Kingdom of Bahrain
Financial Sector Assessment Program, Detailed Assessment of Observance Assessment of Observance of the CPMI-IOSCO Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures

This paper provides a detailed assessment of observance of the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures–International Organization of Securities Commissions principles for financial market infrastructures (FMIs). Major achievements have been made to establish safe and efficient payments and securities settlement systems in Bahrain. The real-time gross settlement system is highly concentrated and has tight interdependencies with the securities settlement system, making risks management a top priority. The formal assessment suggests that most of the principles are broadly observed, and identifies areas to improve for closer alignment with international standards. The objective of the assessment has been to identify potential risks related to FMIs that may affect financial stability.

Abstract

This paper provides a detailed assessment of observance of the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures–International Organization of Securities Commissions principles for financial market infrastructures (FMIs). Major achievements have been made to establish safe and efficient payments and securities settlement systems in Bahrain. The real-time gross settlement system is highly concentrated and has tight interdependencies with the securities settlement system, making risks management a top priority. The formal assessment suggests that most of the principles are broadly observed, and identifies areas to improve for closer alignment with international standards. The objective of the assessment has been to identify potential risks related to FMIs that may affect financial stability.

Introduction

1. This report contains the assessment of central bank FMIs and the responsibilities of authorities in Bahrain.1 CBB FMIs includes the RTGS system and the SSS system for government securities, which is also a CSD. The assessment does not cover the payment and securities settlement systems operated by the private sector. The assessment was undertaken in the context of the IMF’s Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC) mission to Bahrain in December 2015.2 The assessors would like to thank the CBB for the excellent cooperation and hospitality.

2. The objective of the assessment has been to identify potential risks related to FMIs that may affect financial stability. While safe and efficient payment and securities settlement systems contribute to maintaining and promoting financial stability and economic growth, they may also concentrate risk. If not properly managed, such FMIs can be sources of financial shocks, such as liquidity dislocations and credit losses, or a major channel through which these shocks are transmitted across domestic and international financial markets.

3. The scope of the assessment includes the RTGS and SSS systems and the CBB, which is the authority responsible for their oversight and supervision. The RTGS system is assessed using 18 of the 24 principles that are generally applicable for payment systems under the CPMI-IOSCO Principles for FMIs. The SSS system and CSD are assessed using 21 of the 24 principles of the new international standards.3 The CBB is also assessed against Responsibilities A to E. As the RTGS and SSS systems are technically integrated, the assessment is presented as one for ease of presentation and also because both FMIs are operated, overseen, and used by participants as one seamlessly integrated system.

4. The methodology for the assessments was derived from the CPMI-IOSCO PFMI Disclosure Framework and Assessment Methodology of December 2012. Prior to the mission, the CBB completed self-assessments for the RTGS and SSS systems and authorities’ responsibilities against the PFMIs, and the Questionnaire on FMIs in Bahrain. Relevant laws, CBB Annual Reports, CBB Financial Stability Reports, and CBB RTGS and SSS regulations and business operating guidelines were reviewed. The assessors had thorough discussions with CBB officials from various directorates and units and met representatives from commercial banks and Bahrain Bourse (BHB).

Overview of Payment, Clearing and Settlement Landscape

A. Description of Landscape

5. There are six FMIs located in Bahrain (Figure 1). As identified by the authorities, this includes four payment systems and two securities settlement systems that function as central securities depositories (CSDs). There are no central counterparties or trade repositories. The FMIs and their key features are as follows:

Figure 1.
Figure 1.

Overview of the Trading, Clearing, and Settlement Organization

Citation: IMF Staff Country Reports 2016, 170; 10.5089/9781498304030.002.A001

Source: Central Bank of Bahrain.

Payment Systems

  • Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) System. The RTGS system settles high value interbank payments and customer payments individually in real time. Participants include 28 direct members that are licensed retail banks with membership in the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network and the SSS system, and restricted members comprising of clearing entities permitted to submit multilateral net settlement batches (MNSBs) to the RTGS system. Operational hours on business days are from 8:00 a.m., to 2:07 p.m., The RTGS system is integrated with the SSS.

