Banking and finance: Financial services regulation in United Arab Emirates

Allen & Overy LLP

Allen & Overy LLP advises commercial banks, investment banks and broker-dealers and asset managers. Jodi Norman, who advises on a wide range of financial services regulatory matters including licensing and registration, access to new markets, structuring novel financial products, day-to-day regulatory compliance and enforcement matters. Clients praise Norman for being 'consistently excellent' and for having 'incredibly sound judgement'. Nick Smith, who co-heads the practice with Norman, acts for numerous fund managers, sponsors and financial institutions. Senior associate Sameera Kimatrai is also recommended.

Practice head(s):

Jodi Norman; Nick Smith

Other key lawyers:

Sameera Kimatrai

Testimonials

Jodi Norman is consistently excellent with a thorough knowledge of both her clients business and commercial aims and incredibly sound judgment when it comes to regulators and their approaches.’

Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance has a leading profile in the market, owing to its strengths in transactions and regulatory matters. The team advises clients on a wide range of matters, including derivatives, asset management, funds, and corporate and private banking, among other areas. Cheuk-Yin Cheung, who leads the Financial Products Group in the Middle East, has in-depth knowledge of key regulatory reforms such as IBOR transition, G20 netting and collateral standards, recovery and resolution planning issues. Counsel Jack Hardman is another key individual to note.

Practice head(s):

Cheuk-Yin Cheung

Other key lawyers:

Jack Hardman; James Abbott

Key clients

International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc.

Dubai Financial Market

Emaar Properties PJSC

Arab Monetary Fund

Wethaq (Capital Markets) Limited

Union National Bank / ADCB

Citigroup

Adyen

Work highlights

  • Acting as issuing counsel to International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA) on three industry netting opinions on the laws of the United Arab Emirates and the Dubai International Financial Centre, in addition to acting as regional advisor on UAE regulatory responses to COVID-19 emergency relief and regulatory reforms on netting and derivatives in the Gulf region.
  • Advised a syndicate of banks, including Citigroup, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, Liberium, Evercore and NBD Capital on the initial public offering of shares in the Dubai based payment solutions company, Network International, on the premium listing segment of the Official List of the Financial Conduct Authority and to trading on the London Stock Exchange’s main market for listed securities.
  • Advising two of the largest D-SIB banks in the United Arab Emirates on their strategic projects to address the imminent discontinuation of London Interbank Offered Rates (LIBORs) and other interbank offered rates (IBORs).

Clyde & Co LLP

Clyde & Co LLP has a sizeable practice that advises on a wide spectrum of matters, including perimeter issues, authorisation, conduct issues and market abuse. The practice covers four key areas, which include conventional finance, Islamic finance, asset finance (marine and aviation), and financial services regulatory and product advice. Matthew Shanahan specialises in advisory and contentious financial services regulation. Peter Hodgins also has a strong background in financial services regulation. Senior associate Katy Fisher is another key individual to note.

Practice head(s):

Matthew Shanahan

Other key lawyers:

Peter Hodgins; Katy Fisher

Key clients

Bank of Singapore

Maquarie Bank

Natixis

IG Limited

Emirates REIT

Glomax Exchange

DEX Holdings limited

Capital For Life FZE Ltd

Loots Family Limited

Protect4Less.com

Ebury

Work highlights

  • Advised Glomax Exchange on obtaining a licence in the ADGM to operate a multilateral trading facility for the trading of digital assets.
  • Advised DEX Holding Limited on the establishment of a crypto asset exchange in Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM).
  • Advising Capital For Life FZE Ltd (CFL) on the establishment of a protected cell company for the purposes of arranging universal life insurance products and associated premium financing arrangements, assisting in application to obtain S&P rating for structure and advising in relation to private equity seed capital investment into CFL.

Pinsent Masons LLP

Pinsent Masons LLP has a full-service regulatory advisory team, which advises on banking, wealth and asset management, insurance and reinsurance, fintech and innovation. It has particular expertise in payments technology, blockchain and open banking. The practice is led by Tom Bicknell, who delivers 'commercial' advice and has a strong understanding of fintech and crypto assets. 'Highly capable' senior associate Marie Chowdhry is 'pragmatic' and a 'quick study'. Chowdhry advises banking and insurance clients, payment service providers and fintech start-ups.

