Islamic funds forum is a major success

Delegates and speakers from 25 countries took part in the eighth Annual World Islamic Funds and Financial Markets Conference which closed at the Gulf Hotel yesterday. “This has been by far the most international edition of this event that we have hosted so far and that is a reflection of the spread of Islamic finance from just the Muslim world to further afield,” said organiser MEGA Events managing director David McLean.

“We are not just talking about financial institutions here because what we saw this year was a strong representation from corporate entities who are turning from conventional finance to Islamic institutions when it comes to looking at ways to raise money.

“We have had leading institutions from as far apart as Ireland and Luxembourg taking part and a strong showing from Malaysia which has been dominating the sukuk market in recent years,” he added.

He said he believed the quality of speakers was again extremely high and the feedback he had so far was very positive.

“We are committed to bringing this conference back to Bahrain next year and we have already had a lot of delegates asking about how they can sign up for the ninth edition,” he added.

“Islamic finance may remain fairly small compared with conventional finance but it is a fast growing industry which is attracting more international interest across a wide range of financial service sectors.

“One of the fast growing sectors is Islamic insurance and because of that we will be launching a dedicated conference on takaful in Bahrain in October this year as well as returning with the World Islamic Banking Conference towards the end of the year,” he added.

Islamic funds forum is a major success


Islamic finance still has to achieve critical mass if it is to address problems of liquidity, according to KPMG Fakhro Bahrain partner “The sukuk market is definitely growing but it has yet to reach the necessary critical mass.

“The industry needs sukuk and interbank lending to meet its liquidity needs but unfortunately the bigger banks that have excess liquidity are not over keen to lend to smaller banks that do not have ratings.

“We will need to see more consolidation in the banking market and that is something that we are already seeing,” he added.

He said that while the sukuk market was expanding, almost 100 per cent of the issuance in 2011 was in Malaysia.

He added that the other problem the industry faced was a lack of standardisation on how banks deal with each other and on the issue of regulation.

“The industry is moving forward in developing standardisation but it is a slow process compared with the growth in the industry,” he said.


KSE Meezan Index (KMI-30) – Stellar Performance

The previous decade saw tremendous rise in the acceptability and growth of Islamic financial products in Pakistan.

Deposits of Islamic Banks grew from an insignificant amount in 2002 to over Rs 400 billion in mid 2011, representing 8% market share of the entire deposits in banks.

With the development of the financial markets in the country, there was a need felt for new investment products to facilitate the growth and promotion of savings.

Mutual Funds industry has played an active role in providing new investment alternatives.

Presently, the stands at Rs 333 billion, in which the size of Islamic Funds is Rs 45 billion.

The market share of Islamic mutual funds has shown incredible growth over the period and has increased to 14% from 7.54% in mid 2008, also illustrated in the Figure below:

Need for an Islamic benchmark The index helps Shari’ah conscious investors to identify the Halal equity investments.

With the rapid growth and acceptance of Islaamic products in the market, a void was created for a benchmark that can accurately compare the performance of Islamic equity funds.

KSE Meezan Index (KMI-30) - Stellar Performance

As a result, KSE-Meezan Index (KMI-30) was established by the collaboration between Al Meezan Investment Management Ltd (Al Meezan) and the Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE) in 2008.

Al Meezan, in consultation with Shari’ah Department of Meezan Bank, provides Shari’ah expertise, guidelines, skills and stocks screening towards the activities pertaining the re-composition of the Index; whereas, KSE provides maintenance and dissemination support for the index.

The index helps Shari’ah conscious investors to identify the Halal equity investments.

It also provides them with a suitable benchmark to compare the performance of their investments.

Besides tracking the performance of Shari’ah compliant equities, its construction aimed to increase trust of Shari’ah conscious investors and enhance their participation.

The following table lists the Islamic Equity Funds in Pakistan, all of which use the KMI-30 Index as a benchmark.

In addition, it is also used by five Islamic Balanced Funds and Islamic Asset Allocation Funds for benchmarking.

— We attempt to evaluate the performance of the KMI-30 Index against the other indices on Karachi Stock Exchange since its launch in 2008.

Some interesting facts emerge through this exercise:

Since inception, the KMI-30 index has provided a return of 41% to its investors.

