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CBB launches fintech regulatory sandbox

Central Bank of Bahrain creates regulatory sandbox to encourage finance sector startups

CBB launches fintech regulatory sandbox
HE Rasheed Al Maraj: Bahrain aims to provide the right mix of policies and products to support a growing financial sector.

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has announced a new fintech regulatory sandbox, to allow startups in the financial sector the ability to test new banking businesses.

The regulatory sandbox, which will be open existing CBB licensees and new startups that intend to launch in Bahrain, is intended to attract finance sector startups to Bahrain and build on its position as a hub for the financial industry.

The CBB recently issued the Regulatory Sandbox Framework directive, which provides the regulations for the sandbox, a virtual space for companies to test their technology-based innovative solutions.

Startups that want to become part of the sandbox project will need to demonstrate innovation, show customer benefit, technical testing, and an intention to be deployed in Bahrain after the sandbox period ends. The testing duration is nine months, with a maximum extension of three months.

The fintech regulatory sandbox concept is gaining traction in the region, with projects including Abu Dhabi Global Market’s RegLab and Dubai International Financial Centre’s The Hive already underway.

Bahrain has recently launched a number of initiatives to develop the ecosystem to support fintech in the Kingdom. Most recently, the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) announced a partnership with FinTech incubator and ecosystem builder Singapore Fintech Consortium and Dubai-based asset management and advisory firm Trucial Investment Partners to develop a FinTech ecosystem and regulatory framework for the Kingdom. The agreement includes support in developing the related commercial and legal infrastructure required to initiate, nurture and sustain Bahrain’s FinTech ecosystem. It will pave the way for increased interaction between fintech firms in the Middle East via Bahrain and those in ASEAN via Singapore and will facilitate the entry of Singaporean FinTech companies into the Kingdom.

HE Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, Governor of the CBB, said: “These new initiatives are a continuation of the CBB’s efforts to provide the right mix of policies and products to develop and enhance the quality and competitiveness of services in the financial sector. We are living in an era of unprecedented changes mainly brought about by technological advancement, where we are witnessing how technology is defining financial services and CBB remains at the forefront of these developments to enable the industry to advance similarly.”

HE Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the EDB, said: “The launch of the regulatory sandbox is an initiative that follows on the directives of HRH the Crown Prince to prioritise innovation that supports sustainable high value job creation in the Kingdom. In order to grow the fintech industry, we know we need to create an ecosystem in which entrepreneurs can innovate and test their ideas – and the introduction of Sandbox regulations is one of the key steps towards ensuring that environment. Bahrain has always been an attractive proposition for fintech - particularly due to our unique offering in areas such as Islamic finance and payments, and we are looking forward to welcoming more local, regional, and international fintech firms.”

“The regulatory sandbox will enable industry players to apply innovative Fintech products while maintaining the overall safety and soundness of the financial system; We are pleased with the introduction of this regulation, which sets a very forward-looking policy that adapts with the times,” said Mr. Khalid Hamad, Executive Director of Banking Supervision. 

More details on the sandbox can be found on the CBB’s website.

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