With FinTech and Financial Inclusion taking precedence, the 24th World Islamic Banking Conference unravels critical roadmap for the coming year

Over 1200 Industry Leaders congregated over the course of three power-packed days at the 24th WIBC in Bahrain, generating breakthrough insights critical in shaping the future of the Islamic Finance & Banking industry. The reputed conference will convene its landmark 25th edition in December this year.

Amwaj Islands, Kingdom of Bahrain, December 04 2017: Under the patronage of HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain, the successful 24th edition of The World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC), the largest and longest-running gathering of Islamic banking and finance leaders in the world, saw over 1200 Industry leaders from various markets comprising the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Europe & America congregate from December 4-6, 2017 in the Kingdom of Bahrain - the host nation of WIBC for the past 2 decades and one that has emerged as a global leader in Islamic finance under the skilled aegis of the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB).

An initiative of Middle East Global Advisors - a leading financial intelligence platform facilitating the development of knowledge-based economies in the MENASEA markets and in strategic partnership with the Central Bank of Bahrain, the three-day long forum brought to the fore fresh and topical issues surrounding the Islamic Banking and finance landscape and spurred a series of discussions gravitating around its core theme of “Drivers of Economic Growth & Risks: Policymakers & Regulators”, a theme that resonated with the conference’s steady vision to serve as a definitive check point for the global Islamic finance and banking industry going forward.

His Excellency Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, Governor, Central Bank of Bahrain, set the tone for the conference by delivering the opening keynote address recognizing the size and scale of Islamic bank market, with critical insights continuing to unfold over the course of three-power packed days.

With the pace of change in Financial Services increasing rapidly, so does the urge for the industry to react. Rapidly embracing the disruptive nature of FinTech and forging partnerships in efforts to sharpen operational efficiency have taken precedence in the digital era. Over the last few years, a key focus area for WIBC has always been to connect the industry with pioneers and innovators in the FinTech space and forge a fresh, innovative and technology-enabled phase of the industry’s development. This year’s edition witnessed keynote speeches by Alex Tapscott, CEO NextBlock Global, Co-Author of Blockchain Revolution & Founding Member, IMF’s High Level Advisory Group on Fintech and Xen Baynham- Herd, Head of Strategy and Lead Economist – Blockchain who spoke about embracing new technologies like blockchain in the changing face of financial services due to the advent of the digitization.

“I believe that in the future, money will enable a huge explosion in innovation, and people who are currently unbanked and underserved by the judicial financial industry will be able to utilize some of these benefits. It is not surprising that on our platform we see some of the largest adoptions and growth in developing countries, because here financial inclusion is going to be driven by technology leap-frogging, existing financial infrastructure and going to things such as mobile-first technology, as individuals become increasingly mobile savvy, connected and comfortable with digital technology. Soon, using their smartphones people will be able to store, transact and secure their digital assets for identity and their personal data all at one place, probably on their phone. The next wave of digital actors are not people but machines. The internet of things already consists of over 1 billion connected devices and in the years ahead this is going to grow to hundreds of billions. However, as this happens centralized solutions are exposing us to greater and greater risks”, stressed Mr. Baynham-Herd in his opening keynote address on the final day of the conference.

Also in attendance at the 24th WIBC was HH Prince Saud bin Khalid bin Abdullah Al Saud, Board member & Co-Founder of CBX LLC, who too expressed his views on the growing need for financial institutions to embrace change due to disruption, “Nowadays FinTech is synonymous with the word “disruptive” and it is paving the way for new innovative solutions, but we must understand that disruption is not about adaptability it’s about embracing change.”

Rounding off the global conversation on FinTech at the conference was UK-based Elipses’ Lawrence Wintermeyer, also its Co-Founder & Principal, who spoke on the future of Islamic FinTech and highlighted the core opportunities and challenges that lay ahead.

