MANAMA: Islamic finance is growing at an average annual rate of 20 per cent and is one of the fastest growing sections of the finance industry. That was the claim by World Islamic Banking Conference managing director David McLean at the opening of the two-day Second Annual World Islamic Banking Conference: Asia Summit (WIBC Asia 2011) in Singapore yesterday.
"Today there are more than 600 financial institutions operating in more than 75 countries," he said.
"The increasing presence of Islamic financial institutions in new jurisdictions and the increased international interest in Islamic financial markets represents a tremendous opportunity for cross-border flows that are Sharia-compliant.
"With Asia rapidly strengthening its position as a leading hub for significant Islamic finance transactions, we believe that the discussions at WIBC Asia 2011 on enhancing cross border connectivity and driving global growth will trigger this next phase of international growth."
He said that more than 450 leaders in the international Islamic banking and finance industry will engage in critical discussions at the event that will seek to enhance the role of Islamic finance in creating stronger business and investment ties between Asia and other key centres for Islamic finance."
"The Asia summit was established last year with the aim of complementing the objectives of the WIBC Global Summit and now in its second annual edition has already confirmed its position as the most influential platform that will support growth, excellence and innovation in Islamic finance in Asia," he added.
The Global Summit of the World Islamic Banking Conference will again be held in Bahrain in November this year.
"The Islamic finance industry has held itself back and not fulfilled its true potential, partly due to its relative infancy on the international stage and the different flavours and perspectives applied across the various regions," said Noor Islamic Bank chief executive Hussain AlQemzi speaking at the opening session.
"We are now witnessing the next stage in the evolution of the industry where greater interaction and discussions are bringing all the global players towards a common ground.
"This will help the industry achieve the next quantum leap and will allow us to take advantage of strategic opportunities arising in emerging and developed economies.
"While regulators have their role, the lion's share of responsibility for evolving and pushing towards universally acceptable models lies with us, the practitioners, the industry itself," he said.
"This is why we view events like the Asia summit as strategic, and that's the reason why we are here.
"It presents practitioners and experts East to West with a great opportunity to tackle the stressing issues facing us all," he said.