Largest fintech hub to open in Bahrain

Bahrain FinTech Bay, operated by Singapore-based fintech incubator Fintech Consortium, will be a 10,000 sqft facility

A car passes in front of the Central Bank of Bahrain in Manama, October 27, 2013.

A car passes in front of the Central Bank of Bahrain in Manama, October 27, 2013.

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
MANAMA - A facility opening in Bahrain next February will be the largest dedicated fintech hub in the Middle East and Africa, according to its developer and manager.

Bahrain FinTech Bay, operated by Singapore-based fintech incubator Fintech Consortium, will be a 10,000 sqft facility which will include a variety of shared infrastructure, such as co-working spaces, the consortium’s Bahrain chairman Missan Al Maskati told the GDN in an exclusive interview.

According to him, it would utilise its global network and integrated digital platform to help create an ecosystem where innovators and entrepreneurs can connect and collaborate with corporates, investors, regulators and other stakeholders to develop, test, scale and grow new financial technologies and successful enterprises.

“Through this initiative, we will continue to work closely with the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), Economic Development Board and other governmental bodies to develop the regulatory framework required to foster a thriving fintech sector.

“We believe this holistic approach and proposition will attract a full spectrum of participants and stakeholders together.”

In addition to that, it will grow awareness of fintech and its capabilities in Bahrain and wider Mena region by providing educational courses and bringing events and conferences to Bahrain.

The Bahrain fintech ecosystem is developing nicely – the current and future developments are poised to make Bahrain the leading fintech ecosystem in the region.

Recent developments such as the introduction of a fintech regulatory sandbox, crowdfunding regulations and cloud policy are a great start.

The fintech regulatory sandbox has already positioned Bahrain as a regional jurisdiction where new technologies and innovations can be tested, localised and then pushed out to the wider region.

The CBB has also established a dedicated fintech unit to help drive the development of the fintech ecosystem further, encourage innovation within the financial services sector and look at developing new regulations.

Aside from a bankruptcy law which is key for entrepreneurs, start-ups and corporates alike, having open data laws and enhancing the cybersecurity law in Bahrain will be a big boon for the fintech ecosystem and will encourage the development, adoption and deployment of many digital innovations in the financial services sector, said Mr Al Maskati.

Fintech will definitely change the way businesses operate and will reshape the products and services offered to consumers.

It will increase the number of payment providers and modes of payments that will bring further accessibility and convenience to consumers.

It will also help in the development of cyrptocurrency exchanges, crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending platforms, in addition to the deployment of regtech (regulatory technology) solutions to provide e-KYC solutions and streamline compliance, regulatory and reporting processes of businesses.

Fintech is expected to drive innovation in digital banking platforms and e-wallets, ease the adoption of blockchain in Bahrain and the deployment of smart contracts.

Additionally, it will contribute in the rollout of robo-advisory services to institutions and individual customers and chatbots services where customer service and engagement can be enhanced through artificial intelligence.

According to him, all sectors will benefit from fintech and this is not only restricted to the financial services sector.

“Increased digitalisation of financial services will facilitate access to innovative and bespoke products suited to customers’ needs, provide access to real-time consumer data, increase transactional transparency and reduce risk.

“Fintech will help address financial inclusion, address financial/cash flow needs of companies especially SMEs efficiently and rapidly, transform supply chain and trade financing and support e-commerce and merchant financing among other things,” he said.

Additionally, it will reduce information asymmetry in the market which will help promote more efficient use of resources and enhance risk management.

There are many technological breakthroughs and developments that are transforming the landscape of financial services.

Those that will have a profound impact on fintech, industry and society as a whole are blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and sophisticated data analytics.

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