Bahrain ‘among first countries to adopt financial technology’

MANAMA: Emerging markets like Bahrain are increasingly outpacing developed markets in implementing the latest technology, shows the latest research from audit and advisory firm Grant Thornton.

A report by the firm found that financial technology (fintech) in particular is seen playing a significant role in the growth and innovation strategy for governments across the emerging economies of Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

However, it is evident that developed markets are making slower progress which is driven by a need to want additional assurance around certain aspects of cloud technology, whether that’s security, integrity of data, functionality or the overall financial situation in terms of balancing operating expenditure versus capital expenditure.

There is a nervousness about being early adopters.

According to Grant Thornton Bahrain’s senior partner Jatin Karia, “Archaic and legacy based systems and processes become a part of an organisation’s DNA, therefore managing change and embracing new opportunities often are considered amidst the financial and risk implications. That said, we are seeing Bahrain moving forward in an agile and innovative way.”

Such agility has seen strategic bodies such as the Economic Development Board, the Bahrain Fintech Bay and Central Bank of Bahrain working rigorously to drive economic development in the technology space.

The Bahrain firm’s IT advisory director Navneet Sharma believes that whilst some dynamic businesses are reaping the benefits from the introduction of enterprise management software applications, robotics (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced business intelligence tools, for others there is a significant risk of being left behind and even making costly “strategic errors”.

“Our recent survey of senior executives shows that only around half of organisations have a clear strategy and business case for enhanced digital transformation within the finance and compliance functions.

“In Bahrain, however, the findings show that digital transformation strategy is the way forward and state-of-the-art new concepts are on horizon to deliver new products and services,” he added.

Mr Karia is of the opinion that data is an imperative business intelligence tool across Bahrain, with almost very government authority and private sector businesses now relying on it to make key strategic decisions.

“The findings of our local research further testify to this given that significant number of conceptual solutions are currently being evaluated across organisations here,” he added.

Talking about the “biggest source of inefficiency” in finance functions, Mr Sharma said, “Considering the current costs of regulatory compliance and reporting, regtech offers greater automation and cost savings to organisations of all sizes.”

“Collaborations will be required to harness the true capabilities and value through localisation. A new development in this regard is the initiative on e-KYC (electronic know your customer) in Bahrain that will bring cost savings across all industries. The current focus is on government services, banking, insurance, micro-finance, telecommunications, FMCG and retail, leasing and finance, and hospitality,” he added.

“The three imperative facets which drive a business include its people, processes and technology. Together they underpin the strategy, whether it’s strategy for the finance function or the entire organisation. If you align the decisions that are made around technology to your strategy, you’ll make better business decisions.”

In Bahrain, the firm has observed a clear distinction among industry leaders, as against followers, in early adoption of proofs of concept (PoC) and strategic investments in technology.



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