Swiss Financial Centres Vie to Host Islamic Finance Forum

Published April 19th, 2007 - 09:57 GMT

The 12th International Islamic Finance Forum (IIFF), which concluded recently at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel in Dubai, has announced that both Geneva and Zurich are competing for the right to host IIFF Europe in Switzerland, which will take place on 12-15 November 2007.

A customised programme for IIFF Europe is being specifically designed and European banks will be eager to examine the growing demand for Shari’ah compliant wealth management and private banking services. It is estimated that Arab investors have more than US$ 800 billion on deposit in overseas banks, much of which is secured in Swiss banks. Put into perspective, the combined wealth alone of the 300,000 millionaires in the Middle East is estimated to be US$ 1.4 trillion

Islamic finance, once considered no more than an interesting aspect on the periphery of conventional mainstream finance, is enjoying double-digit growth internationally, and capturing the attention of Europe’s banking and finance professionals. With Islamic banks now on the acquisition trail in a bid to tap non-Muslim wealth, understanding their growth and diversification strategies will be critical for Europe’s private banks in particular.

Swati Taneja, Conference Manager, IIFF, said “Mid East investors are already bidding for overseas banks, so the creation of an Islamic ‘mega-bank’ is a distinct possibility and underscores the industry’s aspirations to develop a truly global aspect.”

IIFF Europe will also follow up on other global issues raised during IIFF Dubai. Anwar Ibrahim, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of Malaysia, set the tone for the Dubai forum, which attracted over 250 local, regional and international participants. During his keynote presentation he shared his thoughts and experiences in the opening session entitled, ‘Forging A New Synthesis In Islamic Financial Markets’.

Anwar Ibrahim commented, “Within the broader framework of the Shari’ah Islamic finance shouldn’t just convey economic growth, capital access and investment, it should also adhere to the principles of equity and distributive justice.

Another highlight of the programme was the panel discussion about the emerging role of women in Islamic finance. Long hours often conflict with the more traditional role for women in Muslim countries and few females opt for a career in banking. Qualified women are needed not only to broaden the appeal of Islamic finance, but also alleviate a potential bottleneck, due to a general shortage of suitable professionals.

“Muslim women often feel more comfortable interfacing with other women and they are increasingly controlling large amounts of capital. The industry is responding, but more appropriate investment vehicles need to be established to address the issue of women’s wealth,” added Rushdi Siddiqui, Global Director, Dow Jones Islamic Indexes.

Elsewhere on the agenda, the US$ 41 billion global Sukuk markets were featured prominently with a number of in-depth case studies examining the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation’s (SABIC) US$ 800 million domestic issue Sukuk and Nakheel’s US$3.5 billion Sukuk, which still remains the largest in the world by capitalisation.

The winners of the prestigious IIFF Awards, which aim to promote excellence in Islamic finance and recognise the significant contribution made to the most important developments, were also announced during a gala dinner at the event. The ‘Lifetime and Continuing Achievement in the Development of Islamic Finance’ award was received by HE Dr. Mohamed Al Habib Ibn Al-Khodja, on behalf of OIC Fiqh Academy. The winner of the ‘Continuing Contribution In Promoting Islamic Finance’ category was Awqaf Public Foundation, for whom Mohamed A. Al-Sherif gratefully received the award. Finally Dr Ausaf Ahmad received the award for ‘Global Recognition in Islamic Finance’ on behalf of IBF Net.


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