Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
After graduating from law school in New York, I spent much of my legal career at Fulbright & Jaworski as a project finance and international finance lawyer in Washington D.C., New Delhi, Hong Kong and Beijing. This also included working on one of the earliest Islamic financing deals in South Asia. Subsequently, I moved to Clifford Chance’s affiliate in Saudi Arabia, where I led the projects team and co-headed the Islamic finance practice. In early 2007, I joined DLA Piper.
What does your role involve?
Leading and managing the Islamic finance practice for DLA Piper globally and DLA Piper’s practice in Saudi Arabia. As global head of Islamic finance, my role involves not only extensive client work but also managing a team of lawyers regionally and frequently traveling to DLA Piper’s offices worldwide. Furthermore, I regularly attend and speak at Islamic finance conferences and symposia across the globe. On the Saudi practice, I work closely with my colleague, Abdulaziz Al Bosaily, in managing Saudi projects. Abdulaziz is based in Riyadh and I support him from Dubai in this regard.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Putting together a great team of Islamic finance lawyers based in Dubai and a much larger network of Islamic finance lawyers within the global network of DLA Piper. It was gratifying to be recognized for making a contribution in the field of Islamic finance by being awarded the 2008 Global Recognition in Islamic Finance Award for a Law Firm (promoting excellence in Islamic finance) in recognition of exceptional contribution to the Islamic finance field. On a personal note, appointment to the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) board has been an unexpected honor, while working with industry leaders such as Mohamed Alchaar in particular is a great opportunity.
Which of your products/services deliver the best
Our Islamic finance group routinely advices on devising innovative yet compliant and commercially viable Islamic finance structures such as Ijarah, Murabahah, Mudarabah, Takaful, Musharakah, Istisnah, Wakalah and Sukuk constructs. Our practice covers a number of sectors including Islamic project finance (petrochemicals, power and infrastructure), Islamic banking, Islamic capital markets (Sukuk), Islamic private equity, Islamic real estate financing and Takaful.
What are the strengths of your business?
A genuine understanding of Shariah, coupled with experience in major transactions, enables us to provide considered advice on Islamic finance transactions.
Our Islamic finance group has extensive experience comprising Islamic finance lawyers who have in-depth knowledge of the Hadith, Shariah and Islamic jurisprudence gleaned from the study of the sources of Islamic law from across the reaches of the Islamic world.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
We have a genuine understanding of Shariah and an in-depth financial transactional skill set. We are able to apply this knowledge to modern financial structures in a business-minded manner.
There is huge growth in the Islamic finance arena and the Middle East is at the heart of this phenomenal growth. Having our presence in key centers in the Middle East is very important for taking part in the growth.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
The Islamic finance industry is developing very rapidly and, like all rapid growth industries, it has certain obstacles. I would say that the most important obstacle hampering further growth is finding practitioners with genuine knowledge of Shariah law combined with strong transactional skills. The industry is taking strides in closing this gap in demand. There are a lot of good initiatives currently developing.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry in, say, the next five years?
As the market matures and people gain more experience with present structures, there is going to be more consistency. The documentation shall become more standard. I expect to see increased Shariah regulations and guidance from the regulatory authorities, including AAOIFI.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance.
I genuinely believe in Islamic finance. I want to see Islamic finance grow and become a viable alternative to conventional finance. My wish list for Islamic finance is rather long; however, one of the foremost things I would like to see is larger pools of capital allocated by investors and market participants to fund large petrochemical and infrastructure projects in a Shariah compliant manner.
DLA Piper has more than 3,700 lawyers located in 25 countries and 64 offices throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the US.