Ayman Sejiny, CEO Ibdar Bank
Ayman Sejiny, CEO Ibdar Bank speaks to Zoya Malik about the bank’s positioning and investments in creating a fully-digitised Islamic investment bank
Steering Ibdar Bank’s vision is CEO Ayman Sejiny, directing its FinTech strategies to position the bank as a fully-digitised Islamic investment bank. The bar has been set high by its stakeholders, par for the course having evolved from the Bahraini Bank’s strong foundations and expansive activities covering debt, equity, treasury capital markets, aviation financing asset management, real estate and investment advisory services.
The Bank has USD277 million in paid up capital and a geographical reach that spans the GCC and Middle East North Africa Turkey (MENAT) region. The Bank also transacts in Southeast Asia and select developed markets. Ibdar Bank has significant expertise in areas including aviation, infrastructure, maritime, oil & gas, and real estate.
Clear signals by Bahrain’s leadership have demonstrated that the Islamic financial services industry is of systemic importance for the Kingdom of Bahrain. Hence, a major thrust within the public sector has seen an escalation in agency programmes with strident efforts by the Economic Development Board (EDB) to establish Bahrain at the centre of Islamic FinTech, in tandem with Central Bank of Bahrain’s (CBB) continued support.
POSITIONING FOR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE
Ibdar has set out a comprehensive plan in 2018 for its engagement with global Fintech service providers. In the first phase, the bank is set to digitise its operations and processes internally; the second phase will focus on implementing its service offerings in response to the needs of a Global Islamic Digitised Economy (GIDE) – that includes advising clients with regards to Digital Finance.
The introduction of FinTech tools and platforms will support the bank’s ESG approach, in providing its shareholders and customers with responsible services and products. Sejiny posits: “FinTech is all about financial inclusion, eliminating friction, improving efficacy and lowering costs. By embracing digitisation as our core operating principle, we are able to provide our clients with a competitive advantage by leveraging pioneering technologies, and for our shareholders through the creation of sustainable value.” Ibdar’s digital transformation is comprehensive and will permeate across its Back-, Middle-, and front-office operations. Sejiny describes the bank’s investment priorities and roll out: “We are also opening new delivery channels and providing value-added processes for our clients. We are investing substantial amounts in the further development of the Bank’s advisory capacity with regards to FinTech, particularly in terms of distributed ledger technologies (DLT) and crypto-assets for governments, GRE’s and the private sector.”
Sejiny’s outlook for the long-term is supported by his belief that the most sustainable and stable economic growth stems from the SME sector. “I always look towards Germany as an example with its so called “Mittelstand” model which I would like to see developed in the Islamic world. We are an investment bank, so our task is to bring demand (fund seekers) and supply (fund owners) together. Our expertise in the FinTech space will be an asset to both sides in this process.” In Sejiny’s view, growth and funding will materialise in fast moving sectors like Islamic e-commerce, services, financing and sectors with strong fundamentals such as hospitality, real estate, and infrastructure.
REGULATION IS KEY
Sejiny explains that the Central Bank of Bahrain has taken decisive steps towards a FinTech supportive environment in order to facilitate the growth of the sector in Bahrain pointing to the CBB’s sandbox regulation, which was one of the first in the region, allowing the financial sector to test new tools and services. For Sejiny, regulators are an extremely important part of the financial services ecosystem and apart from their oversight of the industries development, they also have an important role in consumer protection. “At Ibdar, we have an active and constructive dialogue with the CBB with the aim to ensure that Bahrain will be a leader amongst its peers when talking about Islamic FinTech.”
PUBLIC-PRIVATE SECTOR COOPERATION
Greater investor confidence can be borne out of tightening regulatory purview and providing terms for licensing for the FinTech industry. “It’s a proven fact that the more exchange and consultancy that occurs between government agencies and the private sector, the more progress and tangible results will materialise. At this point, time-to-market is of the essence,
and the faster authorities react across divisions with approvals to support the sector, the better the chance to manifest the Kingdom of Bahrain as a centre of excellence for Islamic FinTech, and a reference point in the Islamic world,” concludes Sejiny.
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