“We can work on our strengths because Malaysia and Bahrain both have relatively newly implemented policies when it comes to fintech. I get the sense that Malaysia and Bahrain are at a similar stage as both countries have launched sandboxes, both have innovation-friendly regulators, (and) an Islamic fintech agenda and set to catch up with the likes of London or Singapore.

“Moving forward, we would love to do this in partnership with Malaysia in getting to become the next global fintech hub,” he said in a recent interview with NST Business.

Recently, Malaysian Bitcoin technology provider Belfrics Global succeeded in securing the first sandbox licence by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB).

The licence enables Belfrics to test their financial technology solutions in Bahrain, en route for the country to become a leading fintech hub in the region.

<img src="https://assets.nst.com.my/images/articles/02bt00park_1522641129.jpg" alt="">

Bahrain Economic Development Board financial services executive director David Parker says Malaysia and Bahrain can work together on financial technology as both countries have relatively newly implemented policies. PIC BY SAIRIEN NAFIS

Bahrain’s CBB implemented its Regulatory Sandbox Framework in June.

“We are also looking at blockchain. We are looking at transforming how the country goes about performing its business transactions.

“There are exciting times ahead. We have come a long way in a short space of time and I am intrigued to see what happens in the next couple of years,” said Parker.

He added that the financial services sector in Bahrain was the biggest contributor to the country’s gross domestic product after oil and gas, at 17 per cent.

“We are seeing a much stronger push from entrepreneurship, innovation and technology, not just in finance but (also) across the board.

“It is an exciting time for the whole region and this is the direction our economy needs to go, especially since Bahrain is less dependent on oil compared with its neighbours.

“We are now seeing a lot of diversification across our economy and we are monitoring that from our 15 offices across the globe, and keep in touch with market trends there,” added Parker.

Bahrain is regionally unique as it offers 100 per cent foreign ownership across all sectors, with no onshore/offshore or freezone distinction.

He said this offered key benefit for startups in reducing regulatory frictions and costs.

Bahrain has developed key ingredients for a successful fintech ecosystem, including an experienced regulator with decades of experience as a financial centre, diverse funding vehicles (crowdfunding regulation for conventional and syariahcompliant markets, for instance), and advanced digital infrastructure with a large pool of talent.