Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
As part of the Clifford Chance global network I’ve been fortunate enough to have lived and worked in many jurisdictions, including London, Riyadh and Dubai. I have been actively involved in structuring and documenting Islamic finance products since 2001. Clifford Chance has been advising on Islamic finance transactions for more than 20 years, however while in London in early 2003 I was tasked with coordinating the firm’s global efforts in building an Islamic finance practice, a task that has led me to Dubai where I have been based since March 2006.
What does your role involve?
Within the firm I work closely across a number of the traditional practice areas such as project finance, capital markets, asset finance, corporate finance, funds and derivatives to structure Islamic finance products. Given the increase in activity in this industry across the globe, I also work closely with our other offices and associate offices in the global network to structure and deliver Shariah compliant instruments. As information and know-how sharing is critical for the development of our firm and global practice, I also spend time educating other lawyers internally within the network.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
It’s a great time to be working in Islamic finance at Clifford Chance. We advised on more than US$25 billion worth of Islamic finance transactions last calendar year (2007) and have reached US$20 billion for the first half of this calendar year (2008) and this does not include any of the work we have done in relation to financial instruments and risk management products. This is a great achievement for the firm and one that we should rightly be proud of. The global deal list for the first half of 2008 includes a number of the leading Sukuk deals from the Gulf and Malaysia, most of the groundbreaking project financings in the Gulf region including Saudi Kayan and Saudi Arabian Mining Company (Ma’aden) as well as the largest Islamic financing in the UK to date for the Chelsea Barracks acquisition.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
Our lawyers are well trained to look at all sides of a problem and provide the best solution considering the commercial and legal ramifications. By adding our ability to analyze and guide on Shariah issues we are able to offer clients additional value when it comes to structuring and documenting Shariah compliant transactions across any of the traditional asset classes.
What are the strengths of your business?
We have an excellent global Islamic finance group that includes people in a number of jurisdictions including Dubai, London, Singapore, Hong Kong and New York as well as people in our associated offices such as in Riyadh. All members of the group are well versed in Islamic finance principles and structures in addition to having a thorough understanding of how the international banking and finance markets work. We have very good internal training programs that are critical to building strength, depth and consistency in the practice. We also collaborate very effectively across the global network to provide the best solutions to our clients.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Undoubtedly, the people who work for Clifford Chance are responsible for our success. The quality and commitment of our people means that we are able to deliver high quality and innovative products to our clients.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
Although a number of Islamic finance instruments are still bespoke and therefore require unique documentation, there are now a number of ‘commoditized’ products where standard form documentation would be of invaluable benefit as it would allow a quicker turnaround time for transactions with a lower cost base. Standard documents for simple Islamic instruments such as the Murabahah are also likely to increase liquidity in the secondary market. It is therefore imperative that all entities working in this industry support the initiatives of industry bodies such as the IIFM based in Bahrain.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry in, say, the next five years?
Over the next five years I would envisage a wave of consolidation of Islamic finance institutions across the Gulf and the Far East. I think there will also be growth in certain asset classes such as Islamic securitizations and the Takaful industry and greater use of Islamic finance instruments by European and U.S. based entities as an alternative way of raising capital.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
A movement away from trying to replicate conventional products in a Shariah compliant manner and the development of Shariah compliant products that involve risk participation between all the parties.
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