During the same period, KSE-100 (which tracks the performance of the top 100 market capitalised companies) and KSE-30 (which tracks the performance of the top 30 most liquid stocks based on free float methodology) both underperformed considerably; and, in fact, provided negative returns.

The time when KMI-30 Index was launched concurred with a financial crisis that swept the global markets, which also affected Pakistan’s Capital Market.

Despite these setbacks, the KMI-30 has been able to outperform KSE-100 and KSE-30 by 42% and 60% respectively.

Let us illustrate this with an example.

We take three hypothetical passive investors, each of whom invested a capital of Rs 1,000 in the stock market at the start of the FY’08.

They chose to invest differently however.

Investor A invested in the KMI-30 index, while B and C invested in KSE-100 and KSE-30 respectively.

Investor A’s investment has grown to Rs 1,413.57 yielding 41%.

Investor B’s portfolio was worth Rs 991.97 (a loss of 1%) and investor C lost 19% of his investment, which was worth Rs 806.93.

It can be inferred from the same example that once recovery began in the market, KMI-30 index outperformed the KSE-100 and KSE-30 indices over the entire period.

At times, the gap widened substantially.


Gary Dugan sees liquidity fueled exuberance

UAE. What a start to the year. As we end February investors can reflect back on year-to-date double digit returns from equities and some commodity markets. The DFM General index has rebounded 30% from the lows of mid-January.

It is clear that the massive flows of liquidity circling the world are being put back to work in financial markets. However it is always worth bearing in mind that rises in equity markets don’t in themselves solve the problems of economies. Note that Greece is still bordering on default.

Liquidity continues to be the main driver of the rise in markets. Last week’s European CentralBank (ECB) Long Term Refinancing Operation (LTRO) led to 800 banks receiving funding of an aggregate €539 billion for three years at a cost of just 1%. The banks are then going out and using the funding to buy Euro zone debt, which in turn drives down Euro zone bond yields.

Italy has been the chief winner from the ECB’s actions. The Italian 10 year bond yield has fallen by over 200bps since the start of the year. Whilst the cash seems to be finding its way into the financial markets, the only way the market rally can be sustained is if the cash finds its way into the Euro zone economy and drives growth.

Unfortunately Euro zone money supply growth – a good measure of the impact of money on the economy- is still weak. A growth rate for M3 (a broad measure of money supply) of just over 2.5% is very poor relative to many other parts of the world and not consistent with a recovery in the economy.

Liquidity will continue to play a major part in driving markets but after such a strong rally for markets to make progress needs ongoing upgrades to global growth forecasts. There is a new impetus in the emerging markets with strong industrial confidence indicators reported for Korea and Taiwan in recent days. In Korea the trade report showed exports up 33% at an annualized rate.

In Thailand industrial production was up nearly 20% month-on-month in January after an even stronger December. In contrast the US economic data has disappointed somewhat. The labour market continues to show improvement but industrial confidence slipped back after the recent strong consistent rise. In truth US economic data was so strong earlier in the year that it was going to be difficult for the data to keep matching best expectations.

The stronger data from the emerging economies is likely to reinforce the strong relative performance from emerging market equities and bonds. The only reservation we have is that the ongoing strength of the oil price could still deliver an inflation scare that slows the pace of monetary easing in many parts of the emerging world.

The original reason investors piled into emerging markets over the turn of the year was the prospect for cuts in interest rates, and the belief that Europe’s problems weren’t going to do systematic damage to the rest of the world.

In just a few weeks many of those interest rate cuts have been more than discounted with the risk that the rise inflation may stop some of those cuts in interest rates from happening. Not only is inflation posing a potential problem but Brazil for example is also trying to cope with significant inflows of capital that has led to upward pressure on the Brazilian Real.

The authorities have announced a series of measures to slow the rate of appreciation of the currency such as restrictions on companies issuing external debt as it encourages inflows of capital into the country. After such a strong start to the year there is a temptation to take profits on the Brazilian equity market.

In contrast to the challenges to the Brazilian markets, Russian asset markets could rally further post the emphatic win of Vladimir Putin in the Presidential election. In particular the Russian equity market could provide investors with further strong absolute gains.

