Financial and technology sectors converge for a week of events, conferences and workshops promoting the dynamic FinTech industry
Global tech innovator and Apple Computers Co-founder Steve Wozniak headlines The GCC Financial Forum on 26 - 27 February, Co-hosted by Euromoney Conferences
Bahrain’s central role in the rapidly developing world of FinTech will be celebrated later this month as the annual Fintastic Week, a series of conferences and seminars for experts from the global financial and technology communities, is held in Bahrain between February 24 - 29.
Over a thousand delegates from the worlds of business, government and academia will be in Bahrain to learn more about the latest trends in the reinvention of financial services and enjoy keynote speeches from world-renowned speakers. Events will also include best practice workshops for start-ups and fireside conversations with respected FinTech pioneers and leaders.
Fintastic Week will see Bahrain hosting the eighth GCC Financial Forum on 26 - 27 February, an annual event that has become an increasingly important date for the diary of the region’s FinTech community. Global tech innovator and Apple Computers Co-founder Steve Wozniak will take centre stage and share his thoughts and predictions on the current and future state of the global financial technology industry. Other notable speakers at event include HE Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Minister of Finance and National Economy; and Louise Beaumont, Co-chair of the Open Banking & Payments Working group, at Tech UK.
Commenting on the Forum, Victoria Behn, Director of Middle East and Africa at Euromoney Conferences, Co-organisers of the GCC Financial Forum noted:
“We are honoured to host the GCC Financial Forum in partnership with the Economic Development Board of Bahrain for the eighth consecutive year. With international financiers, senior regional policymakers and leading fintech firms attending from across the Middle East, the GCC Financial Forum will once again be an unmissable event.”
The disruptive power of FinTech is being increasingly felt across the Middle East as Governments look to diversify their economies and improve productivity through increased uptake of innovation and technology. Such transformation is showing through in the numbers already, with GCC start-ups expected to raise $2 bn of private funding in the next decade, in comparison to only £150m in the previous ten years.
The potential for even greater change is illustrated by the fact that 86% of the MENA population remained unbanked in 2017. This is despite a very high mobile phone penetration rate and more than half the region’s population being under 30. Two factors that would usually help drive the uptake of digital services.
To make the most of the conducive conditions internationally recognised reforms have taken place across the region, such as open banking; regulatory sandboxes; and the updating of regulations to reflect the digitised economy. Bahrain has been at the forefront of these efforts, often collaborating with global partners, including the Global Financial Innovation Network, a coalition of 11 financial regulators including from the UK, US, Hong Kong and Australia seeking to design and implement a global sandbox. Or through the region’s first and largest FinTech Incubator, Bahrain FinTech Bay, which has a roster of international supporters including Microsoft, Cisco and American Express.
H.E. Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board
H.E. Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, a Co-host of Fintastic Week noted:
“The FinTech space in the Middle East is growing and its opportunities and potential are being recognised by the global FinTech community. In Bahrain, we are building on our heritage of excellence in financial services by developing innovative new products and services that will transform how consumers and businesses right across the region approach this sector, and events such as Fintastic Week bring these fresh and new ideas to the table.”
“As we look to diversify our sources of growth, FinTech will play an increasingly important role in creating coordinated, agile and action orientated economies across the region. That is why Fintastic Week is so important. It will bring together like-minded individuals and companies who want to take advantage of this opportunity and work together to achieve a more financially inclusive and sustainable future.”
All Fintastic Week events have been deliberately designed to provide meaningful insights that can have a direct impact on the development of new innovations, whether by FinTech entrepreneurs or established financial players. The events include:
The GCC Financial Forum on February 26 and 27 where Steve Wozniak will take centre stage by delivering the main address followed by an interactive session with the audience. The event will tackle industry topics such as responsible finance, open banking, women driving innovation in finance, and the changing regulatory landscape, under the theme ‘The Reinvention of Financial Services’.
The 3rd Middle East & Africa FinTech Forum under the theme ‘Banking Beyond Disruption’ will be held February 20 – 21. The event is sponsored by Bank ABC and AFS (Arab Financial Services) and will bring together internationally renowned thought leaders, practitioners and innovators from the FinTech and artificial intelligence (AI) arenas to discuss a wide range of issues including the future of banking; potential impact of AI and how it will transform the future; open banking; crowdsourcing; and financial inclusion.
Bankruptcy Law and its Impact on Banking and Startups Seminar on February 24 will be an interactive session addressing how FinTech start-ups can ensure their innovations can be successfully rolled-out across the region through high quality compliance and regulatory adherence.
RegFact Conference 2019 held under the patronage of the Central Bank of Bahrain and organised by Bahrain FinTech Bay, takes place on February 25 and will explore how the private sector and regulators can work together to design the most pro-innovation regulatory system possible to allow FinTech to flourish.
The BDB Rowad Majlis ‘Fireside Debate’ on February 25 will provide an enlightening opportunity for start-ups to meet international venture capitalists to discuss the booming FinTech sector in the Middle East and how access to funding can be improved.
For more information about Fintastic Bahrain Week and to register, please visit bahrainedb.com/events/fintastic-bahrain-week-2019/
Follow @BahrainEDB on social media to keep up to date with the agenda.
About Bahrain Economic Development Board
The Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) is an investment promotion agency with overall responsibility for attracting investment into the Kingdom and supporting initiatives that enhance the investment climate.
The EDB works with the government and both current and prospective investors, in order to ensure that Bahrain’s investment climate is attractive, to communicate the key strengths, and to identify where opportunities exist for further economic growth through investment.
The EDB focuses on several economic sectors that capitalise on Bahrain’s competitive advantages and provide significant investment opportunities. These sectors include financial services, manufacturing, ICT, tourism, logistics and transport.
 Demirgüç-Kunt, Asli, Leora Klapper, Dorothe Singer, Saniya Ansar, and Jake Hess. 2018. The Global Findex Database 2017: Measuring Financial Inclusion and the Fintech Revolution. Washington, DC: World Bank