Bahrain revises regulations on mutual funds

The number of mutual funds in Bahrain stood at 1664 as of the end of February, with a net asset value of US$10.6bn.

The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) has conducted a comprehensive review of its collective investment undertakings (CIU) regulations governing the mutual funds industry.

The amendments to the regulations focus on dividing CIUs into two broad categories. The first category targets retail investors, and the second category targets accredited and affluent investors.

The regulations pertaining to the first category of CIUs contain details regarding the nature of investment in the CIUs and require receiving CBB’s prior approval.

The second category only requires notification to the CBB by the placement agent.

According to CBB, the CIUs targeting retail investors are low risk with proper diversification and risk management, while CIUs targeted towards accredited and affluent investors contain high-risk investments with the aim of delivering high returns.

‘The new regulations emphasise the importance of key areas such as the corporate governance requirements, high standards of business conduct, safeguarding and segregation of investors’ money, and disclosure standards in line with international best practices,’ the central bank said.

‘The new framework acknowledges the demands placed by the fast-paced changes in the fund management industry and therefore aims at lightning the administrative processes and simplifying the authorisation requirements for establishing and marketing CIUs.’

Najla Al-Shirawi, chief executive of Sico Bank, said: ‘The updated collective investment undertaking regulations are a game-changer for local, regional, and global funds seeking an international jurisdiction to domicile their structures with a very flexible framework yet still within a solid regulatory environment overseen by the Central Bank of Bahrain.

‘Some of the benefits of these regulations include significantly reduced setup and ongoing processes which reduce operating costs, all factors that are prominent decision-making criteria in a manager’s choice of domicile.’

She further noted that the simplification of the regulations simultaneously provides a lot more flexibility on key fund terms including asset class, investor categories, service provider requirements, and legal structure.

Bahrain has had a thriving funds industry since the 1980s. Since then, the mutual funds industry in Bahrain experienced further growth and developments.

The number of mutual funds in Bahrain stood at 1664, with a net asset value of US$10.6bn, as of the end of February.