MANAMA: Bahrain continues to be the intellectual hub of Islamic finance powered by its deep-rooted institutions, a leading industry thought leader said.
"With institutions like the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institution (AAOIFI) and a regionally respected regulator like the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB), the kingdom will continue to provide guidance to the industry as it grows," AAOIFI board of trustees chairman Shaikh Ibrahim bin Khalifa Al Khalifa told the GDN.
He was speaking on the sidelines of the Annual Sharia Conference 2013 organised by the AAOIFI under the patronage of the CBB.
The event concluded yesterday after two-days of active deliberations at the Diplomat Radisson Blu Hotel, Residence and Spa.
"Although it is clear that for major players in the industry, Bahrain lacks size and scale, the kingdom has qualified manpower with in-depth experience honed over many years," Shaikh Ibrahim said.
"With a significant increase in the market share of Islamic banks in the GCC and given the increasing appetite for Sharia-compliant financing and investment alternatives, the industry is yet to fully realise its full potential in the region," he added.
"The recent increased international attention on Islamic finance, post the financial crisis, presents a unique opportunity for the industry to further strengthen its appeal by attracting investors who are now turning to more ethical products that are based on risk participation," he added.
Participants were of the opinion that institutions now need to reorient themselves so that their products and services are 'Sharia-inspired' and not just 'Sharia-compliant'.
The convergence and integration of key components of a holistic Islamic economic system, will set a new growth wave for the Islamic banking and finance industry not only locally, but globally, they said.
According to KFH-Bahrain managing director and chief executive Abdulhakeem Alkhayyat, the conference is an essential forum to meet and discuss various key issues among participants and specialists.
"The AAOIFI continues to lead the way by gathering the major financial institutions together and set new standards and best practices for Islamic financial institutions.
"The valuable discussions held during the sessions will help steer the Islamic finance industry towards growth and this influence will be felt worldwide as the concept of ethical banking continues to develop and expand," Mr Alkhayyat added.
KFH-Bahrain was a Gold Sponsor of the event. Another key sponsor was Ithmaar Bank.
"With our long, proud history as a pioneer of Islamic banking in the region, Ithmaar remains as committed as ever to further developing the concept of Islamic banking and finance and, more importantly, to delivering a premium Islamic banking offering," said Ithmaar Bank chief executive and board member Mohammed Bucheerei.
"Our relationship with and support for AAOIFI go back to the very establishment of the institution," Mr Bucheerei said.
"In fact, Ithmaar Bank, then Faysal Islamic Bank of Bahrain, the predecessor of Shamil Bank and later Ithmaar Bank, was the very first bank anywhere in the world ever to publish its financial results in accordance with AAOIFI standards," he said.
"Global events like the AAOIFI Annual Sharia Conference present unique platforms to engage industry leaders in discussions that will successfully tackle the globalisation challenges for Islamic finance," said Mr Bucheerei.