DIFC's Sixth Knowledge Series Seminar Focuses on Islamic Finance

The event explored the potential for Islamic Finance to transform itself into a mainstream sector

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) hosted a seminar on 20 October, 2009 that explored new opportunities in the Islamic Finance industry and the solutions offered by the sector for some of the concerns raised by the current global economic crisis.

Titled ‘Islamic Finance – Solutions for a Post-Crisis World’, the sixth event forms part of the Knowledge Series, a regular series of seminars organised by DIFC to explore key industry trends and raise awareness about its regulations, infrastructure and business support services.

Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of the DIFC Authority said: “Over the last few years, the global Islamic Finance industry has grown by about 20 per cent to become an almost $ 1 trillion industry. And even with the slowdown caused by the crisis, many estimate the industry to grow at an impressive rate of 15 per cent in 2009. However, Islamic Finance makes up less than 1 per cent of world capital, giving it a huge scope for growth. This seminar will explore the tremendous potential for Islamic Finance to transform itself from a niche sector to a mainstream sector.”

Peter Casey, Director – Policy of the Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) said: “The DFSA has developed a ‘Shari’ah Systems’ model of regulation that is optimal for the development of Islamic Finance. Central to the DFSA’s approach to Islamic finance is our belief in risk-based regulation.  Many of the risks in Islamic finance have their parallels in conventional finance. However, we clearly recognise the need for the regulations for Islamic Finance to address the unique structures and risks of the sector. The Knowledge Series seminar is an excellent opportunity to discuss some the key regulatory issues facing the Islamic Finance sector today.”

Oussama A. Kaissi, General Manager of the Abu Dhabi National Takaful Company PSC said: “The Islamic Insurance and Reinsurance industry provide crucial support for the management of risk in Islamic Finance. The interdependence and available synergies between Takaful and Islamic Finance industries requires a balanced and systematic development in order to bring about strong Islamic Financial Institutions. Takaful industry is facing tremendous challenges that may hinder its potential growth and development. These challenges if not addressed and remedies are introduced and implemented, we will be seeing a slowing down in the pace of growth for the entire Islamic Financial Services sectors.”

Dr. Hennie van Greuning, Senior Advisor, World Bank Treasury, said:
“Corporate Governance entails a co-ordinated effort through a partnership of key players – internal to the IFI organization as well as external. A failure by any of the key players weakens the risk management process and exposes the IFI to significant reputational risk”.

Topics that were discussed at the event included: Mainstreaming Islamic Finance in the GCC; Regulatory Aspects of Islamic Finance in DIFC; Islamic Finance for Projects and Infrastructure; Risk Management in Islamic Finance; and Takaful and Re-takaful. The seminar saw the presentations of Sukuk case studies and a panel discussion on the future of Islamic Finance.

In addition to Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar and Peter Casey, speakers at the event included Dr. Hennie van Greuning, Senior Advisor, World Bank Treasury; and Oussama Kaissi, General Manager of the Abu Dhabi National Takaful Company PSC  and senior officials of financial institutions and legal service firms in DIFC.

Islamic finance is one of the few sectors that have been resilient in the face of the global crisis. Even when sharemarkets in London and New York plummeted, Islamic finance indexes maintained their upward trend.  As the crisis exposes the vulnerabilities of the current financial system, interest in Islamic finance is growing, creating new opportunities for Islamic financial institutions.

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