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Bahrain’s education capabilities need to be further developed to meet the current and future demands of the technology market in order to equip the country for a sustainable FinTech industry, according to key industry leaders.
This was among the highlights and topics discussed at a Fintech Panel discussion at the Four Seasons Hotel Bahrain Bay last week. The panel included: CEO of Bahrain FinTech Bay (BFB), Khalid Saad; CEO of Arab Financial Services’ (AFS) wholly-owned FinTech subsidiary Finzo, Shiraz Ali; chief legal officer of National Bank of Bahrain Gaby El Hakim and; senior associate at Al Tamimi & Company Haroun Khwaja. The session was moderated by Geoff Cooke of Oxford Business Group.
The session which aimed to discuss the achievements so far, challenges faced and a roadmap for the future highlighted the significant transformation that Bahrain’s banking institutions have undergone in the last five years.
Khalid said: “It’s been interesting what’s been happening locally and globally since the 2008 crisis. We have seen financiers at traditional banking institutions that have now jumped ship to disrupt the very organisations they used to run. At the same time, millennials and Generation Z are interacting differently with banks. With the changing landscape and technologies, we have to lay the groundwork to be able to capitalise on this.”
There are a number of educational programmes that have been launched, including the Georgetown FinTech Programme launched in February by BFB and Labour Fund Tamkeen in partnership with Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business as well as the region’s first Masters in FinTech degree in partnership with the Strathclyde Business School.
However, employers seem to still be missing the optimal talent mix to create the Careem-level success in FinTech that regulators believe will attract more investment in the region. Industry players have also found that the fragmentation of markets and the continual need to establish separate bilateral ties between markets in the region to be a hurdle to talent development and research sharing.
Shiraz noted: “Scale is important for success as a FinTech. We often have to rely on bigger players or aggregators and their existing linkages to be able to offer FinTech products to a wider market. However, each regulatory environment is different and navigating that requires extra time and resources.”
Building wider bilateral and regional ties would allow start-ups and existing firms to test products across multiple markets and hyperscale their products once they clear stringent regulatory environments.
It would also allow local talent to move freely across the region and find educational and career opportunities where the markets demand it.
Tamimi Company CEO Essam Al Tamimi went on to add in his closing remarks: “One of the most crucial aspects to enable a FinTech and technological revolution in the regions is education. All stakeholders must be prepared to learn and adapt to the changing environment guided by technological advancement. Universities and educational institutions in the region must prepare future workforce to cope with the changing practices of business.”
Europe was pointed to as a model yet both Europe and the GCC have seen a brain drain in recent years, where highly talented professionals tend to leave for American and other Western economies.
However, Khalid believes that once the local educational capabilities are developed and the markets show significant growth and potential, especially with a few big successes like Careem, talent will be drawn back and will stay local to power the future economies of the region.