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Under the patronage of HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain, World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) announces landmark 25th edition in strategic partnership with the Central Bank of Bahrain

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Under the patronage of HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain, World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) announces landmark 25th edition in strategic partnership with the Central Bank of Bahrain

Over 1200 global industry powerhouses, policy makers, innovators and stakeholders will converge for the three-day long forum. 

Held under the patronage of HRH Prince Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, The Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Bahrain and the strategic partnership of the Central Bank of Bahrain, the World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) will take place on November 26th, 27th & 28th in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Middle East Global Advisors (MEGA), a leading financial intelligence platform facilitating the development of knowledge-based economies in the MENASEA markets, announced that it will convene the 25th anniversary edition of their flagship offering – the largest and most prestigious gathering of Islamic banking and finance leaders in the world – at the ART Rotana Hotel in Amwaj Islands.

Over 1200 global industry powerhouses, policy makers, innovators and stakeholders will converge for the three-day long forum that is spearheading a series of discussions gravitating around the theme of “Islamic Finance & Sustainable Economic Growth in the Age of Disruption” in line with its steady vision to serve as a compass for the global Islamic finance and banking industry.

Speaking ahead of the 25th WIBC, Ehsan Abbas, Chairman, Middle East Global Advisors, said: “For over 25 years, WIBC has helped forge a robust ecosystem to widen the scope of Islamic finance to meet new realities, whilst staying true to its ideals. 2018 will mark the 25th anniversary edition of the World Islamic Banking Conference – testament to its continued significance as a trusted benchmark for the industry to gather and share critical insights going forward.”

Adding further, Mr. Abbas said, “To assess recovery of economic growth, WIBC will seek to address the optimal ways that policymakers can support long-term robust growth by preparing to cope with possible bouts of financial market volatility. Countries need to rebuild fiscal buffers, enact structural reforms, and steer monetary policy cautiously in an environment that is already complex and challenging. In the midst of this, the 25th WIBC will focus on how Islamic finance can build on its global value proposition as a means of strengthening the financial sector.”

Speaking on behalf of WIBC’s Strategic Partner, Khalid Hamad Abdul-Rahman Hamad, Executive Director – Banking Supervision, Central Bank of Bahrain, said, “The Central Bank of Bahrain is pleased to be a strategic partner for the 25th edition of the World Islamic Banking Conference to be held on 26-28 November in Bahrain. The conference this year combines the best of Islamic Banking & Bahrain against the backdrop of recent changes. Key areas of focus will be new initiatives in Digital Banking, Economic Growth & Sustainable Finance, and country specific showcases. The Minister for Oil and Gas will also be talking about investment opportunities in Bahrain’s recent mega Oil and Gas discovery. The CBB is committed to remaining at the forefront of these developments by providing regulatory oversight to emerging technologies and ensuring the sustainability of financial resources. With the recent announcement of the Regulatory Sandbox and Bahrain Fintech Bay, Bahrain now also has an ecosystem in place to encourage growth in the Fin-Tech industry, making all the conference discussions & participatory interaction very relevant.”

WIBC has annually reaffirmed its reputation in generating breakthrough thought leadership. A true flagbearer for the conference and its ethos year-on-year, His Excellency Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, Governor, Central Bank of Bahrain, will showcase his support for the event by delivering the keynote address at the 25th World Islamic Banking Conference, with the vision of furthering the ecosystem for Islamic finance entities to thrive and grow globally.

With the pace of change in Financial Services increasing rapidly, so does the urge for the industry to react. Rapidly embracing the prevalent disruption and forging partnerships in efforts to sharpen operational efficiency have taken precedence in the digital era. Over the last few years, a key focus area for WIBC has always been to connect the industry with leading pioneers and innovators in the FinTech space and forge a fresh, innovative and technology-enabled phase of the industry’s development. While last year’s edition witnessed keynote speeches by Alex Tapscott, CEO NextBlock Global, Co-Author of Blockchain Revolution & Founding Member, IMF’s High Level Advisory Group on Fintech and Xen Baynham- Herd, Head of Strategy and Lead Economist – Blockchain who spoke about embracing new technologies like blockchain in the changing face of financial services due to the advent of the digitization, this year’s edition will also see leading technology experts deliberate as part of an exclusive FinTech Panel.

