WHAT THE INDUSTRY LEADERS ARE SAYING
For twenty years, the World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) has helped shape the global Islamic finance sector, which has experienced unprecedented growth during that time. This has mainly been driven by the fast-growing economies in Asia and the Middle East, but Islamic finance has also been adopted by international businesses, global sovereigns and a broad range of institutional investors, and it is events such as WIBC that have provided a platform to help expand understanding and communicate the opportunities.”
Bahrain is widely recognised as a leader in the sector, and in Islamic banking in particular, playing host to the largest concentration of Islamic financial institutions in the world, including 26 Islamic banks with total assets under management of over $25 billion. As such, the Bahrain EDB are delighted to have worked alongside WIBC for the past decade, and the Kingdom is looking forward to continuing to successfully hosting the event for many years to come.
Islamic finance has grown to be an important component of the global financial systems and there has never been a more vibrant and exciting time for the global Islamic finance industry. Not only is the industry rapidly becoming more complex and sophisticated in its core traditional markets of the GCC and South East Asia but is also expanding to new emerging markets including in Europe, Africa and Central Asia. With the ever increasing global footprint and the changing dynamic of the Islamic finance industry, standardization of Shari’ah, accounting, auditing, governance, ethics and risk management for the industry is now even more critical. In addition to developing new standards, it is also essential to revisit and revise the existing standards to keep up with market development.
The annual World Islamic Banking Conference has been a key platform for the industry to come together and deliberate on the most pressing issues. This year being the 20th anniversary of this prestigious event, we are looking forward to some interesting discussions on how AAOIFI standards can further support and boost growth of the global Islamic finance industry.
The last few years have witnessed a truly global financial system where financial markets and institutions no longer stop at national borders. Though a globalised financial system delivers many benefits, it has also provided the perfect mechanism for the transmission of contagion from one part of the world to another, fuelling the geographic spread of the recent financial crisis. The fact that Islamic finance has its largest presence in rapidly growing economies that have been least affected by the global financial crisis, presents the Islamic finance industry with tremendous opportunities. If Islamic finance is to make the most of these opportunities, the industry will have to strengthen its foundations and adapt to the new realities in the global financial framework, just as the foundations of conventional finance are now being strengthened. The theme for this year’s World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC 2012) “Islamic Finance: Adapting to the New Dynamics of Global Finance” points at these challenges and opportunities and I hope that the discussions at this important gathering of industry leaders will play a key role in further strengthening the industry. The Central Bank of Bahrain is once again delighted to be supporting this prestigious international event.
The insurance industry in the Middle East is undergoing significant transformation and there is tremendous potential for the market to grow and thrive. Regional market trends clearly highlight the growth potential for both multinational and local participants. However, given the current challenges of increasing competition, it is essential that the industry addresses key challenges and refine business models to build the foundation for an exciting and stable growth curve for the insurance sector. With significant untapped potential in the regional insurance industry both regulators and operators in the region must aim to promote collaboration, transparency and adoption of the best international standards in order to optimize the growth potential. The annual Middle East Insurance Forum (MEIF) has over the past 9 years, played a key role in supporting growth and development in the regional insurance industry by creating a platform for the industry leaders to meet and exchange views on the current market and economic conditions that have a major impact on the regional insurance markets. The Central Bank of Bahrain is once again very delighted to supporting this important event.
In the past few years, the insurance industry across the globe has been witnessing ongoing shifting tides. Low interest rates, lasting macro-economic risks and stagnating mature markets are pushing insurers to allocate resources to markets that will boost their growth engine. Where the Middle East insurance stands today is very praiseworthy. In fact, the region has shown its capacity to not only withstand turbulent times but also managed to consistently achieve robust results. Today, the level of investments in infrastructure, continuous population growth and the rise of emerging and mass affluent customer segments are few of the indicators that attest of the promising prospects of the life insurance industry in the region.
