Manama, Bahrain – 18 May 2021 – The Central Bank of Bahrain (“CBB”) published, today, its commentary on the progress made by retail banks in Bahrain on implementation of the necessary infrastructure for compliance with Bahrain Open Banking Framework (“Bahrain OBF”), following the grace period allowed for implementation which started on 28th October 2020 and ended on 30th April 2021.
On this occasion, Mr. Yousef Rashid Al Fadhel, Executive Director of Corporate Services at the CBB commented: “The CBB has been cooperating with retail banks during the past period to take practical steps towards implementing the new standards for open banking services as part of the its strategy to expand the application of latest banking products that provide suitable innovative solutions for customers.”
It may be recalled that CBB had issued rules relevant to open banking in December 2018 which were aligned to the European Payment Services Directive (PSD-2). These standards have been recently developed to keep pace with developments of innovative solutions provided by fintech companies which target not only the retail consumer, but also the small and medium enterprises and also the corporate sector.
The Bahrain OBF included the supporting technical standards, including APIs, customer experience guidelines, cyber security standards and other relevant operational standards.
The Bahrain OBF was developed with a view to improving the reach and quality of service offerings by retail banks through digital online and mobile channels. This initiative is part of a larger upgrade of the Bahraini financial sector which must remain competitive in the face of demand for connectivity within the financial services ecosystem. The Bahrain OBF will help foster competition and enhance efficiency of the financial system keeping in view changing consumer trends.
More specifically, following are some of the anticipated effects on the banking system from a consumer perspective:
- Aggregation or ‘global’ view of account or financial position data from different retail banks
- Proactive financial management and budgeting tools for users
- Easier product comparisons for consumers /retail customers in particular
- New channels for internet payments without the use of credit cards/debit cards
- Lenders may get easier access to applicants’ data, therefore speeding up loan approvals
Mr. Al Fadhel added: “The newly developed implementation guidelines and standards will help the Bahraini banking sector in achieving the highest standards in terms of customer friendly digital offerings making the sector comparable with those of other major financial centres of the world”. He also highlighted that, “The Open Banking initiative is an integral part of the wider ecosystem in which the Kingdom’s financial services sector will develop a broad range of innovative services. The CBB will continue on its journey towards making the Bahrain ecosystem most ideal for optimum use of innovative technology and emerging business models”.
Since 2017, CBB has established the Regulatory Sandbox and attracted a variety of Fintechs to participate, in addition to issuing Open Banking regulations referred to above, rules related to Crowdfunding, Crypto-asset Platform Operators, Contactless Payments, Digital Financial Advice (“robo-advice”), Cloud Computing, Insurance Aggregators and, most recently it also set up a CBB Digital Lab “FinHub973”.