Russian equities trade on an exceptionally low valuation (P/E of 6.3x). The oil price high and greater clarity on the political front should act as a catalyst for further strong performance. Many investors have been waiting for the election results before buying into the Russian financial markets.

In the meantime there has been a significant rally in Russian assets. The ruble has gained 9.7% against the dollar so far this year and the MICEX equity market index is up 15%. In the debt markets the cost of insuring Russian debt has fallen from a Credit Default Swap (CDS) level of 335bps October last year to 178bps. Some of the Russian credits have not kept pace with the rally in either frontier or emerging markets. We expect further good performance from Russian asset markets.

Greek problems have not gone away. A melt down in Greece still has the potential to have investors running to take profits on recent gains in risk markets. As we suspected the Greek situation is lurching towards almost inevitable debt default. It now appears likely that private investors will be forced to accept the terms offered them by the Greek government hence the Greek government will technically be in default.

Although the matter is very technical in practical terms the defaulting of debt will mean that Greek banks lose access to the capital markets.

The ECB has already announced that it will no longer accept Greek debt as collateral as security for new loans. Moody’s the credit rating agency cut the long-term foreign currency debt rating of Greece to C from Ca. For the moment the markets seem to have taken the news of probably default in their stride however we suspect that the default is only one further step of Greece towards its probably exclusion from the Euro zone.

Greece’s ongoing problems and some slippage in Spain’s to reduce their deficit have put the skids under the Euro. After trading as high as 1.3460 against the dollar the Euro has slid to 1.3188. A move back to the recent low of 1.2667 is still quite possible given the likely difficulties in Greece and the lack of new positive news post the latest round of liquidity support from the ECB.

Although oil and gold saw some profit taking in recent trading sessions we believe there is upside for both commodities. Another way of playing the rise in the oil price is through energy stocks.

The share prices of oil companies have not kept pace with the rise in oil prices. Indeed the gap between the performance the oil price and oil shares is quite exceptional. One of the challenges for oil stocks is that although oil prices have risen oil product prices have not risen as much.

Companies that are more reliant on petrochemical sales are being partially squeezed between high input prices – crude oil and not so high product prices (petrochemical prices).

Investors should look to invest in either actively managed energy funds or oil production companies.

ITS ETHIX – Financial Solutions Awarded 'Best Technology Provider of the Year' by Islamic Business and Finance Award

Dubai – The International Turnkey Systems Group (ITS) has realized a new regional achievement by obtaining the “Best Technology Provider of the Year” award at the Islamic Business and Finance Awards ceremony.

This award was presented in recognition of ITS for providing the latest technological solutions and services that would meet banks present and future needs. ITS solutions also enabled Islamic banks to face growing challenges of competition in the local and regional financial markets.

ITS has provided banks with a number of ETHIX main banking services and solutions, including Islamic banking, automation of branches management, online banking services, and technological services related to treasury and management of Islamic in-vestments and documentary credits.

Khaled Jasim Al Amiri, Assistant General Manager of ITS, received the award at a prestigious ceremony at Emirates Towers Hotel, Dubai.

Al-Amiri commented on being selected for this award: “Once again, ITS confirms its superiority by the testimony of others through obtaining one of the top regional awards and is highly recognized by companies and institutions in various sectors.”

He added: “For more than 30 years (the lifetime of the company), our human resources have played a prominent and important role in realizing these achievements. They have helped position the company to enable it to compete strongly within the market and most importantly, to distinguish itself through groups of solutions, products and services, which have ultimately become the hallmark of ITS.”

Subsequently, ITS also has been awarded “Systems Integrator of the Year” at the Ara-bian Business awards which is considered among the most notable and important awards presented to the business sector in the region.

Banking and Investment Sector

The ITS ETHIX financial solution is a recognized solution in meeting the requirements of Islamic and traditional banking and Islamic finance. ETHIX has assisted many banks and financial institutions to minimize their operational costs in responding to the increased demand of customers for both traditional and Islamic products and services.

In addition, through the use of the most advanced and developed technological solutions in the world, ETHIX Financial solutions is ranked globally as the premier total banking solution, fully compliant with Islamic Shari’a catering to Tier1 banks.

