MANAMA: Delegates and speakers from 25 countries took part in the eighth Annual World Islamic Funds and Financial Markets Conference which closed at the Gulf Hotel yesterday. "This has been by far the most international edition of this event that we have hosted so far and that is a reflection of the spread of Islamic finance from just the Muslim world to further afield," said organiser MEGA Events managing director David McLean.
"We are not just talking about financial institutions here because what we saw this year was a strong representation from corporate entities who are turning from conventional finance to Islamic institutions when it comes to looking at ways to raise money.
"We have had leading institutions from as far apart as Ireland and Luxembourg taking part and a strong showing from Malaysia which has been dominating the sukuk market in recent years," he added.
He said he believed the quality of speakers was again extremely high and the feedback he had so far was very positive.
"We are committed to bringing this conference back to Bahrain next year and we have already had a lot of delegates asking about how they can sign up for the ninth edition," he added.
"Islamic finance may remain fairly small compared with conventional finance but it is a fast growing industry which is attracting more international interest across a wide range of financial service sectors.
"One of the fast growing sectors is Islamic insurance and because of that we will be launching a dedicated conference on takaful in Bahrain in October this year as well as returning with the World Islamic Banking Conference towards the end of the year," he added.
Islamic finance still has to achieve critical mass if it is to address problems of liquidity, according to KPMG Fakhro Bahrain partner Mahesh Balasubramanian.
"The sukuk market is definitely growing but it has yet to reach the necessary critical mass.
"The industry needs sukuk and interbank lending to meet its liquidity needs but unfortunately the bigger banks that have excess liquidity are not over keen to lend to smaller banks that do not have ratings.
"We will need to see more consolidation in the banking market and that is something that we are already seeing," he added.
He said that while the sukuk market was expanding, almost 100 per cent of the issuance in 2011 was in Malaysia.
He added that the other problem the industry faced was a lack of standardisation on how banks deal with each other and on the issue of regulation.
"The industry is moving forward in developing standardisation but it is a slow process compared with the growth in the industry," he said.