Key features for WIBC 2018 include: Governors’ Addresses; High-profile Regulatory Debate among Central Bankers; a conversation with a distinguished Islamic finance veteran on the future course of the Islamic economy, The Regulations Power Table on fostering synergies among regulators, standard setters and global financial regulatory authorities to further Islamic Finance;  Panel discussions focusing on sustainable, equitable & inclusive growth, FinTech, new horizons for Islamic finance, cross-jurisdictional issues on Sharia standards & practices and much more.

Industry leaders will also be recognized for their excellence through the WIBC Performance Awards 2018, the nominees of which will be announced weeks before the November event, and the winners at the Gala Dinner on November 27. Confirmed partners at WIBC 2018 so far include: Casablanca Finance City Authority, Ithmaar Bank, Khaleeji Commercial Bank (KHCB), World Gold Council, First Energy Bank, The Perth Mint, Eiger Trading, Bahrain Islamic Bank (BisB) & Fitch Ratings.

Bahrain, the host nation of WIBC for the past 25 years has emerged as a global leader in Islamic finance, with the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) continuing to provide strong support to the financial industry. With the aim of strengthening Bahrain’s position as a Fintech and financial services hub in the GCC, the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) and FinTech Consortium recently announced the launch of Bahrain FinTech Bay, among the largest dedicated financial technology (fintech) hubs in the Middle East and Africa. The 10,000 square foot space in Manama aims to support the development and acceleration of Fintech firms, as well as the interaction between investors, entrepreneurs, government bodies and financial institutions.

Interestingly, the 24th WIBC proved to be the ideal launch pad for a number of initiatives, notably ALGO Bahrain – the world’s first Fintech Consortium of Islamic Banks and Wahed Invest’s launch of the world’s first halal robo advisor – a unique way of revolutionizing halal investing by using technology. The conference also played host to the launch of The ICD-Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Report 2017 and The Islamic Commercial Law Report 2018 by Thomson Reuters, arming industry leaders with critical insights going forward.

WIBC 2017 registered participation from a staggering 1200 delegates, 87 partners, 90 high profile speakers from across 50 countries, further boosting the powerful WIBC brand and its legacy. The distinguished line-up of speakers over the years include:

  • His Excellency Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, Governor, Central Bank of Bahrain
  • His Excellency Dr. Kairat Kelimbetov, Governor, Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC)
  • His Excellency Dr. Ahmed Abdulkarim Alkholifey, Governor, Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency
  • Kishore Mahbubani, Dean, Professor in the Practice of Public Policy, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore
  • H.E. Hamood Sangour Al-Zadjali, Executive President, Central Bank of Oman
  • H.E. Riaz Riazuddin, Deputy Governor, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP)
  • Manjiang Cheng, Chief Economist, Bank of China International (BOCI), CEO, Research Company of BOCI
  • H.E. Dr. Mohammad Y. Al-Hashel, Governor, Central Bank of Kuwait

To find out more about the 25th World Islamic Banking Conference, visit: www.wibc2018.com

Join the global conversation on Twitter at: @WIBC2018 #WIBC2018 

ABOUT MIDDLE EAST GLOBAL ADVISORS (MEGA)

Connecting markets with intelligent insights & strategic execution since 1993

 Middle East Global Advisors (MEGA) is the leading gateway connectivity and intelligence platform to Islamic finance opportunities in the rapidly developing economic region that stretches all the way from Morocco in the West to Indonesia in the East- The Middle East North Africa Southeast Asia (MENASEA) connection. For 25 years, our exclusive focus on achieving business results for the Islamic finance industry has enabled us to create significant value for the leading players in the Islamic banking, finance and investment markets.

 Visit us at www.meglobaladvisors.com 

ABOUT WORLD ISLAMIC BANKING CONFERENCE (WIBC)

The World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) has established its reputation as the world’s largest and most influential gathering of international Islamic banking and finance leaders for over two decades. With the strategic support of the Central Bank of Bahrain, the next generation WIBC will focus on transforming Islamic finance into a global proposition by facilitating strategic opportunities, addressing systematic challenges and connecting international market players and institutional investors to the industry’s catalysts, thought leaders, partners and institutions.