A key topic that the 24th edition focused on was the significance of financial inclusion. Governments around the world are increasingly viewing Financial inclusion as a vital part of achieving economic development. While Islamic Finance has shown promising growth over the past few years, there are numerous untapped opportunities to support its socioeconomic aspect, given that poverty is a pervasive problem among many Muslim-majority regions. Islamic Finance’s inherent risk-sharing contracts coupled with redistributive instruments such as zakat, sadaqah, qard al-hassan and waqf can facilitate access to finance by the Shariah-compliant microfinance and SMEs programmes, reducing income-inequality and accelerating economic growth. Notable Islamic Finance leaders comprising the Chief Executive Officers of Bank Nizwa, IbdarBank and Bank of Khartoum (BOK) discussed how financial inclusion can be enhanced through Islamic finance at the conference.

WIBC has annually reaffirmed its reputation in generating breakthrough thought leadership. Key highlights of the 24th edition included one-on-one interviews with distinguished Islamic finance veteran - Adnan Ahmed Yousif, Chief Executive and President, Al Baraka Banking Group, and renowned Shari’ah Scholar Sheikh Nizam Yaquby. Mr. Yousif spoke on his vision for the next 40 years of Islamic Banking focusing on lessons from the past, the analysis of the current state of the industry and the future of Islamic banking.

Offering his unique insights on centralized Shariah Boards and Shariah Standardization, Mr. Yaquby stated, “There was always a complaint from practitioners, lawyers and accountants that there are different views among Shari’ah scholars with regards to matters relating to the Shari’ah aspects of Islamic financial institutions. I was always of the opinion that these differences are not substantial and they are a minimal percentage. Most of the principles are agreed upon. After the establishment of standard setting bodies like AAOIFI, IIFM & IFSB, what was theoretically argued in conferences like these has been proven that it is true and the standards cover most of the agreed upon aspects between the Islamic financial institutions. It is always advisable to leave some space for innovation, for discussion.”.

Tapping into new markets for Islamic finance and increasing the market share and geographical footprint of Islamic Banks took precedence at the 24th WIBC with The CEO Debate that saw key industry leaders from KFH Bahrain, Bahrain Islamic Bank, Boubyan Bank & CIMB Islamic Bank. The exclusive panel session on tapping into the new horizons for Islamic finance saw key industry leaders from diverse regions comprising The UK, Australia, USA, South Africa, Germany and Turkey, making for a well-rounded discussion on understanding the complexities and opportunities in exploring new markets for Islamic finance. .

Other notable highlights from the conference included: The Digital Banking-focused panel on harnessing digital technologies to stay relevant; The Regulations Power-Table on fostering synergies among regulators, standard setters and global financial regularities authorities to further Islamic Finance and Panel discussions focusing on dynamic capital markets, sustainable, equitable & inclusive growth, potential of disruptive technologies,, ESG, VAT, the effect of the recent global economic & political developments. Leading industry experts analyzed the challenges at hand and focused on coming up with effective suggestions with the ultimate aim of developing a convergence roadmap for the Islamic Finance industry at large.

Speaking on the occasion, Yousif Taqi, Director & Group CEO of Al Salam Bank-Bahrain, said: “The Islamic finance industry is under the global spotlight for the remarkable growth and tenacity it has displayed despite economic uncertainties. The industry’s increasing size is attributable to various factors such as strong growth in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and emerging markets and expansion in new markets. At Al Salam Bank-Bahrain, we pride ourselves on our strong Islamic finance heritage. When some countries started introducing Islamic banking & finance as an alternative to conventional banking, Bahrain has been practicing it for decades, making the Kingdom’s history in Islamic financing a key component to our competitiveness. Set against the backdrop of Bahrain, the 24th World Islamic Banking Conference spearheaded a series of sessions on issues critical in shaping the future discourse of the Islamic finance and banking industry – a gathering we were proud to support as a sponsor.”
Thomson Reuters, WIBC’s Knowledge Partner, played a key role in the showcasing of financial intelligence at the forum. While the first day saw the launch of the ICD-Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Report 2017, the final day of the conference saw the launch of the Islamic Commercial Law Report 2018, a leading annual publication assessing the key issues and trends in Islamic commercial law and their impact on the Islamic finance industry. This year’s report focused on global trends in Islamic social finance, arming Industry practitioners with critical insights going forward.

Complementing the increased focus on technology and innovation was the exclusive WIBC App – Web Connect, aimed at maximizing impact and facilitating personalised connectivity between delegates and sponsors, audience and speakers. Delegates could engage in live interactive polling across all of the sessions, making for a truly immersive experience.