  • Bahrain Cheque Truncation System (BCTS). The BENEFIT Company (TBC) operates this system to clear checks based on their images. Customers who deposit checks at their banks before 11:30 a.m., on a business day receive check proceeds on the same day by 3:00 p.m.

  • Bahrain Electronic Network for Financial Transactions (BENEFIT). The TBC also operates BENEFIT, mainly providing debit card based transactions. BENEFIT allows bank customers in Bahrain to make the following types of transactions: (i) cash withdrawals by bank customers in Bahrain and from other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries at any bank ATM in Bahrain and any other GCC member country (participating in the GCCNET shared ATM services); (ii) debit card transactions at point of sale (POS) terminals in Bahrain and in other GCC member countries (participating in the GCCNET shared POS service); (iii) direct debits; (iv) online e-commerce debit card transactions through the Payment Gateway (PG).

  • Near Real-Time Electronic Fund Transfer System (EFTS). The EFTS enables a bank or a customer to make account-to-account near real time fund transfers to a customer of another bank within 30 seconds (Fawri+). Two other services are offered, including deferred batch payments (Fawri) and electronic bill presentment and payment (Fawateer), which clear and settle multiple times during the banking hours of a business day. The EFTS was launched on November 5, 2015.

Securities Settlement Systems and Central Securities Depositories

  • Scripless Securities Settlement (SSS) System. The SSS system is operated by the CBB and settles primary and secondary market government securities transactions (issued by the CBB in scripless form) in real time on DVP 1 basis through its seamless integration with the RTGS system. There are 28 direct participants, including licensed retail banks (both conventional and Islamic), the CBB, and BHB. There are 17 indirect members, comprising of pension funds, insurance companies, international government institutions, local and foreign financial and investment institutions, and wholesale banks. The SSS system also acts as a CSD for government securities issued by the CBB in scripless form. It records the government securities holdings of direct members, and at the aggregate level, those of their customers and holdings of indirect members.

  • Central Securities Depository of Bahrain Bourse (CSD-BHB). The CSD-BHB acts as a centralized depository for dematerialized or immobilized securities (i.e. equity and debt securities). It clears and settles electronically on a DVP 2 basis the securities related transactions (including government securities) traded at the Automated Trading System (ATS) on T+2. Since January 2015, the CBB has provided the allotment of government securities for retail investors through BHB at primary issuances/auctions. The CSD-BHB has also acted as a centralized depository for government securities purchased in the primary market by retail investors through BHB and listed on BHB.

B. Real-Time Gross Settlement System

6. The CBB RTGS system is systemically important and has established arrangements to manage financial and operational risks. Apart from handling large-value interbank and customer payments, it settles the net clearing obligations from the two retail payment systems privately operated by the TBC. As of 2014, the total value of transactions settled was BD 63 billion, which was around 5 times of GDP. The average daily value of RTGS transactions was BD 289 million at end-August 2015. Transactions are processed and settled continuously and irrevocably in real-time. Final settlement of financial obligations between participants is executed by entries to their settlement account held at the CBB. Credit and liquidity risks are managed for participants as transactions are settled (subject to funds availability) on a gross basis, in real time, in central bank money, and with finality. RTGS participants have access to intraday credit (IDC), which is fully collateralized against government securities held in the SSS system and BD deposits. Liquidity management is also facilitated by a gridlock mechanism. To encourage the early submission of payment instructions, RTGS transactions are charged with an ascending fee schedule. Operational disruptions are managed with measures to ensure high system availability, while the disaster recovery relocation (DRR) site or near relocation area (NRA) helps to ensure business continuity.

