The number of investment firms setting up business in Bahrain has witnessed robust growth in the second quarter of 2011, in comparison with the same period of 2010, said a Central Bank of Bahrain release.For the second quarter (Q2) of 2011 investment firm licensees issued numbered 52. Comparative figure for the same period of 2010 was 50 licences, said the release.The investment business (IB) license, introduced by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) in 2006, replaced the restrictive Investment Advisory License. It caters for three different classes of investment firm licensees.The category one license permits the full range of investment activities including investing as principal, asset management, acting as custodian of financial instruments, or offering brokerage and advisory services on financial instruments to clients. Category 2 licensees are permitted to carry out most of the activities, with the exception of investing as principal.Category 3 only licenses firms to provide brokerage and advisory services.The sector, comprising of 52 investment business firm licensees now reported total assets under management of $0.93 billion on June 30, 2011, an 31.6 per cent increase over the same period last year, said the release.Investments as principal totalled $285.6 million, an increase of 5.4 per cent from the $270.9 million reported for 30 June 2010.The Kingdom of Bahrain offers a potentially business-friendly environment for financial institutions -- including firms offering investment products and services. Bahrain's financial services industry comprises a mix of international, regional and local institutions and is also the largest single employer in the Kingdom, making it an attractive and practical business sector, said CBB release.In addition to the CBB Law, IB licensees are regulated in accordance with CBB rulebook, which is updated on an ongoing quarterly basis to suit the needs of the market. Major updates include corporate governance issues, management training and competency and regulatory reporting requirements.“We are looking for further growth in assets size and are glad that in difficult times faced by the global economy, this sector has shown overall resistance to be in the profitable zone”, said Abdul Rahman Al Baker, Executive Director of Financial Institutions Supervision, at the CBB.Mohammed Ayman Al Tajer, Director of Financial Institutions Supervision Directorate, said: “This sector as it develops is certainly filled with untapped opportunities focusing on the MENA region which requires special skills of structuring of financial products in order to meet clients’ needs and expectation.”Since the introduction of the investment business regime, the number of IB licenses granted by the CBB grew from an initial figure of 22 (licensees who were automatically migrated from the old Investment Advisory regime) to 52 licenses in October 2011.