The Qatar Central Bank (QCB) has launched "Express Sandbox", the first of its kind in the Middle East, as part efforts to offer quicker market entry for solutions or innovations that demonstrate product readiness and potential.

This comes in line with the Third Financial Sector Strategy, the FinTech Strategy, and the QCB's ongoing efforts to regulate and develop the financial sector.

The Express Sandbox, an expedited programme, offers a faster track through the usual regulatory assessment while maintaining high standards of risk management, consumer protection, and system integrity.

Financial institutions, licensed fintech companies, startups, and technology companies partnered with licensed financial entities (both domestic and international) can apply for the Express Sandbox programme to test and introduce their fintech innovative solutions in the Qatari market.

"Entities that succeed in joining the Express Sandbox will benefit from a reduced testing period, rapid testing cycles, and a streamlined overall evaluation process," QCB said.

Key eligibility criteria for the Express Sandbox include strong track record in financial services, understanding of the local Qatari market, financial soundness, mature business and operating model, and adherence to international and local standards.

The QCB has taken on a role of the “orchestrator” of Qatar’s fintech strategy, in addition to acting as the central regulatory authority of its fintech ecosystem, a report of the Qatar Financial Centre-Refinitiv had said.

In alignment with the second strategic plan for the financial sector, the QCB has set itself four key objectives as part of the national fintech strategy, which included creating a connected and collaborative fintech ecosystem, maintaining global competitiveness of fintech services, having a strengthened financial system and providing meaningful solutions to local consumers.

Through fulfilling these targeted objectives, the central bank launched three initiatives related to regulating the fintech sector in Qatar, aiming to maintain a balance between enabling fintech innovation while also protecting consumers and the integrity of Qatar’s financial system.

The QCB has embarked on regulating aspects of the fintech business and ecosystem. In 2019, it began with issuing regulations on payments, the fastest growing segment in the region and a priority focus of the National Fintech Strategy.

In its third financial sector strategy, built upon four pillars and supported by five cross-cutting themes; the QCB has suggested incentives to the Big Tech and fintech entities for facilitating their entry into the country.

The third financial sector strategy is to make Qatar a leading ecosystem embracing emerging technologies to accelerate digital transformation supported by adaptable and consistent regulatory frameworks and trusted market infrastructure.
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