Bahrain launches region's first digital innovation lab

MANAMA: A new fintech platform launched yesterday connects banks in Bahrain to fintech start-ups globally, positioning the kingdom as a regional innovation hub.

Regulated by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), FinHub 973 is the first comprehensive digital fintech lab in the region and builds on the sandbox launched in 2017.

A venture of the Economic Development Board, Bank ABC, ila Bank, Benefit, NBB and Bahrain Islamic Bank with UAE-based Fintech Galaxy, the new platform aims to create a collaborative fintech ecosystem for a faster launch of financial services and products through an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered global marketplace.

During a virtual event, CBB Governor Rasheed Al Maraj said, “We are pleased to launch the FinHub 973 digital fintech lab that will support a seamless transition into digital banking operations, while accelerating the transformation towards an AI-powered digital economy.”

He added that the importance of expanding digital banking and providing appropriate electronic payment solutions has been highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Having long realised the need to continuously develop the banking sector infrastructure, the CBB has put itself at the forefront of regulatory bodies that support innovation, said the chief of the financial sector regulator.

“The launch of FinHub 973 reaffirms the vision of the Central Bank of Bahrain to expand infrastructure in financial technology, unlock innovation opportunities, and introduce new products to the market,” added Mr Al Maraj.

Yesterday’s launch follows the CBB’s recent initiatives including the establishment of a dedicated fintech and innovation unit, and issuing regulations for open banking, crypto-asset platform operators, robo-advisory, cloud computing and online insurance aggregators.

FinHub 973 will be powered by Fintech Galaxy’s FinX22 – a cloud-based open innovation tool that complies with the best international technical standards.

It will offer an open banking application programming interface (API) sandbox that enables start-ups to develop, test and deploy fintech solutions.

An API is a software that allows two applications to talk to each other.

Attendees also heard from Mirna Sleiman, founder and chief executive of Fintech Galaxy, who said, “We are proud to take part in the Central Bank of Bahrain’s FinHub 973 digital fintech lab, and we are fully confident that it will succeed in creating a common digital space that enhances communication between all stakeholders within the financial sector in Bahrain, the region and across the globe.”

According to Ms Sleiman, the lab will offer “extensive content on the region’s fintech hubs and regulations in Bahrain, while educating the market, through an interactive chatbot, on the region’s regulatory policies”.

The digital lab will also offer match-making and crowd-sourcing capabilities, which will help contribute to the design of effective solutions, ultimately spurring disruptive and transformative innovation across the financial services industry, she added.

During the event, Ms Sleiman also moderated a panel discussion featuring Bank ABC deputy group chief executive Sael Al Waary, Benefit chief executive Abdelwahed AlJanahi, Bahrain Islamic Bank chief executive Hassan Jarrar and EDB Business Development Director for Financial Services Dalal Buhejji.

Panellists were hopeful that FinHub 973 would lead to properly designed applications and products, which are not only easy to use but also secure.

Also present during the launch were the EDB’s chief executive Khalid Humaidan, who said FinHub973 would establishing a gateway for investment opportunities in the region, while CBB’s finTech and innovation unit head Yasmeen Al Sharaf said it would empower entrepreneurs and the regulator to use fintech for new business opportunities and inclusive growth.

 

Source: http://www.gdnonline.com/Details/875315/Bahrain-launches-regions-first-digital-innovation-lab

 

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