The successful strategy of the ITS Group has enabled the company to double the ceiling of its returns and achieve significant company growth. By increasing total returns and the company’s equivalent in profits, ITS have been able to make both regional and strategic expansions, highlighting the role of HR in ITS.

Benchmark a major step for Islamic finance

Last month, the world’s first Islamic interbank benchmark rate (IIBR) was launched. It was the result of a collaborative approach taken by many Islamic financial institutions, industry associations and Sharia scholars over the course of 24 months to address a decades-old industry challenge:

how to decouple Islamic finance from a conventional western pricing benchmark (Libor) when an “Islamic” alternative was not available. The objective was to support and preserve Islamic finance authenticity.

The IIBR is an interbank benchmark that offers a reliable and realistic standard to better measure the cost of funding for Islamic financial institutions. As contributed pricing for Sharia-compliant funding, it represents the DNA of an Islamic banking industry that is today focused on commercial banking over investment banking.

IIBR brought together more than 20 Islamic finance institutions to create a proprietary Islamic pricing benchmark. It is a major indication to the world that Islamic finance has come of age and can be seen as a sustainable and rapidly developing feature of global financial markets.

The benchmark is designed to be used to price a number of Islamic instruments including common overnight to short-term treasury investment and financing instruments such as murabaha, wakala and mudaraba, retail financing instruments such as property and car finance, and sukuk and other Sharia-compliant fixed-income instruments. It can also be used for the pricing and benchmarking of corporate finance and investment assets.

We expect the benchmark to grow organically as industry use and acceptance increase. As the industry gets used to the idea of its own proprietary benchmark and its scope becomes more global, we expect to see banks use the rate to price their interbank liquidity placements.

As that gains traction, banks will start to use it for their corporate and retail banking facilities. The rate has reached its full potential when we see investment banks providing syndicated Islamic financing (loans) and debt (sukuk) issuance using the rate.

Since the launch of IIBR, it has received much attention around the world for the positive step that it is.

Understandably though, the significance of IIBR and what it means for the Islamic finance industry, indeed the very position of Sharia-finance in Islam and the wider world, means that it provokes strong opinion and debate.

And we must address the critics if we are to achieve the full potential of this initiative. After all, these commentators are important additional stakeholders.

All collaborations start with open minds and transparent dialogue, and so here I hope to address some of the key points raised.

What is the difference between IIBR and Libor – the London interbank offered rate? Put simply, IIBR measures expected profit while conventional benchmarks such as Libor measure interest rates.

The IIBR question for contributors explicitly refers to the cost of raising Sharia-compliant funding and is therefore based on returns generated by Islamic assets.

The IIBR rates represent the aggregate risk profile of Islamic financial institutions, by way of their assets on the balance sheet, and the geographies in which they operate. This is important for two reasons.


On an economic level, now more than ever, conditions in Europe or the US do not necessarily reflect the conditions in the Middle East funding market, although there will inevitably be a connection as global financial markets are always intertwined.

How is IIBR representative and reflective of global Islamic finance treasury funding costs?

This is only a beginning. At present, we have a strong base in GCC countries, we have three major Malaysian banks and are in conversations with others, and we have started conversations with banks in Turkey, Pakistan and other jurisdictions.

How will IIBR address cross-border funding costs?

The precondition for cross-border funding is establishing local rates, and we are starting a dialogue with more countries with established Islamic banking industries. The more important point is that a transparent process or methodology is in place for price contributions, and its integrity is overseen by our benchmark committee with rules that will punish banks, including expulsion, that violate the agreement they have signed.

Why are only murabaha contribution rates used?

Murabaha is the predominant form of funding for Islamic banks. However, the IIBR is instrument-neutral as decided by the Islamic benchmark committee, and in the future, when other instruments such as wakala or mudaraba become more widespread, a higher proportion of contributions could be derived from other rates.

Is IIBR only for Islamic financial institutions?

IIBR, like Islamic finance, is for all people and institutions for all times. As an accurate and transparent measure of market activity, it is suitable for a variety of uses in the modern financial markets of the world. With IIBR, conventional banks will now have more confidence in their counterparty Islamic banks because their rates will be benchmarked and publicly available.

