MANAMA: More than 79 per cent of business leaders across the region are more optimistic about the prospects for Islamic finance than they were a year ago.
That is the main conclusion of a major survey into Islamic finance carried out by business advisory and accountancy firm Deloitte which points out that 61pc of leaders feel that Islamic finance professionals require more training and skills development.
The release of the first Middle East Islamic Finance Leaders survey from Deloitte reveals insight from Islamic finance leaders on a wide range of pressing issues and prevailing trends within five key areas of regulatory and Sharia compliance, risk-management, corporate structuring and capital management strategy, investment and capital markets, and human capital management.
"As the first-of-its-kind in the Middle East, this survey provides a truly regional picture of market sentiment and how Islamic finance leaders perceive the current economic slowdown, business performance, and the way forward," said Deloitte's Islamic finance knowledge centre director in Bahrain Dr Hatim El Tahir.
"Although Islamic finance is expected to continue its growth path, the development of the industry's infrastructure and regulatory framework is of high concern to most executives who took part in this survey," he added.
Key themes emerged from the survey included the importance of introducing new or revised regulatory measures - chief among them being Islamic accounting standards and risk management.
It also found leaders in the industry were concerned about the importance of adopting best practices and transparency in financial reporting and the necessity of adjusting investment strategies through diversification.
It also identified a need for investment in human capital and talent development to cope with the growth and industry challenges.
The report, titled Benchmarking Practices, found 80pc of Islamic finance leaders surveyed in the Middle East expect levels of corporate structuring and organisational change to increase.
Only 35pc of executives believe that Islamic banks are properly and adequately capitalised while two out of three leaders expect a change in the existing business models of Islamic finance in the foreseeable future.
And 64pc of survey participants agree that Islamic finance institutions are lagging behind on the implementation of risk management systems.
"One of the core aims of Deloitte's Middle East Islamic Finance Knowledge Centre is to promote leadership and research for the Islamic finance industry," said Dr El Tahir.
"The Islamic Finance Leaders Survey is a key pillar of this aim.
"By providing essential industry benchmarks, we hope to inspire dialogue and create a basis for the positive growth of the industry in the years to come," he added.