C. Scripless Securities Settlement System

7. The CBB SSS system serves as the settlement system for government securities as well as a centralized securities depository and is systemically important. The SSS system provides an electronic platform for the settlement of primary and secondary market transactions of government securities. Through its seamless integration with the RTGS system, the SSS system provides the real time settlement of securities transactions on DVP1 basis. It also enables the CBB to provide short-term liquidity to required direct SSS members through collateralized securities repo (IDC, overnight or Islamic ‘repo’) against eligible collateral. Apart from direct members, there are also indirect SSS members which administer their SSS accounts in offline mode through the CBB. As of 2014, the total value of transactions settled amounted to BD 7.3 billion, which was around 58 percent of GDP. At end-August 2015, scripless securities held in the system amounted to BD 4.2 billion. For the first eight months of 2015, 3,151 DVP1 transactions with a value of BD 9.1 billion were settled in the SSS system, in addition to 17 free-of-payment transactions worth a total of BD 23.9 million. Settlement risk of securities transactions is minimized through the simultaneous transfer of securities in the SSS system against the respective settlement of the money leg in the RTGS system in central bank money. The SSS system has a business continuity plan (BCP) similar to that of the RTGS system. There are no transaction fees in the SSS system and direct SSS members are required to pay an annual membership fee.

D. Regulatory, Supervisory, and Oversight Structure

8. The CBB has oversight and supervisory responsibilities for FMIs. This is part of its duties as the single regulator for the financial services industry in Bahrain. The CBB and Financial Institutions Law of 2006 empowers the central bank to establish one or more clearinghouses and assign its management to a third party, and to issue regulations regarding the clearing and settlement of checks and other securities (Part 1, Chapter 6, Article 32). The CBB Law, which was promulgated on September 6, 2006 with the issuance of Decree No. 64, established the CBB as the successor to the Bahrain Monetary Authority. The CBB has powers to issue regulations to payment service providers and participants to ensure that they operate in compliance with sound principles. The CBB Law also expanded the range of powers to the CBB, including the regulation of the capital markets, the offering of securities, and close-out netting due to market contract, for example.

9. CBB FMIs are governed by membership regulations and business operating guidelines. This includes the following: (i) RTGS (Membership) Regulations of 2007, (ii) RTGS (Membership) Business Operating Guidelines of 2007; (iii) SSSS (Membership) Regulations of 2007, and (iv) SSSS (Membership) Business Operating Guidelines of 2007. Regulations establish their management (supervision, governance structure), membership rules, general duties, and miscellaneous provisions. Business operating guidelines provide details such as the types of membership, accounts, transactions, communication procedures and standards, operational hours and sessions, settlement, IDC facility, gridlock resolution and queuing mechanisms, tariffs, and system administration.

10. The CBB also has oversight and supervisory responsibilities over payment and securities settlement services operated by the private sector. The BCTS and ATM Clearing, which are operated by TBC, are subject to the directives, regulations, terms and conditions imposed by the CBB. The BHB, which operates as a self-regulatory organization, is subject to the approval of the CBB in addition to the provisions of the CBB Law, other relevant laws, CBB regulations (including the CBB Rulebook, regulations, directives and rules), and operating rules of each system. The CBB’s supervision of licensed clearing, settlement and central depository systems consists of on-site and off-site supervision. The purpose is to ensure compliance by the licensed clearing, settlement and central depository systems with CBB requirements stipulated in the Clearing, Settlement and Central Depository Module of CBB Rulebook Volume 6.

11. CBB FMI oversight and supervisory functions are organized under two separate directorates. The Banking Services Directorate (BSD), which reports to the Executive Director of Banking Operations (EDBO), carries out the functions of payment and securities settlement systems operations and oversight. The Payments Committee (PC), which is appointed by the CBB Governor and chaired by the EDBO, is responsible for regulatory and developmental work. The CBB PC comprises of members from the BSD and the Information Technology Directorate (ITD). It can appoint technical committees or invite any person to attend meetings to seek their opinion. The Capital Markets Supervision Directorate (CMSD) oversees and supervises systems relating to nongovernment securities (markets, securities exchanges, trading, clearing, settlement and depository). The licensing of payment service providers relating to financial institutions and capital markets fall under the CMSD. This includes the BHB CSD. The CMSD’s Market Surveillance unit oversees BHB.