Once again, MetLife Alico is delighted to demonstrate its commitment to the development of the insurance sector by taking part in the renowned Annual Middle East Insurance Forum. MEIF was a platform for us to leverage our heritage and thought leadership capabilities to partner with industry leaders and collaboratively anticipate the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
The growth potential presented by Takaful is enormous as there is a real opportunity to capitalize on the positive economic dynamics prevalent in key markets for Takaful, not only limited to the traditional markets of South East Asia and the Middle East, but also to new emerging markets such as Africa. However it is essential for key players in the industry to sharpen their business focus, improve their competitiveness and increase market share in order to sustain the current growth rates. With the traditional perception of insurance as a mere means of protection now rapidly changing to include a wider spectrum of financial planning and wealth management, it is imperative that the Takaful industry takes a more proactive approach in understanding the evolving customer and market-specific needs and be willing to re-engineer products and services to meet the evolving needs of the customer. At Etiqa, we are committed to supporting the continued growth and advancement of the Takaful industry and our support for the annual World Takaful Conference, which plays a key role in the development of the global Takaful industry, is a testament to this.
With Islamic finance continuing to gain ground globally, the need for a harmonious international industry standards and cross-border coordination and collaboration has become of even more significant importance. In this phase of growing international transactions, Islamic finance needs to be dynamic and innovative, with an emphasis on the development of diversified and comprehensive Shari’ah-compliant financial solutions to meet the differentiated needs of various businesses, including the requirements of international businesses and thus facilitate cross-border investments. This requires a close coordination and collaboration between the two powerhouse regions for Islamic finance in Asia – the Middle East and Southeast Asia. I hope that the discussions at this year’s World Islamic Banking Conference: Asia Summit (WIBC Asia) will provide strategic insights to achieve greater international connectivity in Islamic finance not only between these two regions but in the rest of Asia as well. CIMB Islamic is once again delighted to be partnering with this prestigious event which plays a key role in supporting growth, excellence and innovation in the regional Islamic finance industry.
Islamic finance over the last few years has become increasingly relevant to global companies and investors. We are seeing Islamic financial institutions leveraging on the strengths and expertise that have been developed across international jurisdictions and this is expanding the range of Shari’ah-compliant products and services, allowing the Islamic finance industry to tap into broader and deeper investor pools not only in Asia and the Middle East, but globally. With the development of deeper trade and investment links between Asia and the Middle East, there will undoubtedly be greater scope for inter-regional economic opportunity that could open new growth paths for the Islamic banking, finance and investments industry. It is exciting to see the two key regions for Islamic finance – the Asia and Middle East, converge in a unique platform that is focused on achieving greater inter-regional linkages and cross-border Islamic finance transactions; and the role that the WIBC Asia platform plays in this regard is important. The Islamic Bank of Asia is once again delighted to be partnering with this prestigious event that fosters new business relations between the key growth markets for Islamic finance.
Africa is embracing Islamic finance on a significant scale as countries across the continent seek to tap cash-rich Middle Eastern investors to finance their large infrastructure and economic development programmes. Though Islamic finance in Africa is still in its early stages of development, the use of Islamic finance on the continent will grow further as several North and Sub-Saharan African countries are beginning to address the legal and regulatory obstacles to Islamic finance by putting in place the necessary measures. However, this is only the first step towards tapping the enormous growth potential for Islamic finance on the continent and much still needs to be done. Any economy vying to be an Islamic finance hub for the continent must focus on creating an economic environment conductive for Islamic finance to grow, invest in human capital development and develop a strong capital market infrastructure. The annual Islamic Banking Summit Africa (IBSA) plays a critical role in facilitating dialogues that will further the development of the Islamic banking and finance industry in Africa and we are delighted to be a part of this important gathering of industry leaders.
The growth potential for Islamic finance in Africa is very exciting, due to the continent’s large Muslim demographic, dynamically growing economies and improved regulations in key markets. Strong economic growth over the last few years – with the promise of even more significant growth rates in future, enhanced human resource development, and the promotion of enhanced private sector growth are some of the factors that have resulted in a spike in the number of middle class in Africa. This trend is expected to boost consumer spending, creating further demand for retail banking products. The international Islamic finance industry is also looking for new high-growth markets to invest their funds, so many key factors
are now aligning for the Islamic banking and finance industry on the continent. International gatherings such as the annual Islamic Banking Summit Africa (IBSA) play a key role in not only highlighting the growth opportunities for the industry in Africa, but will also create a link between Africa’s Islamic finance industry and the rest of the Islamic finance world. I am delighted to be a part of this important event.