HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd deputy chairman and chief executive officer Zarir J. Cama can be best described as one of the key figures in the setting up of HSBC Group's global Islamic banking services.
HSBC unit Amanah Finance is the global entity for the group's Islamic banking services. Set up in Britain in 1998, the unit is now gradually managing the group's Islamic operations from Dubai.
It currently has a large presence in Dubai, Riyadh, London, New York and Kuala Lumpur, and is well-positioned to understand, structure and deliver Islamic solutions and provide globally unrivalled'' products.
Cama told StarBiz: As senior executive for the global banking division in 1996-1997, I began to recognise the tremendous potential in Islamic financing at the HSBC Group in London, after having worked earlier in the Middle East.
At that time, the industry was not developed in a structured and organised manner and was run mainly on an ad hoc basis.
I felt that Islamic financing held strong global business prospects and started selling the concept all the way up to our group chairman, Cama recalled.
It took almost one and a half years to convince those involved to provide the support, logistics and product development for the growing prospects in Islamic banking, he added.
As a big international banking and financial services group with global presence, Cama said: It was not difficult for the group to venture into the development of the niche industry in strategic Muslim markets.
The total Muslim market is a huge one, with an industry size estimated at US$200bil, with funds under management worth US$60bil to US$80bil, according to Cama.
To date, Islamic finance and investment has been well spread to Muslim communities worldwide from the Middle East and South and South-East Asia to Muslim minorities in the West.
In fact, Bahrain and Kuala Lumpur/Labuan are fast transforming into Islamic financing industry hubs.
On the large Middle East market, Cama said, Amanah Finance expected stronger growth by launching more products and services as countries like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates were moving more into the Islamic banking business.
Citing the situation in post-war Iraq, HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd senior manager Mohamed Ross Mohd Din said: There is a strong opportunity for Islamic banks to start funding the reconstruction of Iraq. It is believed that Iraq needs about US$300bil for the reconstruction process.
Ross said Malaysia had also been a prime market for HSBC's Islamic financial services business.
Despite its small population, the scope of business is quite wide as the economy is still strong, with most local companies investing more both locally and abroad.
Last year, HSBC received considerable attention for lead arranging the Malaysian government's US$600mil SUKUK, the world's first global Islamic securities issue.
Our aim was not only for the Islamic papers to be taken up in this part of the world or in the Middle East but also want them to be spread to Europe and the United States, Cama said. We got almost 30% of the papers away to these markets which reflects demand from non-Muslim countries for such bonds based on potential good returns.
He also foresees more landmark deals in the near term with Amanah Finance, supported by its strategic locations globally, paving the way to secure more business transactions.
The recent transactions by Amanah Finance included being joint arranger for Telekom Malaysian Bhd's US$60mil syndicated Ijarah (Islamic leasing) facility, arranger for Aegean Airlines' US$48mil Ijarah finance for EAe aircraft, Airbus Industrie's US$61mil Ijarah finance for two Airbus A320 planes, and Vestel DIS Ticaret A.S.' DM30mil multi-currency Murabaha (purchase and resale) financing facility.
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