In line with its increased focus on innovation, the 24th edition of the conference proved to be the ideal Launchpad for a number of diverse initiatives: ALGO Bahrain - the world’s first Fintech Consortium of Islamic Banks to enable Islamic banks for the paradigm shift in the banking industry as a result of financial technology (Fintech) and the official book launch of “Islamic Real Estate Investment Trusts” by Hamed Yousef Mashal, a senior investment manager at Kuwait Finance House.

The 24th WIBC also recognized excellence within the Islamic finance and banking industry at a high profile Gala Dinner whereby 16 WIBC Performance Awards were given away by H.E. Rasheed Mohamed Al Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain, to the top Islamic financial institutions at the global, regional and country level based on their performance in the WIBC Leaderboard – a groundbreaking performance assessment tool aimed at enabling Islamic financial institutions to benchmark their performance against their peers.

Boubyan Bank bagged the Global, GCC and Kuwait region awards, testament to its strong performance in the financial metrics of the WIBC Leaderboard. Additionally, Boubyan Bank also bagged the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Award.

For over 24 years, WIBC has helped forge a robust ecosystem to widen the scope of Islamic finance to meet new realities, whilst staying true to its ideals. 2018 will mark the 25th anniversary edition of the World Islamic Banking Conference – testament to its continued significance as a trusted benchmark for the industry to gather and share critical insights going forward.

Partners at WIBC 2017 included: Kuwait Finance House (KFH), Khaleeji Commercial Bank (KHCB), Bahrain Islamic Bank (BISB), Al Salam Bank -Bahrain, Ibdar Bank, Bank ABC Islamic, Bank of Khartoum (BOK) International, Boubyan Bank, Avaya, Wahed Invest, Alvarez & Marsal, Al Baraka Banking Group, Ithmaar Bank, Thomson Reuters, Path Solutions, Grant Thornton, Labuan IBFC, Shariyah Review Bureau, Luxembourg for Finance (LFF), Oracle Financial Services, Baker McKenzie, DARKTRACE, The Benefit Company B.S.C, Infosys Finacle, Sadad, NEC Payments, Eiger Trading Advisors Ltd, G4S, Department for International Trade – British Embassy Bahrain, CBX Unit LLC, Deloitte, The District, Tejoury, DDCAP, Fitch Ratings, Crestbridge Bahrain, The Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), Bahrain Institute of Banking & Finance (BIBF) & International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM).

Middle East Global Advisors, the convenors of the World Islamic Banking Conference, will next convene the 13th edition of the Annual World Takaful Conference on April 9 & 10 in Dubai. The World Takaful Conference (WTC) is the leading global forum for Takaful and has played an instrumental role in the development of the industry for more than a decade by facilitating thought-provoking discussions, producing quality research and generating actionable insights. To partner with us for the 13th WTC, drop us a line at: [email protected]

Got valuable feedback on WIBC 2017? We’re constantly looking for ways to enhance your experience in the next edition. Join the global conversation on Twitter at: @WIBC2017 #WIBC2017

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Middle East Global Advisors (MEGA) is the leading gateway connectivity and intelligence platform to Islamic finance opportunities in the rapidly developing economic region that stretches all the way from Morocco in the West to Indonesia in the East- The Middle East North Africa Southeast Asia (MENASEA) connection. For 24 years, our exclusive focus on achieving business results for the Islamic finance industry has enabled us to create significant value for the leading players in the Islamic banking, finance and investment markets.

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The World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) has established its reputation as the world's largest and most influential gathering of international Islamic banking and finance leaders for over two decades. With the strategic support of the Central Bank of Bahrain, the next generation WIBC will focus on transforming Islamic finance into a global proposition by facilitating strategic opportunities, addressing systematic challenges and connecting international market players and institutional investors to the industry's catalysts, thought leaders, partners and institutions.

To find out more, visit www.wibc2017.com

Aanchal Dhawan
Marketing Manager
Middle East Global Advisors
Tel: +971 4 441 4946

Maryam Isa
PR Account Manager
H+K Strategies
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© Press Release 2018