Birmingham’s growing reputation as a centre for Islamic finance is set to receive a boost when a delegation from the city attends the sector’s major event in Bahrain.
Locate In Birmingham, the city’s inward investment service, is working with the Birmingham-based Islamic Bank of Britain, the West Midlands Business Council and Birmingham Forward to promote the city as a centre for Islamic finance.
The organisation will join a UK Trade and Investment delegation at next month’s World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain with Birmingham-based Islamic Finance Advisory & Assurance Services (IFAAS).
Locate In Birmingham manager Mike Loftus said: “We have been looking at the success of the reputation of the Islamic Bank of Britain and exploring what we can do to promote Birmingham as a location for Islamic banking.
“We are also encouraging lawyers, accountants and other professionals to develop experience so they can work with companies like the Islamic Bank of Britain.
“Although the sector is small, it’s important because of its capacity to grow. The other strand we’re looking at is to promote Birmingham as a location for significant players in the new world economy such as the big sovereign wealth funds in the Gulf States.”
IFAAS, which specialises in advising on Shariah-compliant financial products and services, set up its first office in Birmingham last year.
It has seen the sector grow so rapidly it was forced to bring forward plans for a second office in Europe at the end of 2009 when it last week opened an office in Paris.
IFAAS managing director Farrukh Raza said: “The World Islamic Banking Conference is the largest event in the Islamic financial industry at a global level. Last year for the first time the UK had a pavilion to showcase UK excellence in Islamic finance.
“It was very successful and attracted a lot of interest not only from local and international media but from potential investors.
“This year we’re going with a much bigger effective.”
Mr Raza cited the presence of companies such as the Islamic Bank of Britain and IFAAS in Birmingham as well as the strength of the city’s professional offering, workforce and transport links as factors behind the city’s growing reputation in Islamic finance.
“The presence of the Islamic Bank of Britain is creating value in terms of credibility and expertise.
“It’s also down to the fact that in and around Birmingham especially there are a lot of law firms who are very qualified and experienced in commercial finance.
“We are trying to pull all this together to make a very strong proposition to promote Birmingham to Islamic investors especially in the Gulf Region. We love this city and we truly believe in the potential it has to take it to the next level.”
Needham & James Solicitors entered the market for providing legal advice to Islamic finance institutions in the city early on and has worked with the Islamic Bank of Britain on its recently-launched home finance product.
Birmingham-based senior partner John Hughes said: “We identified Islamic finance as a potential growth area four to five years ago and we’ve been to a number of conferences in the Middle East to explore the possibilities there. We think there is a great potential in the Islamic finance sector outside London.”
“We have the same aims as Locate, that is we are working to attract more Islamic finance work to Birmingham.”