News that consulting giant Deloitte has opted to site its new Islamic Finance Knowledge Centre (IFKC) in Bahrain reflects the Kingdom’s track record as the most established financial centre in the Gulf and a global hub for Islamic Finance, according to Kamal Ahmed, Chief Operating Officer of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).
“As the first country in the region to establish a finance industry over 40 years ago and a pioneer of Islamic finance, Bahrain is the ideal location for Deloitte to base its new Islamic Finance Knowledge Centre. We are delighted that Deloitte is among the growing number of global companies that are recognising the Kingdom as the location of choice from which to access the trillion dollarGulf market and the wider Middle East.”
Deloitte, which has been in Bahrain since 1955, has identified the Middle East as a priority market that represents superior growth opportunities for its own business and its clients alike. The company reports impressive revenue growth in the region of more than 25 percent annually for the past three consecutive years. The IFKC will help the firm’s clients tap into the growing opportunities and potential of the Islamic Finance sector, which is predicted to maintain growth that, over the past five years, has averaged 15-20 percent. IFKC experts will support the firm’s Middle East based audit, tax, consulting, risk and financial advisory professionals.
Commenting on the announcement last week, Dr Hatim Tahir, a director in the IFKC, said: “As a key financial services hub in the region, Bahrain is a natural base from which to launch Deloitte’s IFKC.”
Omar Fahoum, chairman and chief executive of Deloitte in the Middle East, added: “Bahrain was chosen because it is a leading Islamic finance hub for the Middle East region since there is a growing number of Islamic banks and financial institutions.”
Omar Fahoum noted that global Islamic Finance assets are estimated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to exceed US$ 260 billion and expected to grow to US$ 1 trillion by 2016. Currently around 60 percent of those assets are shared by countries in the Middle East, while 80 percent of the top 50 Islamic banks worldwide are located in the region.
In the mid-1970s, Bahrain was the first to take Islamic banking seriously and to nurture the concepts, rules and common standards of Shari’a compliance. Bahrain now has, by far, the largest number of Islamic banking entities in the world; more than 30 countries have sought the Kingdom’s support to develop their own Shari’a compliant banking. The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) consults widely with practitioners in the field to ensure regulations make practical sense and applies these firmly without exception. To raise professional standards, the CBB continues to devise and run numerous courses and training programmes to develop the skills of Islamic banking.
Bahrain’s financial services sector – with over 400 licensed institutions – is the largest contributor to total GDP (27 percent). Bahrain also has strong professional services, logistics, ICT, and manufacturing sectors, which the Kingdom intends to grow as part of the country’s Vision 2030 and National Economic Strategy. The plans are designed to drive the private sector as an engine for growth, support further diversification of the economy and ultimately elevate national living standards by creating greater opportunities for Bahrainis.