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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 10/10/2012

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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Gulf States and Asia are leading the growth in Islamic finance, which is being considered most credible alternative to conventional banking in the wake of global financial crisis, a senior banker said.

Standard & Poor's expects the 1 trillion global Islamic finance industry is set to double in size between 2011 and 2015, recording an annual 20 per cent growth driven by increasing demand for this "credible alternative" to conventional banking in the GCC and Asia.

"Young, fast-growing Muslim populations, robust macroeconomic environments, and large infrastructure projects that require financing are the main drivers of this increasing growth. The UAE is surely a predominant force in the region," Mohammad J.A. Zaqout, executive vice-president, Personal Banking Group of Al Hilal Bank, told Khaleej Times on the sidelines of World Islamic Retail Banking conference on Tuesday.

He said educational institutions in the UAE have also begun to notice the growing interest in Shariah finance in the country and have started to offer specialised qualifications.

"In terms of regulation and governance there are plans to set up Shariah board for the Islamic finance industry in the region, similar to the one currently in place in other jurisdiction such as Malaysia and Indonesia," Zaqout said.

To a question about the UAE banking sector outlook in second half, he said the emirates has the highest degree of banking intermediation in terms of assets, loans, and deposits.

"The high level of banking penetration in the UAE reflects its relatively developed banking infrastructure," he said.

Referring to a recent research report by RNCOS, he said the UAE's banking sector will post a strong growth in the coming years, with banking assets registering a CAGR of around eight per cent during 2011-2014 despite various restraints.

"There are several promising signs of a reviving UAE economy - which is backed by the stabilisation of real estate prices, higher crude prices, and improved performance by the corporate sector which compliments an overall improving outlook for the emirates banking sector."

Regarding the bank's business growth strategy, he said Al Hilal Bank aims to become the leading financial institution in the region by promoting Islamic banking with a new direction, towards new technologies and special services.

"Al Hilal Bank is committed to the UAE's economic development and our growth strategy is aligned actively in supporting Abu Dhabi's 2030 plan by financing the strategic projects in the country. It also helps develop Islamic finance as a major contributing sector to the economy," he said.

"We are fully committed in educating the next generation of Islamic bankers and have undertaken different initiatives internally and externally to ensure this dream turns into a reality," he added.

About the bank's Shariah-compliant services, he said Al Hilal offers a very comprehensive wide range of products and in services to clients.

"Our revenue growth in the year 2012 has been quiet strong and we are moving ahead in a positive direction going forward," he said.

To a question about the bank's expansion, he said the bank plans to open branches in key locations across all emirates to cater to the increasing number of customers.

"Currently we have 22 branches across the UAE with majority of them across Abu Dhabi and Dubai and other branches at Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah," he said.

"The bank provides the convenience of ATMs at 114 locations and this number is growing continuously," he concluded.


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