12. The CBB has adopted the new international standards and are undergoing discussions to strengthen current oversight arrangements. As of September 18, 2014, the CBB PC reviewed the roles and responsibilities of the BSD, which highlighted concerns on conflict of interest that may arise from the BKS core banking system performing multiple roles such as operator, user, settlement agent, and overseer in the payment area. Furthermore, the PC decided to adopt PFMI standards for oversight in order to ensure the safety and efficiency of FMIs. The PC has reviewed a concept paper on future developments in the payment system with recommendation to improve the CBB’s current organizational setup for carrying out its policy, oversight and supervision more efficiently. This concept paper covered: (i) the reasons for proposing an improvement to the CBB’s current payment system oversight and supervision framework; (ii) the proposal to establish an independent FMI Policy, Oversight and Supervision Unit to improve the CBB’s policy, oversight and supervision organizational structure; and (iii) the scope of the oversight and supervision of the proposed unit.

Summary Assessment of the RTGS AND SSS Systems

A. Observance of the Principles

13. The formal assessment suggests that most of the principles are broadly observed, and identifies areas to improve for closer alignment with international standards. The RTGS system observes six principles, broadly observes ten principles, and partly observes two principles (Table 1). The SSS system observes eight principles, broadly observes ten principles, partly observes two principles, and has one non-applicable principle (Table 2). The issues of concern and other gaps or shortcomings, recommended actions, relevant parties, and timeframe are provided.

Table 1.

Ratings Summary of RTGS System

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Table 2.

Ratings Summary of CSD/SSS System

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General organization (Principles 1–3)

14. The legal basis is relatively sound, but finality and netting arrangements require greater legal certainty and protection in primary legislation. Under the CBB Law, the CBB has statutory responsibility and powers to act as a single regulator to ensure the safety and efficiency of the whole financial system, including FMIs. The CBB is empowered to operate, oversee, and regulate the RTGS and SSS systems. RTGS and SSS membership regulations and business operating guidelines, and the respective directives, describe their operational features, membership, CBB duties, membership rights and obligations, collateral arrangements, and settlement finality. The CBB has disclosed the legal basis to relevant stakeholders and has taken measures to obtain feedback if material changes are made to the governing rules. However, there are potential legal risks. It cannot be ruled out that a transaction settled in the RTGS and SSS systems can be revoked by a court order in the event of insolvency of a participant. Risk management measures to address participant defaults in deferred net settlement systems (BCTS, BENEFIT, and EFTS) also need further protection.4 According to international best practices, greater legal certainty could be achieved with the adoption of an explicit law on settlement finality5 to empower authorities to designate payment systems and fully protect finality and netting arrangements, and elimination of ‘zero-hour rules’ in insolvency.6 Elimination of such rules in insolvency law could also prevent the reversal of payments that appears to have been settled in a payment system. Achieving greater legal certainty for settlement finality and netting arrangements could also be established in central bank law.7 The mission recommends the following: (i) seek independent legal opinion on the legal certainty for finality and netting arrangements; and (ii) strengthen the legal underpinnings for payments and securities settlement systems in primary legislation to protect settlement finality and netting arrangements.

15. Governance arrangements are clear and transparent, but gaps remain in the roles and responsibilities of the Board and management, and representation in the PC. The Governor has an obligation to present a report on CBB operations to the Board within three months following the end of each financial year. The Governor receives quarterly reports on the performance of FMIs from the EDBO, which is submitted by the BSD. Internal and external auditors carry out audits of RTGS and SSS operations. The PC meets frequently to discuss various issues relating to risk management, business procedures, and other matters. When the PC intends to propose any change to CBB policies relating to FMIs, it carries out relevant studies, surveys, and consultations with stakeholders (participants and operators) and the banking association before formulating regulations and policies which may have a major impact on them. Although governance arrangements are well established, reporting to the Board appears to focus on the RTGS and SSS performance in terms of transaction volume and values. Some senior officials have been assigned to additional duties other than FMI oversight and supervision responsibilities. As of December 20, 2015, the position of Deputy Governor remained vacant, while the CBB Annual Report for 2012 and 2013 has not been publicly disclosed. FMI risks analysis also appears to be limited both in scope and depth. The mission recommends the following: (i) report risks relating to the RTGS/SSS systems on a quarterly basis to the CBB Board. This should cover legal, credit, liquidity, operational, and other related risks; (ii) develop a staff succession plan to ensure that the appropriate experience and mix of skills are available to discharge operational and risks management responsibilities for FMIs; and (iii) broaden membership in the PC to include representatives from legal, capital markets supervision, and financial stability, and retail banking supervision directorates.