Malaysia opens banking door wider to foreign investors

Dec 21 (Reuters) – Malaysia said on Wednesday it would open up its banking sector to more foreign investment, in a move by the government to put the economy back on investors’ radar ahead of general elections expected in 2012.

In a 10-year blueprint, Prime Minister Najib Razak said more licenses would be handed out to foreign financial institutions with specialised skills. He promised greater flexibility in letting foreigners hold stakes in lending institutions.

Najib also announced moves to toughen supervision of financial holding companies and create a deeper Islamic finance market in a broad roadmap which largely echoed earlier proposals and contained few details on implementation.

“These moves, when they materialise, would definitely attract foreign investments into Malaysia,” said Gundy Cahyadi, an economist at OCBC in Singapore.

“Investor sentiment, on a broader scale, would tend to welcome this announcement as a positive – this could be taken as another step towards more liberalisation, and definitely a positive twist to the country’s longer term growth.”

Revitalising the economy is the cornerstone of Najib’s transformation plan as he heads into what is expected to be an election year in 2012 although analysts say an illiquid stock market and resistance to reforms highlight the uphill task he faces.

“The financial sector blueprint for the next 10 years reinforces the government’s initiatives to drive Malaysia to become a fully developed nation,” Najib wrote in the foreword to the plan.

“The financial system will have a key role in spurring new areas of growth, and facilitating our economic transformation.”


The key element was a pledge to exercise greater flexibility in allowing foreigners to hold stakes in financial institutions.

But the central bank said this was subject to preconditions being in place “to ensure an orderly transition to a more liberalised environment”.

It said any move to allow more foreign investment in the financial industry would be guided by the lender’s business record and experience and the investment would have to be in Malaysia’s best interest.

Foreigners are now subject to a 30 percent cap on ownership of commercial banks and 70 percent in investment banks and conventional and Islamic insurers.

In March, Najib indicated a readiness to ease bank ownership rules when he said he would consider allowing Australia & New Zealand Banking Group to raise its stake in Malaysia’s AMMB Holdings to 49 percent, provided the central bank approved.

Last year, the central bank awarded five commercial banking licences to foreign lenders BNP Paribas, Mizuho Corporate Bank, National Bank of Abu Dhabi, PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.

Malaysia has eight local banking groups and the authorities are seen as favouring consolidation to create larger institutions which can compete with foreign lenders.

Malayan Banking Bhd and CIMB Group Holdings Bhd had earlier put in separate bids to acquire rival RHB Capital Bhd, a deal which would have created Southeast Asia’s most valuable lender. But both scrapped plans due to pricing considerations.

Other new measures included allowing greater flexibility on the maximum permitted shareholdings by institutions and cross-shareholdings in financial institutions and implementing Basel III capital rules.

The central bank said it would ensure better cross-border provision of liquidity to markets and institutions, including the implementation of collateral and currency swap arrangements with regional central banks.

To promote Islamic financial markets, the central bank said it would encourage new products to facilitate repo deals, widen the range of hedging tools and offer tax breaks to ensure more Malaysian issuers sell foreign currency investment products

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Other new measures included allowing greater flexibility on the maximum permitted shareholdings by institutions and cross-shareholdings in financial institutions and implementing Basel III capital rules.

The central bank said it would ensure better cross-border provision of liquidity to markets and institutions, including the implementation of collateral and currency swap arrangements with regional central banks.

To promote Islamic financial markets, the central bank said it would encourage new products to facilitate repo deals, widen the range of hedging tools and offer tax breaks to ensure more Malaysian issuers sell foreign currency investment products.

Banks profits vulnerable to sharp policy rate cut

KARACHI: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has warned that any sharp cut in the discount rate can affect banks earnings as source of profits is shifting away from interest income to investment in the government securities.

“Growth in government borrowings has shored up banks’ earnings,” said the Financial Stability Review for the first half of 2011 released by SBP on Friday. “This trend is neither desirable nor sustainable, first because it compromises intermediation function and second as any sharp cut in discount rate can discernibly affect banks’ profits,” it added.

The report said that the returns from investments in government papers now accounts for almost 30 percent of banks’ interest income, up from 24 percent in June 2010.

