Source: The Banker, 4th January 2022
The Central Banker of the Year is an annual award conferred by The Banker magazine to recognize central bank governors for each region in the world.
The Banker magazine is a publication that has been a source of banking information since 1926 and it provides economic and financial intelligence for the world’s financial sector.
With several Middle Eastern central banks witnessing changes at the top in the past few years, Rasheed M Al-Maraj has proved a bastion of stability, occupying the role of governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) since 2005. Throughout his tenure, Bahrain’s financial sector — one of the most established in the region — has won a reputation for cutting-edge innovation, with one of the Gulf region’s most established fintech ecosystems.
Mr Al-Maraj is the winner of The Banker’s 2022 Central Banker of the Year for the Middle East. The award recognises both his role in further pushing the envelope when it comes to encouraging innovation and his stewardship of the sector during challenging times.
“I am pleased to receive this recognition from The Banker,” he says. “This achievement is due to my team’s contributions at CBB and could not have happened without their support and dedication. Despite the challenging time that we faced over the past two years, due to Covid-19, the CBB continued to advance the innovation agenda to broaden the regulatory framework of the new fintech business models.”
Bahrain’s economy suffered the second-worst impact in the Gulf Co-operation Council during 2020, behind Kuwait, with lower oil prices, local lockdowns and restrictions on international travel hitting the country hard. In the face of such realities, the CBB began 2021 by keeping supportive measures in place for six months, easing the pressure on struggling lenders. These measures were eventually extended until the end of the year. Local banks continue to maintain more than adequate capital and liquidity levels.
Even during such difficult times, the CBB has continued to innovate under Mr Al-Maraj’s watch. In May, the bank announced its oversight of a partnership with local lender Bank ABC and JPMorgan to pilot cross-border digital currency payments using JPMorgan’s Onyx platform.
Also of note was the CBB’s award of an open banking licence to local telecoms operator Batelco in July, making the telco one of the first in the region to be permitted to offer services such as digital wallet creation, bank account payments initiation and card initiation services.
A further highlight was the December launch of a refreshed framework for the CBB’s Regulatory Sandbox, first launched in 2017, enhancing its eligibility criteria and streamlining the overall process.