Established in 2006, the Waqf Fund's capital contributions now stand at approximately $7.5m, by the CBB in partnership with 15 leading Islamic institutions and 3 conventional banks with Islamic windows. The Fund's mission is to advance Islamic finance training, education and research through a broad range of activities.
The institutions and their representatives on the new Board are as follows: Central Bank of Bahrain (Mr. Khalid Hamad), Kuwait Finance House (Mr. Paul Mercer), Arcapita Bank (Mr. Essa Zainal), Gulf Finance House (Mr. Essa Maseeh), Shamil Bank (Mr. Ahmed Abdulrahim), Unicorn Investment Bank (Mr. Mohammed Bashir), Global Banking Corporation (Mr. Khalid Al Jaber), Ahli United Bank (Mr. Wajid Ali Khan), Khaleeji Commercial Bank (Mr. Fuad Taqi), Bank Muscat International (Mr. Andrew Bainbridge), Venture Capital Bank (Mr. Ahmed Al Jawhari), and Sakana Holistic Housing Solutions (Mr. R. Lakshmanan).
Mr. Khalid Hamad, Executive Director, Banking Supervision, at the CBB, has thanked the member institutions and their representatives who constituted the previous board, and served the Waqf Fund during the first three years with their valuable time and efforts.
Mr. Hamad said:
"I would also like to congratulate the member institutions and their representatives who are on the new board. I am confident and sincerely hope that their valuable contribution will help the Waqf Fund continue to play an increasing role in the development of Islamic finance and Bahrain as the leading center of Islamic finance."
Within a short span, the Waqf Fund has delivered several strategic initiatives ranging from developing the curriculum for Islamic finance diploma program at Bahrain Institute of Banking & Finance; designing and implementing a unique "Graduate Sponsorship Program" to address the shortage of qualified and skilled human resource; holding senior roundtable discussions on key issues; forming a research panel of leading practitioners, academics and scholars which would oversee the research activities sponsored by the Waqf Fund; developing a course on "Islamic business ethics for bankers", and other initiatives currently in progress.
On developing the human resource, the first batch of 18 Bahrainis under the Graduate Sponsorship Program has successfully completed the Islamic finance diploma and a simultaneous six month internship at member banks, arranged by the Waqf Fund.
Several of these graduates have now availed full-time employment at Islamic banks in Bahrain. The new board will now consider developing the program further and giving the go-ahead to induct the 2nd batch this year.
The Fund will also pursue an active agenda of sponsoring original, independent research on relevant topics by inviting research proposals, extending finance and providing necessary mentorship through the research panel. Upon completion of a research project, the Fund would publish and disseminate the findings for the benefit of the Islamic finance industry.
The Fund is also developing a general course on "Islamic business ethics for bankers". The course will provide a basic understanding of Sharia'a principles for junior staff at banks, with the aim of promoting good governance in Islamic financial institutions.
Another major initiative of the Waqf Fund is to hold roundtable discussions on key issues relating to Islamic finance with the aim of encouraging a high-level dialogue aimed at addressing developmental issues.
Nearly 50 leading practitioners, academics, scholars, regulators, and lawyers have participated in two roundtables held so far, on issues such as the future of the Islamic banking industry; shortage of qualified human resource; facilitating standardization of market practices; possibility of forming a supreme Sharia'a supervisory committee; and rights, obligations, and market practices of Islamic investment accounts holders.
"The Waqf Fund, in coordination with the industry, studies the recommendations of the roundtable and tries to develop specific solutions, such as the Graduate Sponsorship Program," said Mr. Khalid Hamad.
"The establishment of the Waqf Fund is yet another demonstration of the CBB's vision for and commitment towards the Islamic finance industry's long term success, for which knowledge, skills and experience are critical factors," said Mr. Hamad.
The partnership with the industry will ensure that the Fund's activities are timely, relevant and appropriate for the sound development of the industry.