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Shariah-compliant finance: Pioneers of a burgeoning market

The market for Shariah-compliant finance has grown rapidly in size and sophistication in the past few years, demanding expertise in regulation, product structuring, legal services and marketing. Nigel Dudley speaks to pioneers of the industry.


ISLAMIC BANKING LESS than a decade ago was little more than a financial backwater limited to those who wanted to conduct their business in line with their religious principles and were relatively unconcerned about the terms they were offered if Shariah principles were adhered to.

There was virtually no pressure on providers to compete with the services on offer from conventional financial institutions so, with a few exceptions, the bankers involved in this sector did little to set the world alight.

The change has been dramatic. There is now a fully fledged Islamic banking industry, with global and national regulatory bodies and intense competition between the world's leading financial institutions and specialist Islamic banks.

As a result, high flying bankers are much more likely to look for a career either in Islamic banks or the divisions of conventional financial institutions that offer products in line with Shariah law.

It is difficult to say exactly how big the market is today. But one of the most experienced financial regulators, Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, governor of the Bahrain Monetary Agency, Bahrain's central bank, says that "currently around the world there is an estimated $250 billion under Islamic banks' management and almost as much again in the Islamic windows of conventional financial institutions".

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