The SBP said that the current monetary policy stance would make banks’ asset selection challenging in the months ahead. “Banks will either have to live with lower returns on their investments (a key contribution to profits in recent times) or to aim for greater private sector credit, which in a difficult economic environment, would truly test their ability to adroitly manage an already high credit risk,” it added.

The central bank in July and October cut discount rate by 200 basis points. It, however, kept the policy rate unchanged at 12 percent in November review.

Referring to the future outlook, the SBP report said that a mild pick-up in the private sector credit is likely as borrowing cycle of some key industries resumes, though receding commodity prices would keep the growth in check. “Further, the challenging business environment in general and banks’ risk aversion amid high credit risk would limit the possibility of a perceptible reversal in asset mix away from the government papers,” it added.

The report also warned that shift of borrowing pattern from SBP to commercial banks will worsen budget deficit. “It is likely to aggravate the budget deficit as return on government securities is now being earned by commercial banks instead of SBP,” it added.

The commercial banks are major source of budget financing since November, 2010 as government shifted its borrowing away from the central bank.

The report said that credit risk remained a major challenge as banks accumulated Rs31 billion of fresh non-performing loans, pushing infection ratio from 14.7 percent to 15.3 percent. Public sector commercial banks and mid-sized local private banks appear more vulnerable to higher credit risk, it added.

“However, going forward, the results of the stress tests showed that the banking system is resilient to shocks emanating from a challenging macroeconomic and business environment,” it observed.

Banks appetite for investment in government papers continues unabated, pushing the share of net investment in banks’ total assets to 34 percent, highest in a decade, it added.

According to the report, overall the assets of the banking system rose eight percent or Rs577 billion to Rs7.7 trillion during the first half of calendar year 2011. Deposits increased by 9.4 percent, registering the highest half yearly growth during the last four years, it said, adding that net investments, with an increase of 22.4 percent during the first half of 2011, markedly outpaced the anemic growth of 1.04 percent in net advances.

Profits before tax of banks were up by 31 percent during the first half of 2011 to reach Rs77 billion, with return on assets (ROA) of 2.1 percent (1.8 percent in June-10) and return on equity (ROE) of 21.9 percent (17.7 percent in June-10).

The review said that concentration in profits have dropped as share of top five banks down from 95 percent in Dec., 2010 to 78 percent in June 2011, ensuring that even smaller banks have a share, albeit marginal, in industry profits.

“Further, growing profits have also helped reduce the number of loss making banks, from 17 in June 2010 to 8 in June 2011,” it said.

The review said that Islamic banking institutions (IBIs) have registered 17.5 percent growth during the period under review, with bulk of incremental assets channeled into government securities.

Islamic banks appear more liquid, solvent and profitable when compared with rest of the banking sector but they face unique risks like reputational risk and displaced commercial risk.

The SBP said that domestic financial markets remained stable during the half year under review, despite some bouts of mild strain.

External inflows kept the value of domestic currency almost stable, as PKR depreciated by a marginal (0.35 percent) against the dollar.

The capital market managed to post a growth of 4 percent during the half year under review.

The central bank report said that during the period under review, the asset base of the development finance institutions (DFIs) managed to grow marginally by 4 percent, primarily on account of stronger growth in investments.

The trading volumes and activities in the corporate debt market largely remained low. The derivatives market shrank further as insipid credit to private sector coupled with stable exchange rate and interest rate environment dampened the demand for new derivative contracts, the SBP said.

The report said that in contrast, the mutual funds industry witnessed its revival as the money market investments improved the net assets of the industry by 24 percent. The insurance industry witnessed a growth of 16.6 percent in its asset base with the life business experienced a much strong growth of 24 percent, it added.

Deutsche names new Islamic finance officials

Deutsche Bank has appointed Salah Jaidah as the chairman of Islamic Finance and Ibrahim Qasim as the head of Islamic Finance Structuring.

Ashok Aram, CEO of Deutsche Bank for the Middle East & North Africa, said: “Deutsche Bank is committed to the development of the Islamic Finance industry and will continue expanding its Shari’a compliant product offerings and solutions.

“Salah’s appointment will be instrumental in solidifying Deutsche Bank’s position as a leader in Islamic Finance. He brings key leadership, wealth of experience and deep insight into the Islamic Finance market contributing to Deutsche Bank’s long term commitment to the Islamic Finance industry.