Practice head(s):

Tom Bicknell

Other key lawyers:

Marie Chowdhry

Testimonials

‘I have only dealt directly with Marie Chowdry. She is a very pleasant, highly capable lawyer with a pragmatic view of costs for a not-for-profit. She has also been a very ‘quick study’ regarding our business. She will point out gaps in instructions and will always be upfront and straightforward about the time and costs relating thereto. ’

‘We have been using PM for the last 12-18 months and they have consistently delivered on all of our requirements in a timely, comprehensive and high standard. What is so impressive about the team is the proximity of the partner Tom on the team to the ground and the high level of senior associate Marie Chowdhry. We consistently have information sent over to keep us up to date with any regulatory amendments and their door is always open to any questions that we may have from a legal advice perspective. Their billing is transparent and fair in price compared with other firms that we ask for quotes on.’

‘Marie Chowdhry the senior associate at PM is particularly impressive. All of the work that she has delivered for us has been turned around in an impressive time scale, is always thoroughly researched and preempted with any questions that she thinks we may have. Her attention to detail and overall knowledge of the financial services legal framework makes her our consistent legal representative that we reach out to, with the full comfort that we are getting the correct market-focused advice necessary.’

We are particularly grateful for the length her and her partner Tom Bicknell go to, to keep our firm abreast of the ever-changing regulatory landscape and the open dialogue they keep with us, should we have any questions, without the fear of a large bill following.’

‘Tom Bicknell did a great job. His advice is to the point, commercial and he clearly understands new technologies (i.e. fintech and cryptoassets).’

Key clients

HubPay

Coface Group

CFA Institute

Providence Life

World Blockchain Initiative LLC

SG Veteris Limited

Aviva

Colchester

Work highlights

  • Advising Hubpay on its ADGM licence application to provide money services.
  • Advising Providence Life on all aspects of regulation applicable to its administration and distribution operations.
  • Advising Coface Group on its product and distribution structures under applicable law across the region.

Al Tamimi & Company

Al Tamimi & Company advises a significant number of financial institutions in the UAE on finance operations and activities in the UAE and GCC. The team covers a broad range of financial regulatory issues, from advising the regulators on laws and regulations, to establishment and licensing matters, acquisitions, and on-going regulatory compliance and investigations. Practice head Jody Waugh has extensive experience of advising regulators, banks, finance companies, investment banks and other financial institutions on a wide range of regulatory matters. Managing partner Husam Hourani, Mamoon Khan and Divya Abrol Gambhir are also noted.

Practice head(s):

Jody Waugh

Other key lawyers:

Husam Hourani, Mamoon Khan; Divya Abrol Gambhir

Key clients

MUFG

First Abu Dhabi Bank Mastercard

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank

Axis Bank

Mirabaud

Barclays

Citibank

Bank of America

HSBC

JPMorgan

Credit Suisse

Bank of Singapore

National Bank of Ras Al Khaimah

Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation

American Express

Gulf International Bank

SAMBA Financial Group

Al Ahli Bank of Kuwait

ICICI Bank

Work highlights

  • Advising Al Ahli Bank on establishing a Category 2 presence in the DIFC essentially as a wholesale non-deposit taking commercial bank for providing financial services.
  • Advising ICICI Bank on the regulatory treatment of gold loans and gold derivatives under the applicable DFSA rules and regulations.

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP advises on a full range of regulatory matters, ranging from licensing and registration to corporate governance and compliance. Other areas of expertise include company and branch formation, competition law and insolvencies and restructurings. Practice head Stuart Paterson, who is an experienced dispute resolution specialist, has a strong focus on banking and financial services and contentious regulatory matters. Geoffroy Hermanns is a funds and regulatory specialist.

Practice head(s):

Stuart Paterson

Other key lawyers:

Geoffroy Hermanns

Key clients

Mashreq Capital

JCB

B.R Shetty and family (BRS Capital)

Houlihan Lokey

International Financial Corporation (IFC)

Arqaam Capital

Chimera Capital

Uber

Abu Dhabi Financial Group

ASMA Capital

Mirabaud DIFC

National Bonds Corporation

Work highlights

  • Advised Chimera Capital LLC, an Abu Dhabi asset manager, on the establishment of the Chimera Umbrella Fund, an on-shore public fund pursuing a novel ‘market-first’ exchange-traded fund (“ETF”) structure in the UAE, listed on both the Abu Dhabi and Dubai stock exchange.
  • Conducting a review of assets for Dr Shetty and his group companies and leading on an internal investigation.
  • Provided regulatory compliance advice to JCB’s representative office in the UAE in relation to legal management) and regarding regulations related to payment cards, including payment systems, data protection and AML obligations.

White & Case LLP

White & Case LLP advises banks, asset managers, brokers, insurers, fintech entrepreneurs and sovereign wealth funds. Practice head Adrianus Schoorl, who is a 'technically proficient lawyer', is 'ahead of the curve'. Schoorl is a financial services specialist and assists clients in the public and the private sector. Megren Al Shahaan is another name to note.

