Islamic Banking

EXCLUSIVE: New Forum To Promote Women In Islamic Finance Set For Launch

Harriet Davies, London, June 12, 2013

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Islamic finance is seeing a strong revival since the decline which hit around the time of the financial crisis, and one of its pioneers is working to ensure that women play a pivotal role in its global development.

Islamic finance is seeing a strong revival since the decline which hit around the time of the financial crisis, and one of its pioneers is working to ensure that women play a pivotal role in its global development.

Samina Akram, who formerly ran Merrill Lynch’s Islamic finance Middle East platform, set up her own consultancy, Samak Consultants, after leaving the bank and has for some years now been running an informal network of women in Islamic finance.

Akram is taking this one step further with the launch of a formal initiative planned for later this year: the Women in Islamic and Ethical Finance Forum.

The goals of this are twofold: one is to support and promote women globally in Islamic finance, where Akram has faced many challenges herself, and the other is to get the ethical and Islamic financial sectors talking to each other more closely.

And she has a sound basis for believing she has a role to play here, having in 2013 been named the fifth most influential woman in Islamic finance by Islamic Finance Review.

But she has her work cut out for her: while strengthening a network of women within the growing Islamic finance sector is an attractive prospect, it presents many hurdles.

The industry

The Islamic finance market is valued at $1.631 trillion and grew at an average rate of 20.4 per cent per annum for the last five years, according to the Global Islamic Finance Report 2013.

However, according to Hasan Al Jabri, chief executive of SEDCO Capital, speaking at the Ninth Annual World Islamic Funds and Financial Markets conference, a lack of diversity is a key challenge for the industry, with equity products dominating.

New products are coming on the market however, with Accretive Wealth Management this week announcing a strategic partnership with Aperio Group that enables it to offer separately managed Shariah-compliant portfolios.

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