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Co-innovation: Bahrain’s proactive path to enhance FinTech’s foothold in the Gulf

EntrepreneurshipFinanceFinTechGCCStartup

As the most established financial centre in the Gulf region, Bahrain continues to play an active role in what the future of finance will look like throughout the GCC. For years we laid a foundation to ensure a welcoming environment for financial sector institutions to take root and expand from the Kingdom. And take root they did – to the tune of around 400 that now call Bahrain a major base of operation.

From a reduction of the minimum capital required to start a business to the cultivation of a strong talent pool that fuels productivity within the Kingdom, small steps drove substantial results for the sector. But we decided that as the regional leader in this sector, a foundation alone is not enough. It’s our duty to co-create the future of finance in the GCC, in partnership with the leaders who are spearheading the most visionary disruption here and abroad. This is an approach to co-innovation that is reforming Bahrain’s hard and soft infrastructure in ways that will enrich the financial sector significantly.

By really listening to investors and entrepreneurs, we quickly came to understand that the future of finance will hinge on the performance of FinTech businesses. Their insights also informed the development of a dynamic roadmap for FinTech’s expansion in Bahrain.

The most recently enacted elements of that roadmap have been the most exciting, and have set the scene for an unbridled period of FinTech investment in Bahrain. These include:

  • The establishment of Bahrain FinTech Bay, the MENA region’s largest FinTech hub, earlier this year;
  • Development of a “regulatory sandbox” that allows FinTech companies to test and experiment with novel banking and wealth management based solutions;
  • Installment of the first regulations in the region to facilitate crowdfunding in compliance with Islamic finance principles;
  • A nationwide data protection law that promotes the efficient and secure processing of big data for commercial use;
  • An updated bankruptcy law that enables experimentation and innovation by businesses and improves the outcomes of the bankruptcy process for all.

Our ability to innovate and enhance the potential of finance pioneers does not stop there. In fact, I am in the United States this week talking to FinTech leaders and investors to continue the development of our co-innovation roadmap. This will produce new facets of our approach for years to come. Our team will also host two roundtables – one in San Francisco and one in New York City – to discuss hacks to FinTech growth in the Kingdom with some of the most forward-thinking companies in the sector, including digital currency exchange platform Rain and Mastercard.

The imperative to co-innovate and ensure a rapid growth trajectory for FinTech in the Gulf has never been more clear. The GCC accounts for about 66 per cent of global Islamic finance assets, and with purchasing power growing among a largely unbanked Muslim population in these countries, now is the time for FinTech innovators to invest in Bahrain.

Follow @BahrainEDB and the #FintasticBahrain hashtag on Twitter to learn more about the ways we are empowering FinTech innovators to grow their businesses in the Kingdom and beyond.

David Parker

Executive Director – Investment Development for Financial Services at Bahrain EDB