Deficiencies of regulatory regimes and the absence of an investor culture have often been regarded as handicaps in the Arabian Gulf.
While recognising there is still work to be done, the UAE has made significant progress on both fronts in recent years. "The job is to help create a market where companies can introduce good products and investors can act with confidence. I believe we have that now at the DIFC," said Ian Johnston, the chief executive of one of the main regulatory bodies, the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA).
Some critics, who believe the UAE has too many exchanges, say the country also has too many regulators, with the Emirates Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA), and sometimes the Central Bank, too, overlapping with the work of the DFSA. "Most people would argue that the region has too many exchanges but that's a matter for the exchanges and their owners, not for us as a regulator," said Mr Johnston.
"The DFSA and the SCA work together on a number of matters. We have had an information-sharing memorandum of understanding in place since 2005 and cooperate closely."
The DFSA is regulator for the financial free zone encompassed within the DIFC and reports to the DIFC president, Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed, Deputy Ruler of Dubai. The SCA has responsibility for the UAE's other markets, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange and the Dubai Financial Market, as well as other markets in the seven emirates that make up the UAE.
It is difficult to pinpoint the ingredients of good investor relations culture but the Middle East Investor Relations Society believes the UAE has made solid progress in terms of corporate governance, transparency and communications. "There has been a marked increase in commitment in recent years, across the region and the UAE is no different. Things don't change overnight but the sentiment is definitely changing. We have put a lot of resources into promoting good IR [investor relations]," said Paul Reynolds, the society's chairman.
Peter Gotke of Bank of New York Mellon said IR was growing in importance. "Since the financial crisis many companies took the view that taking control of their IR functions would influence the kind of investor they might attract."