gateway to islamic finance interview - Institute of Islamic Banking ...

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COUNTRY FOCUS

Arbah Capital is a new venture, having been

recently incorporated as a fully-fledged

Shari’ah-compliant investment firm,

authorised and regulated by the Saudi

Capital Markets Authority (CMA). The

company has 22 domestic shareholders and

is set to introduce the first set of Islamic

wealth management products and services

to the country’s market, initially in the

eastern region and then the entire country,

according to Alqahtani. ‘At a later stage it

will expand to other GCC countries, the rest

of MENA and Asia through Bahrain, under

the umbrella of Arbah Global House’, he

adds. ‘Location is strength. Arbah is the first

Islamic wealth management firm

strategically situated in Saudi Arabia’s

eastern region next door to Bahrain’s

financial markets.’

In Alqahtani’s view, it is the Kingdom of

Bahrain that is at the forefront of the

Islamic finance. ‘Bahrain is, without doubt,

the global hub,’ he states. ‘It has full

infrastructure for setting up all kinds of

Islamic finance and investment firms

beside takaful business. Bahrain’s

regulatory framework is mature and far

advanced compared to others in terms

of ease of entry.’

Aylward agrees that Saudi Arabia has not

yet reached the status of a global hub for

Islamic finance. ‘It is either Malaysia or

Dubai/Bahrain,’ he thinks. ‘That is because

that’s where the skills set has been. There

has been a lot more drive for innovation

outside of Saudi Arabia than inside.’

The overwhelming majority of specialists

involved in the development of Islamic

finance products and services (e.g. bankers,

lawyers) have been resident outside the

country’s borders. There is a lack of

specialists the world over, but it is felt most

acutely in the Saudi market. Certainly, there

is no lack of Shari’ah scholars in the

country – a lot of well-known and

respected scholars are from Saudi Arabia –

but it is the finance practitioners that are

‘more involved in pushing the boundaries,

rather than the academics or Shari’ah

scholars themselves,’ says Aylward.

‘It is just the nature of Islamic finance.’

IIBI 27

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