Establishing a Money Services Firm in Abu Dhabi in 2024

With a thriving financial sector, Abu Dhabi is set as one of the world-class hubs for business and innovation companies. The Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) ranks among the leading financial centres globally, providing entities a reliable and well-regulated business infrastructure to conduct financial service activities. The Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) is the independent regulatory authority responsible for overseeing financial services conducted in or from the ADGM. It is tasked with ensuring that firms operate in a stable and transparent environment that adheres to international standards.

Within the next sections, the SALVUS Payment Services Licensing team sheds light on the FSRA’s requirements for obtaining an Money Services Firm (MSF) license, exploring the different categories. The article is divided into the following sections:

1. Why establish a Money Services Firm in Abu Dhabi?
2. MSF License Features
3. Key Compliance Requirements for an MSF in Abu Dhabi
4. How SALVUS can support your MSF application?

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1. Why establish a Money Services Firm in Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi is renowned as one of the most rapidly expanding and advanced financial technology (FinTech) hubs on a global scale, nurturing innovation and providing credibility. The FSRA is one of the most established and robust financial market of the region, giving investors the confidence to pioneer in the most exciting new sectors. Its legislation model is built on the legal framework used by global financial centres ensuring a stable and secure system.

Firms situated in Abu Dhabi enjoy a highly advantageous tax environment, with no income tax on personal or corporate earnings during a long-term period. Additionally, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has established numerous double taxation treaties with many countries, including several EU member states, deeming it an attractive destination for international investors.

Operating under a unique legal framework, the ADGM, is aligned with the English Common Law accompanied by its own civil and commercial laws and regulations. Further, it applies no restrictions on foreign talent, capital repatriation, and no currency exchange control for existing groups’ branches or subsidiaries in ADGM.

From a geographic standpoint, Abu Dhabi is considered the epicentre of FinTech investments as it is Middle East, Africa, and South Asia’s (MEASA) most popular avenue. To this end, Abu Dhabi has strong economic ties with major global economies, such as the United States, China, and the European Union, allowing investors to benefit from global economic policies and trends.

2. MSF License Features

As an MSF license in the ADGM Free Zone is regulated by the FSRA, its activities are governed by the regulator under Category 3C License.

The features of category 3C, indicating the different services and requirements are provided in the table below:

FeaturesCategory 3C
Services1. Currency exchange
2. Money Remittance
3. Payment Account Provider
4. Stored Value Provider
Minimum Regulatory Capital Requirements
250,000 USD
*with exceptions for certain already authorised persons
Licensing Timeframeapprox. 12 months

Contact us via email at info@salvusfunds.com if you are interested in obtaining an MSF license with FSRA in ADGM or if you would like more information about UAE licensing; our Payment Services Licensing team is ready to answer your questions.

3. Key Compliance Requirements for MSF in Abu Dhabi

Operating a Money Services Firm in Abu Dhabi requires adherence to a robust set of compliance requirements set forth by the FSRA. These requirements ensure that the Money Services Firms maintain high standards of operation, protect customer interests and contribute to the stability and integrity of the financial system. Here are the key compliance requirements MSF must meet:

  • Licensing and Registration
    • Comprehensive Application Process: Money Services Firms must submit a detailed application to the FSRA, including information on business plans, management structure, and financial projections.
    • Fit and Proper Criteria: Key personnel must demonstrate the necessary qualifications, experience, and integrity to manage a Money Services Firm.
  • Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter-Terrorist Financing (CTF)
    • AML/CTF Policies: They must implement robust AML and CTF policies and procedures to prevent financial crimes.
    • Customer Due Diligence (CDD): Conduct thorough CDD, including verifying customer identities and monitoring transactions for suspicious activities.
  • Financial Reporting and Audit
    • Regular Financial Reporting: MSF are required to submit periodic financial statements and reports to the FSRA, ensuring transparency and accountability.
    • External Audits: Engage external auditors to conduct independent audits of financial statements and compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Capital Requirements
    • Minimum Capital Standards: Maintain minimum regulatory capital requirements as specified by the FSRA, ensuring the financial stability of the firm.
    • Liquidity Management: Implement effective liquidity management practices to meet obligations and manage cash flows.
  • Data Protection and Cybersecurity
    • Data Security Measures: Implement stringent data protection policies to safeguard customer information and comply with data protection laws.
    • Cybersecurity Framework: Develop a robust cybersecurity framework to protect against cyber threats and ensure the integrity of financial transactions.
  • Governance and Oversight
    • Corporate Governance: Establish a strong corporate governance framework, including clear roles and responsibilities for the board of directors and senior management.
    • Regulatory Cooperation: Maintain open communication and cooperation with the FSRA, promptly reporting significant events and compliance issues.

By adhering to these key compliance requirements, Money Services Firms in Abu Dhabi can ensure they operate within the regulatory framework, protect customer interests, and contribute to the overall stability and integrity of the financial sector. Ensuring compliance not only helps in avoiding legal penalties but also builds trust with customers and stakeholders, fostering long-term success.

4. How SALVUS can support your Money Services Firm application?

The SALVUS Payment Services Licensing team is composed of industry-leading professionals able to support you in every step of your Money Services Firm license application with FSRA and ADGM.

Our team employs a sophisticated project management approach, beginning from designing an effective portfolio of money services that suit your business plan and objectives. We work closely with our clients and their teams to ensure the preparation of a complete and well-supported application package, leading your interaction with the regulator.

Finally, we ensure that your application to the ADGM and FSRA is detailed and well-prepared, fulfilling all regulatory requirements for the successful launch of operations. Leveraging on our profound understanding of Abu Dhabi’s financial regulations and substantial experience in the field, we constitute a prominent choice for companies seeking to achieve regulatory compliance.

Contact us at info@salvusfunds.com if you are interested in licensing a Money Services Firm under ADGM and FSRA in Abu Dhabi; our Payment Services Licensing team is ready to help you.


The information provided in this article is for general information purposes only. You should always seek professional advice suitable to your needs.

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