Dubai, UAE, February 22, 2018: Speakers and participants of 7th edition of regional conference discuss the shape of the financial system of the future and unanimously underline the importance of driving technological innovation
Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain; 22nd February 2018: The GCC Financial Forum, held on 20th and 21st February 2018 in Manama, Bahrain, put digital transformation in the financial industry in the spotlight and reinforced the significance of pursuing a forward-thinking approach with respect to integrating new technologies into existing business models and strategies.
Euromoney Conferences and the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) were honoured to welcome HE Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, the Minister of Finance, HE Mr Zayed R. Alzayani, the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, and HE Mr Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, the Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB).
HE Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa gave an opening keynote interview and spoke about Bahrain's commitment to diversifying the local economy and continuously driving innovation across all key industries on its path towards Vision 2030. An important part of this endeavour has been the creation of a strong infrastructure and ecosystem for economic growth, aiming to maintain global competitiveness and further enhance the quality of life for Bahrainis. His Excellency underlined the importance of embracing new technologies to stay relevant, inspired by best practice approaches from around the world.
Contributing an important macro perspective, HE Mr Zayed R. Alzayani highlighted that creating a fertile business environment for investors is crucial to supporting the growth of the financial industry. The commercial registration portal ‘Sijilat', launched in 2016, has already helped the country to achieve a substantial increase in inward FDI flows. His Excellency highlighted that this development is set to expedite Bahrain's journey towards digital transformation by helping to attract more international companies and best practice approaches from around the world.
HE Mr Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj participated in his traditional interactive town-hall session at the event where he talked about the unique characteristics of Bahrain's banking system and the potential of FinTech. He commented: “What we have to keep in mind is that FinTech solutions have the potential to optimise cost structures by cutting out the middle man. We encourage all Bahraini financial institutions to take the leap and embrace the new technologies. The Central Bank of Bahrain is committed to not only keep up with the changes, but enable them for the benefit of our local economy and our people.”
This year's agenda included two high-profile global speakers including, Mohamed A. El-Erian, Chief Economic Advisor at Allianz, who brought a global perspective to the conference. In his keynote address and town-hall interview, he focused on the current economic climate, geopolitical risks and the implications of digital disruption for the financial industry worldwide. Lord Mervyn King, Economist and Former Governor of the Bank of England, spoke about the global history of transformation in the banking sector, drawing a comparison to the technological innovation drive witnessed currently. He reminded participants of the crucial role of central banks in anticipating the needs of market participants and ensuring the financial soundness of the sector amidst monumental changes.
HE Mr Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the Bahrain EDB, shared insights into Bahrain's collaborative approach bringing together government, regulators and the private sector to create an enabling environment for disruption and innovation. He commented: “It has been a privilege to co-host the GCC Financial Forum with Euromoney in Bahrain for the seventh year, bringing together some of the sector's leading minds to explore the challenges and opportunities ahead.
This is a particularly interesting time for the financial services sector, which is on the cusp of significant disruptions and innovations, from AI and blockchain to the evolution and growth of mobile payment solutions and peer-to-peer funding. The conversations and announcements that have taken place over the past two days demonstrate that we have the talent, infrastructure, connectivity and supportive ecosystem in place in Bahrain and the GCC to embrace these opportunities and help shape the future of financial services globally.”
Further contributing to the discussions Mr Mahmood H. Alkooheji, Chief Executive Officer of Mumtalakat, talked about the significance of finding new approaches to expanding and continuously reinvigorating their business model through fruitful partnerships and joint ventures for the benefit of the Bahraini economy. Looking back on the rapid development of the company, which saw the number of Mumtalakat portfolio companies more than double over the past years, Mr Alkooheji underlined that despite this successful track record, he still sees significant potential for further growth, particularly in Bahrain's thriving financial sector.
The conference also featured a series of panels, the first of which focused on Innovation and the shape of the financial system of the future, bringing together speakers from Bank ABC Group, C5 Accelerate, Amazon Web Services and IBM. There was a lively debate on how the financial sector of the future will look in 20 years' time, covering topics such as; cryptocurrency, big data, cloud computing, reg tech and artificial intelligence.
The second panel focused on the fast-changing payments sector and gathered speakers from Mastercard, PayTabs, TransferWise and Tap who examined the future potential of the sector, looked at what will differentiate the winners from the losers in the payments space and considered the impact of Bitcoin and other digital currencies.
The final panel, featuring participants from Finalytix, Trafigura, Beehive, and FinTech Consortium, explored the requirements for the creation of an innovation economy and covered topics such as data, privacy and security law to IoT, infrastructure and financing.
Over the course of the past seven years, the GCC Financial Forum by Euromoney Conferences and co-hosted by the Bahrain EDB has developed into the region's leading platform for financial industry professionals to gather, network and debate crucial topics that shape the future of the financial system in the region. In 2018, the two-day event brought together more than 700 regional and international economists, policy makers, financiers and fintech leaders.
The GCC Financial Forum 2018 closed with and culminated in the official opening of Bahrain FinTech Bay, which will provide the region's first dedicated ecosystem to nurture and develop new technologies that aim to revolutionise the delivery of financial services.