Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
After doing my MBA in Finance and Economics at Ohio University in the US, in 1983 I started my career at the American Express Bank, before joining Bank of America in a senior management role. In 1994 I took over as the country manager for MashreqBank in Pakistan and then came to Dubai as the head of international business in 1996. In all, I have over 24 years of international banking experience managing businesses in more than 15 countries, including the GCC, emerging markets, Europe, the US and Hong Kong, focusing on investment, corporate, commercial and retail banking, including mergers, divestiture and establishing new businesses. Most recently, I was heading the construction and contracting business at Mashreqbank in Dubai, and led the Mashreq–Mizhou Alliance to manage Japanese businesses in the region. I was appointed as the first CEO of Badr Al-Islami in November 2006.
What does your role involve?
My role involves building a strong and sustainable business model for establishing a premier Islamic finance institution in the region. Since we have launched recently, I have been involved in implementing our strategic business plan, building a reliable infrastructure with integrated systems, setting the strategic direction for product development, recruiting senior managers and expanding our branch network for delivering high quality service for sustained long-term growth.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Today, when I look at the success of businesses I have been involved in, particularly in the building-up phase, it provides me with a great sense of accomplishment. It is heartening to see the management team doing well and associated with a successful business. We now share a humble sense of pride in building a strong team here at Badr Al-Islami, which is set to lead the way in Islamic finance industry.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
We only launched Badr Al-Islami three months ago, therefore we are initially focusing on large ticket items in corporate banking, especially in Islamic structured finance, where we have booked a number of high profile deals and transactions. However, obviously our long-term intention is to have a sustained and predictable high performing retail banking business in place. Efforts on that front are underway and we have already launched five Islamic finance products.
What are the strengths of your business?
Clear strategic priorities, strong execution skills and, most importantly, a result-oriented team. We believe in complete ownership and accountability at all levels of the organization. This, together with a strong conviction in Islamic banking, builds natural strength in our business delivery capability.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Again I will say that our success comes through our people, their high level of dedication to the cause of Islamic banking, their commitment and passion to deliver results, and our sponsor’s support, commitment and belief in our vision, mission and objectives.
Badr Al-Islami is an independently managed business which is majority owned by MashreqBank. We have capitalized on our sponsor’s sound financial standing, operational excellence, credibility and good will in the market to overcome any challenges that have come in our way.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
In the Islamic finance industry the greatest challenge is product complexity and the non-standardization of Islamic finance products. Also the support provided by the present IT systems to the Islamic financial services business is still in an embryonic stage. I believe that once the product complexity and non-standardization issues have been addressed by the industry, then the IT systems will be ready to play an enabling role in the growth of our institutions and drastically improve the dynamics of our industry as a whole.
Finally there is the human resources challenge. Even though at times recruitment of the right talent is a problem in our industry, at Badr Al-Islami we have been focused on addressing the challenges and opportunities in retaining our talented Islamic finance professionals.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
The size of the Islamic finance industry means it can no longer be ignored. Today, the financial services industry breakdown is approximately 60% in capital markets, 35% in financial institutions (non-bank and Islamic) and 5% in insurance. I believe that the highest growth rates will be in the financial institutions and insurance sectors in the next 10 years, not because they are small today, but because they have the highest potential going forward.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
I would like to see initiatives to simplify and standardize Islamic finance products. This would in turn facilitate new entrants to the industry, which would help in developing the maturity level of the industry and thus reduce the time to market new products considerably. If that is achieved, then I think this industry has a very strong future.
Often people criticize the service standards of institutions in the Islamic finance industry. I feel that it is unfair to compare the 300-year-old conventional banking industry with a young industry which is only 40 years old. Maturity, depth, breadth and sophistication can only be achieved over time. However, looking at the market potential, the dedication and commitment of the people, the increasing involvement of Central Banks and the standardization now taking place, all this can bring faster maturity and a good track record for the industry as we move forward.
Badr Al-Islami is an independently managed business comprising Badr Al-Islami Finance and Badr Al-Islami Banking. Badr Al-Islami Finance, which is majority owned by MashreqBank, is a private joint stock Islamic Finance Company, while Badr-Al Islami Banking is the Islamic Banking Division of MashreqBank.