16. Risk management measures are contained in various technical documents, which could be improved with the development of a risk management framework for comprehensively managing legal, credit, liquidity, operational, and other risks. The broad risk management framework comprises of the CBB Crisis and Incident Management Plan, CBB BCP, and CBB Recovery Strategy document. Risk management policies, procedures and systems are further stated in RTGS and SSS membership regulations, business operating guidelines, and directives. The PC reviews issues and makes recommendations to the Governor and monitors and implements CBB decisions. While the reporting of RTGS and SSS performance with respect to transaction volumes and values to the Governor and through the Financial Stability Report is clear, this is less so for risk-related and oversight issues that could have implications on safeguarding financial stability and public confidence.8 The mission recommends the following: (i) develop a comprehensive risk management framework for the RTGS/SSS systems; and (ii) review the material risks to the RTGS/SSS systems from other entities (e.g., EFTS, BHB, GCC, settlement banks, critical service providers) as a result of interdependencies and develop appropriate risk-management tools to address potential risks, and foster closer cooperation among the relevant Directorates

Credit risk, collateral, and liquidity risk (Principles 4–5 and 7)

17. Credit risk is managed with the use of high quality collateral, but exposures remain. Counterparty credit risk arising from CBB short-term liquidity provisions through IDC/overnight repo in the course of providing payment and securities settlement services is mitigated through the use of high quality local government securities and BD deposits held with the CBB as eligible collateral. However, better protection against potential credit risk can be achieved by adopting a haircut policy for such securities repo transactions. The CBB has an established haircut policy developed in accordance with Basel standards. However, no haircut is applied to such securities repo transactions conducted between the CBB and RTGS members for payment and securities settlement purposes as commonly practiced by central banks in other jurisdictions. The size of IDC/overnight repo conducted was around BD 2.21 billion for the first 9 months of 2015 and generally between BD 1–2 billion annually for 2010–2014). The mission recommends the following: (i) review the credit risk management framework, and (ii) apply appropriate haircuts to IDC and overnight repos conducted between the CBB and RTGS direct members.

18. Collateral of high quality is only accepted for securities repo transactions, but the current policy is to apply no haircut. To better align with the requirements of the PFMI standards and the practices of central banks in other jurisdictions, the CBB should consider applying a conservative haircut, especially since such policies have already been well established by the CBB in accordance with Basel standards. While inactive government securities secondary market activities makes it difficult to employ a meaningful valuation policy, mark-to-market methodology, or concentration limits for the collateral taken, the CBB should consider reviewing these practices periodically as the securities market evolves and develops. The mission recommends the following: (i) review the credit risk management framework, and (ii) apply appropriate haircuts to IDC and overnight repos conducted between the CBB and RTGS direct members.

19. Liquidity risk is well managed under normal conditions, but should be tested against potential stress scenarios. A sound stress testing program with robust stress scenarios should be put in place to better identify, measure, and monitor potential liquidity risk to the systems, especially during times of market stress such as default of the largest RTGS participant. While current tools such as short-term liquidity provision through automatic IDC/overnight repo, gridlock detection, and queuing of transactions help address temporary liquidity risk and pressures in the payment and securities settlement systems, potential liquidity risk exposure during times of stress is not known without a sound stress testing program with robust stress scenarios. The need is more urgent for the RTGS system given its much bigger transaction value (around BD 63 billion in 2014, almost 5 times of GDP), and greater concentration in activity by the top users of the system (including the top 5 participants, which account for about 70 percent of transaction values). The mission recommends the following: (i) stress test the RTGS/SSS systems, including the default of the largest participant and affiliates; (ii) establish and monitor throughput rates; (iii) analyze and report on a regular basis the share of liquidity usage in the RTGS system from core banking accounts, IDC, and incoming payments; and (iv) adopt tools to monitor intraday liquidity flows to assess the sufficiency of liquidity, particularly during a stressed event.9

