Bermuda steps up Islamic finance effort

Bermuda’s latest target market of the Islamic finance industry was the focus for a delegation from the Island who travelled to Bahrain this week for the 18th Annual World Islamic Banking Conference.

The conference, which was held under the patronage of HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Prime Minister of Bahrain, featured Cheryl Packwood, CEO of Business Bermuda and Belaid Jheengoor, director of asset management for PricewaterhouseCoopers in Bermuda and chairman of the Island’s Islamic finance taskforce, on the panel discussion entitled ‘Upgrading Regulatory Frameworks and Risk Management Capabilities: New Approaches to Ensure Stability and the Successful International Development of Islamic Finance’.

The panel session, which was moderated by Nadine Hani, anchorwoman for Al Arabiya News Channel, discussed the improvements necessary for the current regulatory framework. The panel also examined new international regulatory developments and new dimensions in risk management and compliance.

Ms Packwood said: “Bermuda has historically been renowned internationally for its world class standards of regulation, something which has stood us in great stead in our ambition to become the Western hub for Islamic finance. Honesty and ethics are at the core of the way Bermuda does business, much like the Islamic finance industry and this is crucial when discussing improvements to regulatory frameworks.”

Mr Jheengoor also represented Bermuda with Fawaz Elmalki, director at Conyers Dill & Pearman, at the ‘New Frontiers New Opportunities Exploring New International High-Growth Markets for Islamic Finance, Country Focus Roundtable’.

The panel discussed the Island’s appetite for Islamic finance and the initiatives it has taken in recent years, such as the creation of guidance notes by the Bermuda Monetary Authority on Islamic Collective Investment Schemes facilitating the establishment of Islamic investment funds in Bermuda.

Mr Jheengoor said: “Bermuda has built strong ties with the GCC in recent years, including signing a double taxation agreement with Bahrain which provides structuring opportunities for both conventional and Shariah compliant investors accessing the GCC.

“Its regulatory structure already provides mechanisms which cater to the specific requirements of Shariah compliant services and structured finance transactions, such as sukuk and Shariah compliant funds as well as takaful and retakaful insurance structures.

“It was mentioned during the discussion that if a non-regional country wants to be taken seriously as an Islamic centre it should issue a sukuk; the first sukuk to be issued by a top ten Fortune 500 US company was structured using a Bermuda limited liability exempted company as an Ijarah sukuk to finance global portfolio of aircraft leases.

This transaction is proof of the benefits that businesses outside of the region can gain from Shariah-complaint investors.”

Representatives of Business Bermuda, including Peter Hughes, group director at Apex Fund Services, Nicolas Angio, managing director of Apex Fund Services Bahrain and UAE, joined Ms Packwood at the Business Bermuda booth in talking to leading members of the Islamic finance industry from across the world to explore the potential for the market in Bermuda and the Island’s advantages over its onshore competitors.

Mr Jheengoor also took part in two panel sessions, as part of a pre-conference event hosted by the IIFM, ‘Trends in Global Sukuk Market’, focusing on the latest developments and growing trends in the industry as well as sukuk structures, ownership rights, the role of special purpose vehicle’s and standardisation requirements in sukuk.