MANAMA: The UK and London will remain the world's leading international and Islamic financial centre.
That was the message from British Ambassador Iain Lindsay at a UK roundtable discussion at the WIBC yesterday.
"Islamic finance, like every other type of financial activity, benefits from the UK's combination of experience, variety of skills, geographic location, infrastructure, transparency and openness," he said.
"The UK recognises the tremendous opportunities that Islamic financial services have to offer.
"The latest figures for Sharia-compliant assets in the UK are $19 billion and $1 trillion globally with a potential global growth to $4trn.
"As a leading centre for financial innovation where Islamic structures are constantly being developed, our goal is to position the UK as the global partner of choice for the provision of Islamic financial services.
"This includes the development of strong partnerships with other centres of Islamic finance, including Bahrain," he said.
"In the UK we have a proven record of developing and delivering retail domestic and wholesale international investment Islamic financial services and products and the necessary legal and financial skills and expertise to take full advantage of this key market," he added.
"The UK is in ninth place globally and is the leading Western country and is seeking to consolidate its position as the gateway to Islamic finance in Western Europe.
"We have 22 UK banks which offer Islamic banking of which five are fully Sharia-compliant, more than any other Western country.
"We have 31 sukuk issues raising $19bn on the London Stock Exchange and there is a growing focus on the development of Islamic funds.
"There are 34 managed from the UK but asset managers are keen to innovate this market and there are more than 20 law firms supplying specialist services in Islamic finance," he said.
"The UK is moving Islamic finance from the niche to the mainstream market with world-leading expertise, skills and financial infrastructure to support this dynamic sector," he added.
He said many UK universities already offered Islamic finance degrees and UK institutions provided Islamic finance for small- to medium-sized businesses across the country.
"All the above demonstrates the strength of the UK and how ideal we are as partners of choice in the development of Islamic finance," he added.
"The success of WIBC demonstrates that Bahrain is an ideal location for businesses looking to establish themselves in this region."