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Bahrain to become ‘GCC financial hub’

TDT | Manama                             

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Reported by Mahir Haneef

Bahrain is well-positioned to become the hub for financial and professional services in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and should leverage its strong track record in the sector, well-respected legal system, and well-respected regulator, says Lord Mayor of London Nicholas Lyons.

Responding to a query by The Daily Tribune on taking the financial services sector, which is the largest non-oil contributor to the Kingdom’s economy, to the next level, the commander of London, one of the world’s leading financial hubs, said along with attracting the best professionals, an ecosystem should be developed so that businesses elsewhere would consider the Kingdom as the base for expanding services to other GCC countries.

The Lord Mayor was meeting the media upon visiting Bahrain as part of his GCC tour. He was accompanied by His Excellency Alastair Long, Ambassador of the UK to the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Explaining in detail about the next stage of development of the financial services sector, the Lord Mayor said, “I think it’s easy to think about building financial services capabilities by attracting high-profile bankers, big insurance companies and big investment fund managers. That is important, of course. But what is really important is to have all of the professional services that then support the industry - the accountants, the actuaries, the risk managers, the compliance officers, technologists, lawyers, etc. So, actually you need to have an ecosystem of professional services and you need to have a good legal system and a reputation for the rule of law. This, I think plays very much to Bahrain’s strength.”

Trading bloc

Talking about the scope of the financial services industry in the GCC, the Lord Mayor said the Middle East is considered as a trading bloc and there could be more than one hub for services.

“Bahrain is a much smaller market than some of the other GCC countries. We’re seeing very significant investment and very significant strategic importance to expanding financial services. Again, as I said, as hydrocarbon economies think about their futures, they’re looking to deploy significant wealth they have created primarily into two areas – renewable technology and financial services. But I don’t think that Bahrain should feel that there is a zero-sum game here and if others get big, they will therefore suffer. I don’t think that is the case at all. We see the GCC as a very exciting economic area and it is in a very important trading bloc,” the Lord Mayor stated.

In terms of becoming the financial services hub in the GCC, Bahrain has significant advantages, the Lord Mayor pointed out.

He stated, “I think as we look further ahead 50 years, we will see Africa being a very important continent and the Gulf is a window into Africa. So, I think Bahrain has very real advantages, and I will particularly say a track record in financial services ready for building out the professional services capabilities, a legal system that is well-respected, and also a regulator that is very well-respected. Bahrain has a very strong reputation.

Good model

“These are all very important for financial institutions thinking about setting up. So as we think about British financial and professional services firms developing and building out their Gulf platform, I think it’s right that Bahrain should try to position itself as the hub for the GCC. So then they will say, look build your main GCC subsidiary here and have branches in other GCC countries. So I think that’s a good model and I think Bahrain could really benefit.”


UK Ambassador Alastair Long


Bahrain’s financial talent commended

His Excellency Alastair Long, Ambassador of the UK to the Kingdom of Bahrain also agreed to the view held by Lord Mayor Nicholas Lyons, and said, “I agree entirely. I think what you have here is really exciting. Bahrain has long had that type of talent that the Lord Mayor refers to and it provides, together with the scale of Bahrain, an ability to just create fast, and be agile, and the Lord Mayor in the conversation we had has underlined just how important that can be in the fast-changing world, particularly of technological revolution in financial services.

For me, it’s really exciting to think about what we could do together.” It is the constant innovation that keeps London as a top financial hub, the Ambassador said.

“The City of London is the world’s preeminent financial centre. The City of London is constantly innovating new solutions and this feels like a part of the world that is doing much the same.

So my job comes to how we align those two and really build on what has been centuries of collaboration to the next chapter. It’s not straightforward because I think that, we all know now that, new technologies are moving faster and it’s hard to adapt to but we’ll be looking keenly to see if we can build that alignment,” the Ambassador stated.