspended in a transparent manner. This has been a really good way for regulators to look at new technologies, see what fits into their rules, see if they have to make changes, et cetera. When companies and banks engage with FinTechs and start-ups, they also deploy these types of sandboxes.

However, this is usually a little section of their data centre or IT stacks where they have pre-production environments to test whether or not these start-ups can actually work. Start-ups can plan everything in the world, but have to be proven. As the regulator, the ADGM had this wonderful, phenomenal idea of a Digital Laboratory."

This is essentially a completely digital infrastructure we wholly own to allow start-ups to display their APIs and have them certified. It also allows financial institutions to connect to the Digital Laboratory. We provide the infrastructure for them to test their solutions digitally in our pre-production environment.

They do so in a secure, neutral environment overseen by us as the regulator, which is essentially a not-for-profit organisation. We are not here to make money out of any of this. We are just here to basically grow the ecosystem. To make it even more beneficial, it is open to everyone. We have start-ups from across the world. FinTechs can come and display their products to global financial institutions. That essentially means we are building a digital marketplace connected to an actual digital testing ground where this stuff can be trialled to see if it is viable.

The reason we did this is because we did not want to just help ourselves, we want it to help everybody. One of the good things is that not only do the banks feel more safe and secure, it accelerates the procurement process, because they are not doing anything in-house at all, they are just testing things externally in a safe environment.

It also means that if you are a financial institution in a different country and are unsure if you are maybe operating in a regulatory grey zone, you can invite your regulator to join our Digital Laboratory so they can have a look under the hood to ascertain if it can be allowed in their home jurisdiction. We wanted this to be a tool for everybody, from financial institutions to FinTechs and regulators, so that we can have more and more solutions and FinTech products that hit the market and actually get to consumers, which is what we want."

This episode was moderated by John Lillywhite, Google Research Scholar at the Mohammed bin Rashid School of Government.

Republished with permission of Dubai World Trade Center Fintech Surge Advance team under a creative commons license.