MANAMA: As the Islamic finance industry continues to be one of the fastest growing components of the global financial system, with an estimated growth rate of 15 per cent to 20pc, international markets are witnessing a growing demand for Islamic financial products and services - even beyond the traditional markets of South East Asia and the Middle East.
The Islamic funds and investments industry has seen steady growth over the past decade due to the growing global demand for Sharia-compliant financial products and services and a significant increase in the number of institutions structuring Islamic investment products. According to Ernst and Young the Islamic funds industry grew to $58 billion, achieving a growth of 7.6pc in 2010.
Held under the theme "New Growth Horizons: Expanding The Global Footprint of Islamic Funds and Investments", the 8th Annual World Islamic Funds and Financial Markets Conference (WIFFMC 2012), opens today at the Gulf Hotel.
Leading players, industry thought leaders and key regulators in the international Islamic funds and investments industry will lead the discussions that will seek to capitalise on the new opportunities and chart the future direction of the global Sharia-compliant funds and investments industry.
The two-day event, under the patronage of the Central Bank of Bahrain, will be officially inaugurated with an opening keynote address by executive director - financial institutions supervision Abdul Rahman Mohammed Al Baker.
Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Al Baker said that as with other forms of Islamic finance, the Islamic funds industry has grown to become an increasingly substantial segment within the global financial markets and has gained significant interest as a viable and efficient alternative model of financial intermediation.
"Growing awareness and increasing demand for investing in accordance with Sharia principles on a global scale have been the catalyst towards making the Islamic financial services industry a flourishing industry.
"This is also a reflection of the increasing wealth and capacity of investors, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to seek and invest in new investment products that serve their needs."
He said with Islamic finance having considerable capacity to meet large investment requirements, opportunities therein lie in the more effective and efficient channelling of the sizeable surplus funds towards the vast productive investment opportunities within and across various key markets for Islamic finance."
World Islamic Funds and Financial Markets Conference chief executive David McLean said with an addressable universe in excess of $500bn for Islamic fund managers, which is still growing by at least 10pc to 15pc annually, it is essential that the industry players seize this opportunity and innovate new Islamic instruments and encourage more spending in research and development, in order to widen the contribution of Islamic investments in the global financial market.
"With sukuk emerging as a new asset class for global investors, it is essential to see that the demands of sophisticated investors are met in order to maintain the current growth levels that the Islamic funds industry has achieved.
"This calls for co-ordinated efforts in order to further improve the market for both issuers and investors," he said.
Irish Funds Industry Association chairman Ken Owens said that he was honoured to be asked to speak at the conference and "we very much look forward to our participation at this very prestigious event".
"As an international fund jurisdiction we very much look forward to our participation amongst this impressive gathering of senior industry representatives to discuss the different industry issues and how we in Ireland can assist the asset management community to respond to the challenges.
"It is also an excellent showcase for Ireland to demonstrate our capabilities and our determination to be the leading European centre for Islamic Finance."
(Gulf Daily NEWS / 20 May 2012)
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