Settlement (Principles 8–10)

20. RTGS transactions are settled in real time, on a gross basis, and with finality and irrevocability. SSS transactions are based on DVP1, which ensures that securities and funds are settled simultaneously on a gross basis with finality. While finality and irrevocability are established in membership business operating guidelines, greater legal certainty is required in primary legislation. It cannot be ruled out that a transaction settled in the RTGS and SSS systems can be revoked by a court order in the event of insolvency of a participant. The mission recommends the following: (i) seek independent legal opinion on the legal certainty for finality; and (ii) strengthen the legal underpinnings for payments and securities settlement systems in primary legislation to protect settlement finality.

21. Money settlements are conducted in central bank money. The SSS system settles the fund leg of securities transactions in the RTGS system on DVP1 basis or through pre-funded clearing accounts in the BKS core banking system, as the case may be, using central bank money. Comparatively, the CSD-BHB does not use central bank money, which could be considered where practical and available to limit settlement bank risk-related losses.

22. The SSS system has a scripless feature and involves no physical delivery of securities. The SSS system provides settlement and depository services for government securities, which have all been issued in scripless form or dematerialized since June 2007.

CSDs and exchange-of-value settlement systems (Principles 11–12)

23. The CSD has appropriate rules and procedures for safekeeping and transferring securities, and ensuring the integrity of securities issues. The SSS system serves as a CSD of government securities and records the holdings of direct SSS members, their retail investors (at aggregate level), and for indirect SSS members.

24. Principal risk is minimized by real time settlement of securities transactions based on DVP1 through the seamless integration of the SSS and RTGS systems. Settlement of the securities leg of transactions take place in the SSS system simultaneously upon the settlement of the funding leg in the RTGS system, or through pre-funded clearing accounts in the BKS core banking system in the case of indirect SSS members. This mitigates principal risk of securities transactions.

Default management (Principle 13)

25. There are established participant-default rules and procedures, which would be more effective with greater legal certainty for finality in primary legislation and precise with regular reviews and testing. The RTGS and SSS systems settle funds and securities transactions in real time, on a gross and DVP1 basis, and subject to funds availability. Default procedures would be the suspension or termination of the defaulted member in consultation with the respective supervision directorate. The mission recommends the following: (i) seek independent legal opinion on the legal certainty for finality; (ii) strengthen the legal underpinnings for payments and securities settlement systems in primary legislation to protect settlement finality and netting arrangements; and (iii) improve default procedures through regular reviews and testing with participants and other stakeholders.

General business and operational risk management (Principles 15–17)

26. General business risk is monitored and managed. The CBB is owner and operator of the RTGS and SSS systems, which are managed to cover their operating costs on a not-for-profit basis. The CBB periodically reviews the charges of both systems. Any potential business risk is escalated to the PC with proposals for improvements.

27. Custody risk is minimal and no investment risk is involved. As the RTGS and SSS systems are owned, operated and overseen by the CBB, the funds and securities under custody are subject to the robust accounting practices, safekeeping procedures, and internal control measures of the CBB. This also ensures CBB and other system participants’ prompt access to their assets, while eliminating risk exposure arising from the use of custodian banks. There is no investment function or activity associated with the payment and securities settlement systems and hence no investment risk is involved. Collateral consists of government securities and BD deposits.