Practice head(s):

Adrianus Schoorl

Other key lawyers:

Abdulwahid Alulama; Megren Al Shahaan

Testimonials

‘Our main point of contact at the firm has been Adrianus Schoorl, arguably the most technically proficient lawyer in understanding the regulatory landscape in the UAE and wider Gulf market. ’

‘Adrianus Schoorl, has made a point of being ahead of the curve, through his conversations with decision makers across the industry, to build a clear picture for his clients on the regulatory landscape. ’

‘Just a fantastic resource!’

‘Megren Al Shahaan – absolutely fantastic!’

‘In my experience, W&C team has been one of the most proactive, extremely supportive and legally updated team when it comes to Banking and Finance. The team has its pulse on the development needs of the region and industry.’

‘Must name two individuals – Abdulwahid Alulama and Adrianus Schoorl who have worked with us on different projects over last few years.’

Work highlights

  • Acted for J.P. Morgan Securities plc, financial advisor to Abu Dhabi National Energy Company PJSC (“TAQA”), on its US$20 billion acquisition of a majority stake in the water and electricity generation, transmission, and distribution assets of Abu Dhabi Power Corporation PJSC (ADPower).

Eversheds Sutherland LLP

Eversheds Sutherland LLP, which has a broad client offering, assists clients with banking disputes, corporate crime and investigations (“CCI”), insurance, regulatory investigations, pensions litigation and recoveries. The team has particular expertise in regulatory investigations, an area which is led by Rebecca Copley. She also heads up the litigation and dispute management practice in the Middle East. Clients praise Copley for her 'unparalleled experience' and for going 'above and beyond'. The team is described as 'approachable, pragmatic and commercial' in its approachClint Dempsey is another name to note.  

Practice head(s):

Rebecca Copley; Clint Dempsey

Testimonials

‘A passionate and diverse team who always make all interactions personal ’

‘Rebecca Copley goes above and beyond for her clients. She shows passion in everything that she does, whilst working meticulously to get the job done. Rebecca always take such a personal touch with her clients and is 100% invested.’

‘I have been dealing with Eversheds in Dubai for 6 years. I always find their lawyers to be approachable, pragmatic and commercial in approach. They put the clients first and respond proactively on every occasion’

‘Rebecca Copley. I always find Rebecca to be absolutely professional in every way. She is fair, patient and has excellent communication skills. She has un-paralleled experience in complex financial dispute work across multiple jurisdictions (UAE local courts, DIFC courts and UK courts) and her knowledge of compliance issues are extremely broad. Rebecca also conducts corporate crime investigations and Eversheds has its own AI discovery tool in order to be able to undertake due diligence in-house, be more efficient and reduce costs. Rebecca is incredibly perceptive and brings a commercial slant to every discussion as well as being very strategic. Not only that but she has an engaging sense of humour which makes clients warm to her immediately.’

Key clients

Bank of Sharjah

HSBC Bank Middle East

Hadef & Partners

Hadef & Partners has particular expertise advising on onshore UAE, DIFC and ADGM corporate structures, insolvency, security laws and compliance regulations. The practice works closely alongside key financial authorities and market operators. The team also provides specialist advice in connection with derivatives and structured/complex products. Alan Rodgers and James Farn co-head the practice.

Practice head(s):

Alan Rodgers; James Farn

Testimonials

‘Technically very good, very thorough. Easy to work with’

Key clients

Kraken

First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB)

Maersk Trade Finance A/S

JBF RAK LLC, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Mashreqbank psc, and Davidson Kempner European Partners LLP (Ad Hoc Coordinating Committee)

Taweelah Asia Power Company PJSC, Asia Gulf Power Service Company Limited, and Asia Gulf Power Holding Company Limited

Taweelah Asia Power Company PJSC – Sector change laws

Taweelah Asia Power Company PJSC – Reverse Osmosis (RO) ACWA project.

Al Khaleej Sugar Co LLC

Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Korea Trade Insurance Corporation

Arab African International Bank S.A.E

Work highlights

  • Advised Kraken on UAE-financial free zone matters relating to the licensing and operation of a crypto exchange operation in the ADGM in particular with regard to dealings in dirham, deposit taking and protection, insolvency and client money- related issues.
  • Acted as legal counsel to a consortium of lenders to Naqa’a Desalination Plant LLC (Project Company for the 150 MIGD Seawater Reverse Osmosis Independent Water Project, Umm Al Quwain).
  • Advised JBF RAK LLC, Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Mashreqbank psc, and Davidson Kempner European Partners LLP (Ad Hoc Coordinating Committee) on a major debt restructuring involving a UAE entity under the new 2016 Federal UAE Bankruptcy Law.