DUBAI: International funds selling investments in the UAE plan to lobby financial regulators to ease new product registration fees which they complain are much higher than the charges on local operators and could run into tens of thousands of dollars.
“You do not create an efficient and competitive landscape by charging different amounts for local and international firms,” said one Dubai-based head of a global asset management firm who asked not to be identified.
“That too, at such huge disparities. The SCA has listened to us in the past and we hope they listen this time too. It’s in everybody’s interest,” he said.
The region is a major revenue driver for asset management firms such as BlackRock Inc, Fidelity Investments, Barings Plc and T Rowe Price which sell their products via banks and insurance firms to wealthy Gulf investors, institutions such as sovereign wealth funds and family firms.
By contrast, local asset management firms, which focus on investing within the Gulf, have struggled to attract investor interest and stay afloat since the 2008 financial crisis.
The UAE’s Securities and Commodities Authority is proposing to charge international companies Dh30,000 ($8,200) to approve funds being promoted to the public along with a Dh5,000 fee for examining the application.
Funds being sold to private investors cost Dh15,000 to register. The new scale of charges was issued in June but has yet to be confirmed by being published in the Official Gazette.
Asset managers have complained that costs will soar if products are sold through multiple distributors. If an international fund sells three products through three distributors, registration fees could total Dh270,000 ($73,500). By comparison, Singapore charges an initial fee of S$1,200 per fund and an annual fee of S$1,200 ($960), according to an executive at an international fund firm said.
Rates in Luxembourg are fixed at ¤5,000 ($6,800) for the range of funds which the asset managers intend to sell, he said. The UAE SCA said local fund firms are required to pay Dh10,000 ($2,700) as licence fees and Dh5,000 fee for an application to sell their products in the country.
Peter Duke, sales director for Fidelity Investments in Dubai, said the impact of the new charges would not fall on asset management firms but on those promoting the funds, like banks.
“But the reality is that the fund promoter will pass the costs to the fund provider or customers. The fee structure doesn’t work in the best interests of customers. Some international firms could decide to reduce their presence because it would be difficult to justify the charges or costs.”
The SCA said in a statement that its registration fees for funds were among the best in the world and were designed to encourage fund providers to offer only high-quality products.
“Investment funds’ registration fees could help curb the supply of large numbers of foreign funds at the expense of a thorough due diligence processes by the promoters, and to the benefit of high quality foreign investment funds,” the SCA said. It added that the fees appeared high because the SCA had decided to introduce one-off, non-recurring charges.