Located in Birmingham, the city council’s inward investment arm, together with the Birmingham-headquartered Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB) and Aston Science Park-based consultancy Islamic Finance, Advisory and Assurance Services, will be promoting the city’s strength as a financial services location when they take part in the World Islamic Banking conference on November 23-25.
The Birmingham delegation, headed by Mike Loftus, manager of Locate in Birmingham, will be part of the UK Pavilion, hosted by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), whose chief executive, Andrew Cahn, commented: “With an annual growth estimated at 15 percent over the next few years, Islamic Finance’s role in the global market is becoming increasingly important.”
He added: “The World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain (attended by 1,000 delegates from 45 countries) provides an excellent opportunity for UK and Islamic finance representatives to continue building strong partnerships that will create genuine, global opportunities for the long term development of this growing and increasingly important sector. Our ultimate goal is to make Islamic Finance in Britain a global success.”
Mr. Loftus, speaking at an Islamic Finance conference in Birmingham, organised by the West Midlands Business Council and sponsored by IBB, said that Birmingham and the West Midlands stood to benefit from “huge opportunities” that were opening up with the growth of the Islamic Finance industry.
Not only would the sector provide new jobs for the city’s professional and financial services sector, added Mr Loftus, but investment from Kuwait was already backing a £150 million regeneration scheme in Digbeth, while Councillor Mike Whitby, Leader of Birmingham City Council, planned to visit Kuwait, probably in the New Year, to strengthen ties with financial institutions.
One leading Birmingham law firm is also currently handling a £100 million property project funded by Islamic Finance.
Mr Loftus added: “The city’s diversification is an important platform from which to promote ourselves as an investment centre.”
Mohammad Nazir, lead adviser on Islamic Finance for the West Midlands Business Council who has just been appointed to the regional economic council headed by Ian Austin, the Minister for the West Midlands, said that the UK currently had 20 major banks and financial institutions that supported Islamic Finance units. In addition, there were five stand alone Islamic Finance institutions licensed by the FSA in the UK. “The sector is developing at a rapid rate in the UK and Birmingham’s role will become increasingly importance, especially as we work more closely with London, which is the pre-eminent centre for Islamic Finance.”
Mr Nazir, who is chairman of the West Midlands Minority Ethnic Business Forum, said that as Birmingham’s position strengthened, then it was hoped that in the future the city would itself be able to host an international conference on the subject.
The Birmingham conference, held at Aston Business School, was a follow-up to a launch event last year when both Birmingham and the City of London Corporation agreed to work alongside each other to further develop the Islamic Finance products market in the UK.
Birmingham believes that the growth of the sector will create dozens of new jobs in “back office” functions such as accounting, auditing, legal work and administration.