DubaiÆs recent attempts to establish itself as a financial centre to rival Hong Kong has written promising another chapter, with the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) bringing in former HSBC chairman David Eldon as the new chairman of its board. The veteran Hong Kong banker brings an incredible amount of credibility and contacts to DIFC and given his vast experience in Asia, will likely aim to further model the centre on Hong Kong.

Eldon, the former chairman and chief executive officer of HSBC for Asia, will lead a newly forged board of directors of the DIFC Authority (DIFCA) which includes members of United Arab Emirates executive banking community, foreign banks and local financial exchanges. They will take over from the previous DIFC board, which established and oversaw the initial operational board of the centre,

The DIFC, which opened in 2004 and is known to be the worldÆs fastest growing international finance centre, was long known to be looking for a senior figurehead. Eldon brings an impressive resume with knowledge of Middle Eastern etiquette and culture, which ironically began with HSBC in Dubai.

In 1968, Eldon joined HSBC Bank Middle East, formally known as The British Bank of the Middle East. He remained in the Middle East until 1979 in a variety of roles before relocating to Hong Kong as manager special projects.

From this position, Eldon returned to the Middle East as deputy managing director of The Saudi British Bank in Saudi Arabia. He held this position between 1984 and 1987 before returning to Hong Kong with responsibility for HSBCÆs largest multinational corporations.

Following this posting, he became chief executive officer for HSBC Malaysia in 1988 before taking on the role of general manager of the group in 1990.

Two years later, Eldon then accepted the position of general manager in HSBC Hong KongÆs international department. In 1994, he was appointed executive director of the bank and then in January 1996, chief executive officer. In 1999, Eldon was then named chairman of HSBC in Asia, which he held until his retirement in May 2005.

Since his HSBC departure, Eldon has been named a senior advisor to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Hong Kong. He also holds a number of other titles including that of director at MTR, chairman of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, a council member of Hong KongÆs trade development council and honorary chairman of the Seoul International Business Advisory Council.

Evidently, these credentials will bode well for the DIFC as it aims to model itself on success stories such as Hong Kong, of which Eldon brings intimate knowledge. Thus far Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank, Standard Chartered and global law firm Linklaters have opened offices in the DIFC, while Citigroup and HSBC have both announced plans to have a major presence in the onshore financial centre.

Regionally, SingaporeÆs DBS received approval to open its first Middle Eastern branch at the DIFC in early April. This was followed by an announcement later in the month by a representative office opening of the Japan Bank for International Co-operation (JBIC) within the complex. With the arrival of Eldon and the increased inter-activity between Asia and the Middle East, it now seems only a matter of time before more large domestic institutions set up shop.

The DIFCÆs has opened the Dubai International Finance Exchange (DIFX) in 2005 and has lured some of the worldÆs top financial firms with benefits such as zero tax rate on profits, 100% foreign ownership, no restrictions on foreign exchange or repatriation of capital, operational support and business continuity facilities. Most recently, DIFC acquired a 1% stake in Euronext, which according to the group, is in line with its long-term strategy to turn the emirate into a world-class finance centre.

Primarily, the DIFC focuses on six sectors of financial activity: banking services (investment banking, corporate banking and private banking); capital markets (equity, debt instruments, derivatives and commodity trading); asset management and fund registration; insurance and reinsurance; Islamic finance; business processing operations and ancillary services.

On the stock exchange side, currently, one company, Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI), listed ordinary shares on the exchange so far, but it is claimed that 15 more will list throughout 2006. The DIFC has also harboured ambitions to attract more listings from India, Southeast Asia and Mainland China.

It attracted a $35 million global depository receipt (GDR) from Indian oil and gas pipe manufacturer Man Industries in March and DIFC plans for more to follow.