28. Operational risk is well managed, but could be further improved on many fronts. The mission recommends the following: (i) enhance the BCP to ensure that critical information technology systems can resume operations within two hours following wide scale disruptions. The plan should be designed to enable the RTGS system to complete settlement by the end of the day of the disruption, even in case of extreme circumstances; (ii) monitor and publicly disclose systems availability against target of 99 percent; (iii) conduct a comparative risk analysis of the secondary site, which should be located at a geographical distance from the primary site that has a distinct risk profile; (iv) increase the frequency of business continuity testing, including tests between participants and the DRR site; (v) analyze scalable capacity, which should be adequate to handle increasing stress volumes and to achieve service level objectives; and (vi) identify and establish oversight expectations for critical service providers located in Bahrain.

Access (Principles 18–20)

29. There are publicly disclosed access and participation requirements for the RTGS and SSS systems. The mission recommends a review of the access and participation requirements regularly to ensure that they remain objective, risk-based, and permit fair and open access to the RTGS and SSS systems.

30. There is no tiered participation arrangement for the RTGS system, but tiered participation arrangement is present in the SSS system. At present only retail banks meeting relevant requirements such as SWIFT capabilities are granted direct RTGS membership, and clearing entities are given restricted RTGS membership while all other financial institutions have no membership in the RTGS system. Meanwhile, retail banks are given direct SSS membership while other financial institutions such as pension funds and wholesale banks are given indirect SSS membership. The mission recommends the following: (i) identify indirect participants/users responsible for a significant proportion of transactions processed by the RTGS system and indirect participants/users whose transaction volumes or values are large relative to the capacity of the direct participants through which they access the RTGS system in order to manage the risks arising from these transactions10; and (ii) consider providing RTGS membership to such indirect participants/users subject to appropriate risk management criteria.11

31. There is an FMI link between the SSS system and BHB. One of the direct SSS members is BHB, which also performs the role of a CSD by acting as a centralized depository for dematerialized and immobilized securities (i.e., equity and debt securities). Through this arrangement, BHB is able to hold government securities listed on the BHB, including those of retail investors participating in government securities issuances through BHB. Risk implications of this arrangement to the SSS system is low as securities settlement takes place in the SSS system in real time based on DVP1, and BHB is subject to the oversight of the CBB.

Efficiency (Principles 21–22)

32. The RTGS and SSS systems provide efficient and effective payment, securities settlement, and depository services to system participants and their customers. The RTGS and SSS systems are operated efficiently and effectively, and transaction fee or membership fee schemes are also implemented for economic efficiency and cost recovery purposes. The fee levels are reviewed from time to time.

33. The RTGS and SSS systems are based on internationally accepted communication procedures and standards. SWIFT communication network and messages are used to transmit financial information.

Transparency (Principle 23)

34. RTGS and SSS membership regulations, business operating guidelines, and fee schedules are publicly disclosed. RTGS and SSS membership regulations and business operating guidelines clearly state their functionalities, and the roles and responsibilities of the operator and members. The membership regulations and business operating guidelines are disclosed to participants (as written contractual agreements between members and in the CBB website). Subsequent amendments are communicated to each member. Documentation, training, and testing to facilitate participants’ understanding of rules, procedures and system changes are provided by the CBB. The mission recommends the public disclosure of responses to the CPMI-IOSCO Disclosure Framework.

B. Recommendations for the RTGS and SSS Systems

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“Immediate” is within one year; “near –term” is 1–3 years; “medium-term” is 3–5 years.

Summary Assessment of Authorities’ Responsibilities

A. Observance of the Responsibilities

35. The assessment suggests that authorities’ responsibilities are broadly or partly observed. (Table 3). Three responsibilities are broadly observed, including: (i) oversight powers and resources for FMIs; (ii) policies with respect to FMIs; and (iii) adoption and application of the PFMIs. Two responsibilities are partly observed, including: (i) the regulation, supervision, and oversight of FMIs; and (ii) cooperation with other authorities. The issues of concern and other gaps or shortcomings, recommended actions, relevant parties, and timeframe are provided for the authorities.

Table 3.

