Dubai – MENA Herald: As part of its ongoing commitment to impart Islamic banking and finance education, Emirates Institute for Banking and Financial Studies (EIBFS), a regional leader in banking and finance education and training, hosted a day-long workshop on the current and future landscape of the sharia-compliant asset management sector for the UAE’s senior-level bankers and financial experts.

The workshop invited Islamic finance specialists from EIBFS, Dubai Islamic Bank, Noor Bank and Mashreq Capital to address the achievements, opportunities and limitations of the Islamic asset management industry – even while focusing on future innovations, solutions and strategies.

Divided into various sections, the thought sessions provided a comprehensive overview of the industry’s key segments – including wealth management of Islamic finance, the Islamic investment market and future growth opportunities and challenges of the Islamic asset management sector. The training sessions additionally examined the complexities of the industry’s legal and regulatory landscape and called on the industry to simplify compliance procedures.

Speaking on the growth projections for the Islamic financial industry in the UAE, Jamal Al Jassmi, General Manager of EIBFS, said: “Hosting seven full-fledged Islamic banks along with several Takaful and Islamic investment and mortgage companies, the UAE Islamic finance industry is a fast growing one. It is the second largest Islamic banking market after Malaysia, with the country’s sharia-compliant assets expected to reach US$262 billion by 2019. Although encouraging, the UAE must continue to address the shortfall in Islamic investment avenues in addition to improving and diversifying short-term asset management product offerings.”

He added: “Aligned with the UAE government’s directive to become a global Islamic financial hub, our institute provides real-time comprehensive academic and training initiatives for the UAE’s dynamic banking and finance community. Our objective is to contribute to the development of human capital in the region and prepare the country’s workforce to meet the requirements of the emerging Islamic economy landscape.”

One of the main pillars of the fast growing Islamic finance industry, asset management has evolved significantly over the last few years. In 2015, Assets under Management (AUM) of total global Islamic funds grew 5.3% from the previous year while the number of funds increased by 11%.

Speaking on the growing gap between supply and demand in Islamic assets, Dr Sabahuddin Azmi, Academic Coordinator of the Islamic Banking Program at EIBFS, said: “Following the global financial crisis of 2008, investor interest in Islamic assets has grown exponentially. Investors are now seeking attractive alternative investment strategies, and have turned to Islamic finance as a means to diversify their global business interests. With limited product offerings, the Islamic asset management industry is unable to keep pace with emerging demands for services. The industry is projected to see a US$105 billion supply-demand gap in Islamic funds by 2019. Currently, Islamic wealth management avenues satisfy less than half of the outstanding demand.”

He added: “Looking ahead, the Islamic asset management industry must establish high calibre organisations capable of innovating new products and intermediary institutions with strong market connections.”

Experts at the workshop highlighted the nascent status and scale of Islamic asset management as the key challenges facing the industry. Dominated by larger funds, the Islamic fund universe is a monochrome market supporting similar structures, mandates and products. However, the speakers commended the industry for attracting non-Islamic issuers and investors to take advantage of its sukuk market and for providing an Islamic product for almost each asset division.

EIBFS offers a range of accredited Islamic banking and finance education and training programmes, including a rigorous two-year Islamic banking diploma, diverse customised in-house training courses, specialised Islamic banking programmes for fresh graduates, along with Islamic finance workshops and conferences for the UAE’s professional community. In collaboration with international training organisations, the institute additionally provides a Professional Certificate in Islamic Banking and Finance and a CISI Islamic Financial Qualification.

In 2015 alone, EIBFS offered 38 programmes in the field of Islamic banking and finance, training more than 800 graduates and professionals. Building on this progress, the institute is set to collaborate with a leading Malaysian training organisation to launch a certification programme in Islamic banking.