Dubai took the top spot globally for attracting foreign direct investment projects in the financial services sector in 2021, according to a new report.

Led by the Dubai International Financial Centre, the emirate attracted 58 FDI projects in the sector, totalling Dh926.20 million ($252.19m) last year, beating major financial hubs such as London, Singapore, New York and Paris, a report published by the Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI), an agency of the Department of Economy and Tourism, showed on Tuesday.

DIFC ranked as the best performing free zone globally in attracting FDI in the financial services sector last year. It has achieved this ranking since 2017.

“The global financial services industry and wider business community’s confidence in DIFC consistently enable us to facilitate substantial foreign direct investment into Dubai,” Arif Amiri, chief executive of DIFC Authority, said.

“The centre’s commitment to further differentiate itself as the region’s leading global financial centre, positioned alongside other global cities … reflects our commitment to continuously evolve our existing world-class business-enabling ecosystem, legal and regulatory framework and innovation proposition to attract companies from around the world.”

Established in 2004, DIFC is the largest financial centre in the Middle East and Africa and the 19th biggest worldwide, according to the Global Financial Centres Index ranking published last year.

The financial centre generates more than 12 per cent of Dubai’s gross domestic product, its governor, Essa Kazim, said in June.

The financial centre attracted nearly 1,000 financial companies in 2021, growing the total number of companies operating in the free zone to 3,650.

In line with its DIFC Strategy 2030, the financial centre is seeking to further position Dubai as a global hub for financial institutions, FinTech businesses and innovation companies. Under the plan, the centre plans to double in size and boost its economic contribution to Dubai’s GDP.

Between 2017 and 2021, Dubai attracted 184 FDI projects worth Dh5.2bn and created approximately 5,727 jobs in the financial services sector, according to the Dubai FDI report, which is based on data from the Financial Times’ fDi Markets database on greenfield (wholly-owned investments) FDI projects.

By the end of 2021, Dubai ranked first globally in the financial services sector in attracting FDI projects, third in job creation — generating about 1,432 jobs — and fifth in FDI capital generated, the report said.

Greenfield projects accounted for 84 per cent of the total FDI projects in Dubai’s financial services sector last year, up from 81 per cent between 2017 and 2021.

Reinvestment projects accounted for 9 per cent, up from 8 per cent, and greenfield (joint venture) projects accounted for 2 per cent, up from 1 per cent, during the same period.

Meanwhile, the UK continued to lead as the top source country based on FDI projects in the financial services sector in 2021, followed by the US, Switzerland, India and Cyprus, the data showed.

“Despite the challenges the world has faced in the past few years — the pandemic and economic changes — Dubai has provided a strong and sustainable investment environment,” said Fahad Al Gergawi, chief executive of Dubai FDI.

“Dubai’s top ranking in FDI is a testament to its strong fundamentals and the confidence that investors and multinationals have in this region.”

The DIFC’s advanced infrastructure and “stable environment” have played a vital role in its success, Mr Al Gergawi added.

Dubai was also ranked first globally for attracting FDI across all sectors last year, as the emirate’s economy rebounded from the coronavirus pandemic, according to the annual Dubai FDI Results & Rankings Highlights Report 2021 published by Dubai FDI in May.