His expertise and relationship in the industry will be key in driving Deutsche Bank’s long term growth plans.”

Salah is a board member of a number of Islamic Finance Institutions in the Middle East and South East Asia and will continue to lead Deutsche Bank´s operations in Qatar as chief country officer and vice chairman for the Mena region.

Aram added: “Ibrahim has contributed significantly to the formation and development of Deutsche Bank’s Mena structuring and Islamic Finance platform over the last five years and brings a wealth of hands-on execution experience across a wide array of Shari’a compliant products and asset classes.

Ibrahim will elevate our focus and drive the commitment to innovate and execute key products, solutions and initiatives in the Islamic Finance space. He will be supported by a strong team of Islamic Finance specialists located in Dubai, Riyadh, Malaysia, London, and Singapore.”

Ibrahim has over nine years of industry experience in structuring and executing transactions in the global capital markets ranging from Sukuk and structured financing solutions to Shari’a compliant investment, risk and liability management products.

Deutsche Bank is committed to working with industry participants and stakeholders to further develop the Islamic financial markets, and to be an industry leader in developing and implementing bespoke Shari’a compliant products and solutions serving Islamic clients globally, said a statement.

Oman: Islamic Banking and Finance Conference in March

MUSCAT — A two-day conference on Islamic Banking and Finance will be held from March 26, 2012 at the Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Muscat. Organised by OITE Conference, the event will focus on the theme, ‘Innovating the Future of Oman’s Islamic Banking and Finance: Meeting Demands, Maximising Opportunities’.

Following the announcement and recent approval for the establishment of two Islamic banks, namely Bank Nizwa and Al Izz International Bank in the Sultanate, Islamic finance is gaining immense importance in Oman’s banking sector.

“In the struggle to drive long-term sustainability and accelerate economic growth, it is crucial to formulate strong banking reforms, diversify financial assets and execute appropriate investment mechanisms effectively,” said Sherwin Sevillena, Senior Manager — Conferences at OITE.

Sevillena added: “The need to strengthen policies and legal principles intended for implementing Islamic banking for the Sultanate of Oman should seize decisive action by governments and key policy makers to obtain a competitive edge in the regional and global financial markets.”

The conference aims to provide a platform for dialogue and discussions between top leaders, key policy makers and the brightest minds in the industry to formulate winning strategies that will revolutionise the Sultanate’s current financial structure and investment climate.

Besides, the event aspires to develop a concrete blueprint on how to meet the emerging challenges posed by the outcome of financial liberalisation.

Sevillena added: “The event will also discuss the need for a fundamental rethink on how to increase the level of sophistication in building techniques to raise awareness, optimise operation efficiencies and achieve a higher degree of accountability”.

French Islamic finance in focus at key forum

MANAMA: The 18th annual World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC 2011) will feature a key session on “Islamic Finance New Developments in France – Growth and Opportunities”.

The forum will be held from November 21 to 23 at the Gulf Hotel.The session, hosted by Invest in France Agency, will feature critical discussions on the development of Islamic finance in France.

It will also analyse and evaluate the tax and legal framework in France and will also assess real case feedback for structuring Islamic ethical compliant equities and funds.

“Islamic finance benefits from strong support in France,” said Invest in France Agency chairman and chief executive David Appia.

“In building an appropriate and friendly environment, French authorities have contributed to make France an open country to Islamic finance.

“France has made a series of legal and tax adjustments into its financial system to integrate transactions and concepts that comply with Sharia principles, ensuring their tax neutrality with respect to conventional finance,” he said.

“The regulatory body, the French Financial Market Authority, has defined a working framework for managing Sharia-compliant funds, some of which are already being distributed in France.

“Islamic investors can benefit from a leading easy-to-access finance industry through the Paris Stock Exchange.

“Paris Europlace, the Paris financial markets organisation, has signed an agreement with the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions, which enacts legal, financial and accounting standards for Islamic finance in France.

“France promises a successful future for Islamic finance,” he said.

“In a market conducive to development and with the ambition to build long-term relationships between France and the Middle East, Invest in France Agency is convinced of the importance of taking part in WIBC 2011, an opportunity of sharing experiences and paving the way to a sustainable growth,” he added.