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Bahrain Sees new Islamic Banking Offering and Becomes Base of new Digital Bank

Banking in Bahrain has seen two exciting developments as ila Bank launches a new Islamic banking experience in the country; while Singapore-based Whampoa Group has selected Bahrain to become the headquarters of its new digital bank.

ila Bank caters to Islamic audience

ila Bank‘s ‘alburaq’ is a new Islamic banking experience in Bahrain looking to bring customers a range of personalised Shari’a-compliant banking services. The launch is currently being overseen by Bank ABC Islamic‘s Shari’a supervisory board.

Recently named the ‘Best Islamic Financial Institution in Bahrain in 2023’ by Global Finance, Bank ABC’s long-established Islamic finance subsidiary, Bank ABC Islamic, is backing ‘alburaq’. Sael Al Waary, acting group CEO of Bank ABC, commented on ila Bank’s move into the Islamic banking space: “Bank ABC revolutionised the retail banking landscape in Bahrain with the launch of our digital mobile-only – ila Bank back in 2019.

Sael Al Waary, Bahrain banking
Sael Al Waary, acting group CEO of Bank ABC

“We are now merging the deep Shari’a-compliant banking expertise of our Islamic finance arm with ila’s disruptive digital capabilities to offer consumers a first-of-its-kind, extremely personalised digital Islamic banking experience through ‘alburaq’.

“By introducing this purely Islamic account from ila, we endeavour to offer Bahrain an all-inclusive banking experience that caters to the country’s diverse market, with a wide range of banking products that meet varying customer preferences, enabling us to further bolster financial inclusion in the country.”

Existing ila customers can switch to ‘alburaq’ quickly by choosing to open a new account on the ila mobile app. Thanks to ila’s integration with the national eKYC system, the account opening process also takes only minutes: requiring the user to scan a national ID card, take a selfie, and answer a few questions.

Whampoa Group picks Bahrain for digital offering

In other Bahrain-related news, Whampoa Group has made the decision to make the country its base of operations for a new digital bank.

With an intended launch date of the latter part of 2023, the digital bank will aim to provide secure and integrated financial solutions to serve institutions, innovators, and sophisticated investors globally, including digital banking services and the trading, custody, as well as asset management of digital assets; with the ultimate objective of supporting the growing adoption of digital assets worldwide.

Bahrain is a pioneering hub for digital asset regulation among Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. It was also among the first to issue crypto-asset licenses in the region, cementing itself as a leading hub for crypto services and fintech innovations in the region.

Bahrain’s financial services sector, which contributes 17.5 per cent to the GDP, is the highest contributor to the economy, surpassing oil and actively supporting economic diversification.

Khalid Humaidan
Khalid Humaidan, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board

Khalid Humaidan, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, discussed the decision: “We are delighted that Whampoa Group intends to set up the headquarters of their new digital bank in Bahrain as they would benefit from Bahrain’s pro-innovation environment and forward-looking regulatory framework.

“The establishment of these types of institutions are vital to further strengthen the existing digital assets industry and this milestone opportunity directly aligns with Bahrain’s Economic Recovery Plan, which prioritises digitisation across the financial services sector.”

Shawn Chan, group CEO of Whampoa Group, also commented: “Bahrain’s solid reputation in the financial services sector, transparent regulatory framework, and ongoing pledge to collaborate and innovate impressed us.”

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