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The Future Of Finance

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Bahrain’s pioneering event to boost financial sector growth

The Bahrain Economic Development Board (Bahrain EDB), in collaboration with the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), hosted the inaugural “FS Horizons: Doubling Down on Finance” event at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay. This exclusive gathering, designed to encourage meaningful discussions and foster knowledge exchange, attracted over 100 key stakeholders, government representatives, and C-suite executives from across Bahrain’s financial services industry.

The event commenced with a keynote speech by Sustainable Development Minister and EDB chief executive Noor bint Ali Alkhulaif. Her address underscored the crucial role of public-private sector collaboration in promoting the growth of Bahrain’s financial services sector and, by extension, the national economy.

“Bahrain’s legacy as a centre of trade, investment, and regional hub of finance has given rise to a progressive and financially liberal business environment that has served as a solid foundation for achieving our economic success today,” she remarked.

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She emphasised that the financial services sector has now overtaken oil as the largest contributor to real GDP, marking a significant milestone in Bahrain’s economic diversification journey.

“While the financial services sector has overtaken oil as the largest contributor to real GDP, a testament to a successful economic diversification journey, Bahrain is not resting on its laurels. Leveraging on our strengths as a nation, moving forward, we are committed to doubling down on our efforts to drive increased investments into the financial services sector and maintain a positive trajectory of economic diversification and growth, in line with the priorities of the Economic Recovery Plan, cementing Bahrain’s standing as a competitive international player,” she added.

Following the keynote, a fireside chat with CBB governor Khalid Humaidan provided attendees with a comprehensive overview of the sectoral plans for 2024–2026. Humaidan highlighted the importance of attracting leading financial institutions and firms to Bahrain, thereby creating more job opportunities. He also stressed the urgency of digitising processes and elevating the national workforce with niche skills to develop a future-ready talent pool that bridges existing gaps in the sector.
“Today provides the perfect platform to enable us to function as a collective force, as we continue to work closely with our stakeholders and turn towards the industry itself to gain real-time, honest insights into where to direct our efforts as Team Bahrain to enact pioneering regulatory reforms to maintain an attractive business-friendly ecosystem and drive investment into this pivotal sector,” he stated.

Mr Humaidan’s remarks set the stage for a series of insightful panel discussions that dealt with key aspects of the financial services sector. The first panel focused on the rapidly evolving digital payments landscape, discussing the latest developments, trends, and challenges globally and their impact on Bahrain. The second panel, titled “The Next Wave of SupTech Innovation,” explored outcome-based regulation and global best practices in supervisory and regulatory technology, highlighting how technology adoption is reshaping the interaction between regulators and the financial services sector in Bahrain.

The closing panel offered an in-depth overview and future outlook of the sector, featuring executive members from the CBB, Finance and National Economy Ministry, and Bahrain EDB. The discussion provided key updates on the progress of the Financial Services Sector Development Strategy 2022–26 in alignment with Bahrain’s Economic Vision. Panellists also discussed priority areas for the coming years and compared Bahrain’s expected economic performance against regional and global benchmarks.

Bahrain’s financial services sector has shown remarkable progress, establishing itself as the Middle East’s most developed financial centre with a diversified portfolio of local, regional, and international financial institutions. The sector, comprising 365 financial institutions and employing nearly 14,300 people, contributed 17.8pc to GDP in 2023, with a year-on-year growth of 2.4pc. In 2023, the sector also attracted record foreign direct investment (FDI) flows worth BHD 10.7 billion, accounting for 65.8pc of total FDI inflows, marking an impressive increase of 33.4pc from 2022.

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