UNLOCK met with CEO of Bahrain Fintech Bay Mr. Khalid Saad to discuss how Bahrain is moving towards creating a Fintech hub in the region. Bahrain Fintech Bay was launched in February of 2018 and in just 14 months it is now home to 40 startups who are working closely with Bahrain Central Bank and the Bahrain Economic Development Board.
According to Saad, “Bahrain has always been a strong financial center and we aim to capitalize on this and develop in parallel a strong Fintech sector in line with new digital economies and with best of breed and innovative regulations.”
Unlike most of the Fintech hubs in GCC, Bahrain Fintech Bay is an onshore ecosystem that works in close collaboration with enterprises, financial community, and Central Bank as well as other Fintech hubs across the region and globally. Partners of Fintech Bay include Visa, Master Card, Ahli United Bank, AlBaraka Bank, Batelco,Cisco, BNP Paribas, Kuwait Finance House, VIVA Telecom and many more. As Saad states, “ We are not just building a physical space for startups to work in but also an ecosystem that includes industry players, technology players, investment sector and educational. Today we are home to 40 plus Fintech startups from more than 15 countries around the world.”
The startups at Fintech Bay are working on technologies such as cryptoassets, Blockchain, robo-advisory services, Artificial Intelligence, crowd funding platforms and more. “Our aim is to build a strong public private sector partnership model and that is why we are working closely with banking sector, insurance sectors and family business that can leverage these technologies to improve their offerings, explains Saad.
Bahrain Fintech Bay is developing an all-encompassing ecosystem that includes training, conferences, partnerships that goes beyond just real-estate and co-working spaces. The most important element in all of this is the forward thinking regulations that are being developed by the Central bank in the areas of crypto assets, open banking and insurance as well as the research reports that are being developed by Fintech Bay.
Saad is proud that, “We are also developing very strong talent programs that will strengthen our Fintech innovation through our partnership such as that with Labour Fund Tamkeen. We launched the first of its kind Fintech Talent program developed in partnership with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business- and international blockchain and artificial intelligence academies. The FTP addresses the future skill requirements of Bahrain’s financial services industry as well as that of FinTech startups. It uniquely positions the country as a center of excellence for FinTech talent and prepares Bahraini graduates for careers in FinTech innovation and strategy.”
FTP is aimed at targeting 50 participants in two separate batches, who will have the opportunity to develop their professional skills and gain insightful experience in the latest FinTech trends and technologies on a global scale.
In terms of Blockchain and crypto sector, Saad believes that Bahrain is developing one of the most advanced regulatory policies in par with leading countries such as Singapore. He states, “We are developing and making huge advancements in our regulations and we have launched one of the first crypto-asset exchanges in the region, RAIN exchange. We also have the first and only Bitcoin ATM in operation in the GCC region with BasketBahrain.
Today out of the 40 companies that are residing in Fintech Bay 9 of them are Blockchain or crypto related startups. As Saad states, “For a start this is great. We intend to develop our ecosystem further with more VC capital and Angel network. We are also working on digital currency study with Central Bank, and we were the first to launch Open Bank platform and regulations which is a first in the region.”