Ratings Summary of Authorities’ Responsibilities

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Regulation, supervision, and oversight of FMIs (Responsibility A)

36. The CBB has identified FMIs in Bahrain, but has not clearly defined their criteria. The CBB supervises and oversees all payment, clearing and settlement systems, including systems it operates. Payment, clearing, and settlement services are considered regulated financial services under the broader definition of regulated services under the CBB Law (Article 39). Any person or entity that wishes to own and/or operate a payment, clearing and settlement system or act as a payment service provider is required to obtain a license and/or authorisation from the CBB. The CBB Rulebook issued under the CBB Law provides the regulatory requirements that the CBB licensees as well as their approved persons are required for compliance. In addition, the CBB Law (Article 32 b, Article 37) provides powers to the Board of Directors (Board) and the Governor to issue regulations for the implementation of the CBB Law. Since the regulations have a general application, the CBB is obliged to consult with interested parties to obtain their feedback before finalizing any regulation. The CBB Governor is empowered by the CBB law (Article 38) to issue directives to the relevant payment service provider(s), approved persons, or registered persons to ensure the implementation of the CBB Law to achieve the CBB’s objectives. The mission recommends the establishment of clearly defined and publicly disclosed criteria to identify FMIs that should be subject to regulation, supervision, and oversight. For example, such criteria could consider the following: (i) number of transactions and values; (ii) type of participants; (iii) markets impacted by the system; (iv) market shares; (v) interconnectedness with other FMIs and financial institutions; and (vi) available alternatives to using the FMI at short notice.

Regulatory, supervisory, and oversight powers and resources (Responsibility B)

37. The CBB is the sole regulator of the financial sector and has powers and resources to carry out its responsibilities in regulating, supervising, and overseeing FMIs. Such powers and resources could be further enhanced to effectively discharge these responsibilities. The mission recommends the following: (i) strengthen the legal basis to protect settlement finality and netting arrangements, and designate FMIs that should be subject to oversight and supervision; (ii) separate oversight and operational duties at the directorate level with clear reporting lines to avoid potential conflicts of interest; (iii) develop a staff succession plan to ensure that the appropriate experience and mix of skills are available to discharge operational and risks management responsibilities for FMIs; (iv) staff the vacant positions in the Payment System Policy and Oversight unit with qualified personnel; and (v) introduce FMI-related training courses under the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance.

Disclosure of policies with respect to FMIs (Responsibility C)

38. The CBB publicly discloses its policies with respect to the oversight of payment and settlement systems, which should be further improved. The mission recommends the development of a policy document to clearly define and disclose the regulatory, supervisory, and oversight policies of the CBB with respect to all FMIs in Bahrain. This policy document should contain the following: (i) role of the CBB; (ii) regulatory framework; (iii) oversight objectives; (iv) approach to risk management; (v) oversight approach (risk-based approach, international standards, engagement and monitoring, assessing, and inducing change); (vi) potential conflict of interest; and (vii) cooperation with domestic (where applicable) and overseas regulators.

Application of the principles for FMIs (Responsibility D)

39. The CBB has applied the new international standards and should consider formal adoption by the Board. The mission recommends the following: (i) submit the PFMIs to the CBB Board for formal adoption into the legal and regulatory framework with a time-bound plan; (ii) apply the PFMIs to the RTGS/SSS systems and all private sector FMIs consistently with a time-bound plan, and monitor follow-up actions; and (iii) identify and establish oversight expectations for critical service providers located in Bahrain.

Cooperation with other authorities (Responsibility E)

40. There is development cooperation with overseas authorities with respect to FMIs, which should be expanded to promote their safety and efficiency. The CBB acts as the single financial regulator in Bahrain. However, overseas cooperation would help monitor and manage potential risks that may arise from cross-border FMI links. There have been developments with respect to cross-border linkages of ATMs across the GCC member states with ongoing plans to develop further links between RTGS systems. Moreover, the CBB is dependent on critical service providers which are located in foreign jurisdictions. The mission recommends the following: (i) strengthen cross-border supervisory cooperation with GCC central banks on FMIs; and (ii) develop cross-border supervisory cooperation with overseas authorities for the oversight of critical service providers.

B. Recommendations for Authorities

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Detailed Assessment of the RTGS AND SSS Systems

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