Can startups based in middleweight fintech entrepots, like Abu Dhabi and Dubai, compete successfully for global capital? Probably. But not in the way you might think. Cross-border investors have grown weary of me-too fintech enterprises operating within the constraints of a limited hinterland. The consumer market can only absorb a few players; international expansion is never a fait accompli. Outside of the largest economies, the sort of “sandboxes” that policymakers are setting up for fintech ventures may best serve the institutional side of the business. Think process automation, blockchain, and artificial intelligence. Those firms can operate with greater cross-border latitude. They just do not have the marquee appeal of online lending platforms or robo-advisors.

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