Bahrain banks 'on solid economic fundamentals'

Solid fundamentals will support a resumption of strong long-term economic growth and secure Bahrain’s long-term future as a wealth management centre of excellence, said a top government official.

‘Bahrain remains committed to ensuring that the same core business fundamentals remain in place,’ remarked Economic Development Board (EDB) chief executive Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa ahead of the Euromoney GCC Private Banking Conference at the Ritz-Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa on March 7, which will put wealth management and private banking in the spotlight.

Euromoney, the specialist financial publisher and conference organiser, is returning to Bahrain for the first time in a decade to host a major financial event, which is supported by the EDB and the Central Cank of Bahrain.

‘These are stable and transparent regulation, an open business environment and sustainable growth, exploiting our location between East and West and offering a base from which to access the GCC’s trillion-dollar market.

‘Clearly this event will provide a strong platform to engage with the private banking and wealth management business community and highlight the benefits and opportunities presented by establishing operations in Bahrain.

‘More broadly, the EDB has an extremely active business development programme to attract businesses to Bahrain, including international road shows and hosting events in Bahrain to allow people to see the kingdom for themselves.’

The quality of growth depends more than anything else on the sustainability of the workforce and quality of people and Bahrain’s business sector is supported by the most productive, highly-skilled bilingual national work force in the GCC, he argued.

‘Bahrain is home to a well-educated, able local financial services workforce and of the total workforce of more than 14,300 in the financial services sector 67 per cent are Bahraini, of which 37pc are Bahraini women.

‘In addition to the strength of the regulatory framework and the skilled workforce, we also have a track record of more than 40 years of managing wealth in our financial system,’ he said.

‘We also offer platforms for investment through our thriving funds industry, with more than 2,800 registered funds in Bahrain,’ he said and added we are global leaders in Islamic finance, and this means we can support a broader range of private wealth management needs in the kingdom.

‘We felt that now was the right time and Bahrain the right venue to attract an international audience and we already have around 250 delegates signed up,’ said Euromoney Conferences director of private banking Richard Banks.

‘This is not a big conference but it is an event which will attract quality people and we have representation from as far away as Malaysia, Singapore and Switzerland.

‘We chose Bahrain for this event as the kingdom remains a centre of excellence for wealth management in the Middle East,’ he added.-TradeArabia News Service

Islamic finance industry set for ‘a big leap’ in Oman

MUSCAT: Oman’s First Islamic Finance and Banking Conference opened yesterday with a call to stake holders to take effective steps in promoting Islamic finance in their countries.

Speaking as the chief guest, Darwish bin Ismail bin Ali Al Balushi, minister responsible for financial affairs, said, “with an annual growth of 20 per cent and total assets worth a trillion US dollars the Islamic finance industry is poised for a leap in the coming years and time is opportune to lend it a push.

He said that a study conducted in Oman revealed that 85 per cent of people favoured buying Islamic products and 70 per cent would opt for deposits in Islamic savings account whenever they are made available. This suggests the volume of interest shown by people in Oman in pursuing Islamic finance.”

The conference is organised by Al Iktissad Wal Amal Group (Lebanon) in association with the Central Bank of Oman.Delivering a key-note address, Dr Ahmed Mohamed Ali, president of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), said that the conference provides a good opportunity for business leaders and decision-makers from different countries to interact and offer effective solutions to some challenges facing the Islamic finance industry.

He pointed out that major international agencies — Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings and Moody’s — have given IDB the highest ‘AAA’ credit rating. He said that the IDB had provided total finances of more than $800 billion towards short-term and long-term projects in member countries since its establishment in 1975.

Dr Ahmed said, “The Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Investments and Export Credits (ICIEC) was formed with the objective to enlarge the scope of trade transactions and investment flows among the member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC);

Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) was established to complement IDB through the development and promotion of the private sector, as a vehicle for economic growth and development in member countries while the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI).

IRTI was established to help the Bank in discharging its functions in the fields of research and training assigned to it by its Articles of Agreement.” Mohammed Jamil Berro, chief executive officer, Al Hilal Bank, focused on Islamic banking growth by international expansion.

He said, “Al Hilal Bank has 28 branches in the UAE and its revenue crossed Dh1.73 million.” The bank has around 50,000 customers. With 10 per cent Muslim GDP and only one per cent global Islamic assets penetration, the global Islamic finance presents significant growth opportunities.”

Abdel Kader Askalan, CEO, Oman Arab Bank, said, “A central authority on Islamic Finance has to be established under OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) to develop regulatory legislation. Islamic finance has achieved remarkable growth in the past few years in the GCC region with 450 institutions worldwide of which 40 per cent are based in the Arab region.”

“GCC alone takes two-third of the world assets worth $ 700 billion. Islamic finace should be ready to face requirements of globalisations.”

Event to shed light on latest trends in Islamic finance

MUSCAT: Under the patronage of Darwish bin Ismail bin Ali Al Balushi, minister responsible for financial affairs, the Sultanate of Oman will host the first ‘Islamic Finance & Banking Conference’, from January 23 to 24, at Al Bustan Palace Hotel, here.


The event, organised by Al Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Oman, will highlight key issues relevant to the Islamic finance industry, which includes policies and regulatory perspectives of Islamic finance, Islamic banking growth and international expansion, Islamic finance and capital market activities, supervisory and regulatory role of Sharia boards and the socio-economic accountability of Islamic finance.

Prominent speakers who will speak on the latest trends in the sector include Hamood Bin Sangour Al Zadjali, executive president of the Central Bank of Oman; Sultan bin Nasser Al Souwaidi, governor of the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates; Raed Charafeddine, first vice-governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon; and Adnan Youssef, chairman of the Union of Arab Banks.

Dr Ahmad Mohammed Ali, president of the Islamic Development Bank, will be heading a high-level delegation. He will deliver a keynote speech at the conference’s opening ceremony.

400 participants

Conference sessions will reveal latest research and studies accomplished by a group of prominent specialists, academics and senior staff in the financial and Islamic banking sectors, from diverse regional and international leading organisations and corporations in the Islamic financial industry.

About 400 participants will gather at the event from various Arab and Islamic countries including Islamic and commercial banking leaders, fund managers, Sharia and legal experts, representatives of foreign banks and investment firms and world-level consultants, in addition to a large number of participants interested in Islamic banking. The conference is sponsored by Al Ahli Bank, Oman, Diamond sponsor, among others.

VTB to introduce Islamic banking in Russia

Baku, Fineko/ Development of Islamic financing in the CIS member countries will be carried out through two key banks.

At the closing ceremony of the IV Baku International Banking Conference Andrey Kazakov, chairman of the Coordination Council of the CIS Financial & Banking Council (FBC), has stated that they will seek to establish Islamic banks in Russia and Azerbaijan.

“Yesterday, we talked with VTB Bank’s president Andrey Kostin and he said that VTB would conduct work on establishment of an Islamic bank and prepare the relevant documents. The International Bank of Azerbaijan has done its preparatory work,” Kazakov said.

IBA Islamic Banking Group’s head Behnam Gurbanzadeh has said that on the advice of consultants for the first time in the worlds the IBA will introduce Islamic banking by creating a specialized mini-bank inside the Bank itself.

“Islamic banking can be considered as a form of IBA retail operations. Its introduction corresponds to the strategic priority of the Bank, positioning itself as a national development bank,” Gurbanzadeh said.

The FBC has identified Azerbaijan as a regional center to introduce Islamic banking on the CIS area and the IBA as the head of the FBC working group on preparation of Islamic banking introduction in the CIA banks.