To find out more, visit www.wibc2018.com

Aanchal Dhawan

Marketing Manager

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Using payments to streamline everyday transport

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Using payments to streamline everyday transport 1

By Venceslas Cartier, Global Head of Transportation & Smart Mobility at Ingenico Enterprise Retail

Once upon a time the only way to get from A to B on public transport was with cash – and likely a pre-paid ticket bought from a physical office. Nowadays, thanks to technological developments, options range from contactless and mobile payments, to in-app tickets and more. As payment methods advance, consumers and merchants are naturally moving towards Mobility as a Service (MaaS) systems, integrating various forms of transport services into a single mobility service, accessible on demand.

This move towards MaaS does not only streamline the consumer experience, it has other positive impacts too. Incentivising public transport use reduces environmental pollution, improves mental wellbeing by reducing travel-related stress, and aids productivity by freeing up time otherwise spent driving. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the current trends affecting the transport sector, as well as how payments can optimise transportation for both operators and consumers alike.

Optimising transport with payments

The payment process is integral to any service. A payment service provider (PSP) can provide a range of key benefits to operators by proving a gateway to the transportation open payment ecosystem, and ensuring they meet objectives in 3 key areas.

  1. Environmentally, by reducing the use of personal cars and alleviating pollution and congestion.
  2. Societally, making urban mobility more inclusive in terms of improving access to all areas and for all socioeconomic classes.
  3. Economically, by optimising investment in eco-structure and fostering financial transactions, therefore improving the wealth of the city.

Payments professionals’ expertise and technological solutions can make payments easy again for transport operators. They can provide a range of options so that the customer can choose which one is right for them, leveraging the capabilities of the mobility services’ infrastructure (contactless, mobile wallets, P2P, closed-loop, QR code, and blockchain).

Furthermore, they can help promote inclusion and sustainable urban development. For example, methods such as prepaid virtual cards, or mobility accounts linked to a prepaid account can reduce the risks of excluding the unbanked. The environmental impact per kilometre can also be reduced, along with the use of vehicles with lower emissions per person per kilometre.

Finally, PSPs can put merchants’ minds at ease, providing payment liability, allowing aggregation of all due amounts from all mobility service providers, and collecting payments in one single transaction from users while dispatching revenue between mobility service providers.

Managing coronavirus

Venceslas Cartier

Venceslas Cartier

COVID-19’s disruption to the travel industry cannot be overlooked. In fact, research suggests that public transit ridership is down 70% across the globe since the onset of the virus, longer distance travel has seen reductions of up to 90%, and payment by cash has seen a 60% drop.

Being realistic, these behavioural shifts are unlikely to revert anytime soon, so it’s important for merchants to keep this in mind when thinking about payment methods. More than 70% of consumers and travellers say they are likely to avoid the use of cash over the next six months. As a result, more than 40 countries have already raised their contactless payment threshold, further helping consumers to avoid contact with frequently touched pin pads.

However, the pandemic has only accelerated the way things were heading already and highlighted the benefits. Within the context of the pandemic, transportation needs to reinvent itself and adapt its processes to suit the shift in commuter habits that we’ve already seen and will continue to see in the future.

Other trends to keep an eye on

Contactless has been steadily growing on the transport scene, as have mobile payments and in-app purchases. In fact, the recent move to mobile and online ticketing is the most promising method so far, having seen significant growth in the last few years and having been accelerated by COVID-19 as discussed above. Once consumers move to these easy, convenient, and seamless methods, it’s rare that they revert – so it’s a good idea for operators to think how they can cater to these preferences.

Speed and convenience are a must for busy travellers – but not at the expense of data security. Finding the right payments partner is therefore crucial so operators can safeguard their customers’ personal data, while also keeping on top of other security regulations/features such as P2P encryption, PCI certification, and tokenisation.

Next steps for operators

Public transport is essential for many peoples’ everyday lives – COVID-19 or no COVID-19. As such, mobility service providers can make a great difference to their service and operations by implementing the right solutions.

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Grey skies ahead – Malta prepares for a gloomy 2021 if they can’t tackle financial crime

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Grey skies ahead – Malta prepares for a gloomy 2021 if they can’t tackle financial crime 2

By Dhanum Nursigadoo, ComplyAdvantage

With the summer drawing to a close, many countries who rely significantly on warm weather tourism will be assessing the impact of Covid-19. Being a small island in the middle of the Mediterranean you would expect Malta to be taking a significant economical hit – just like we are seeing in other popular European holiday destinations – but this doesn’t take into account the strength of the Maltese economy.

Emerging from the eurozone crisis with one of the most dynamic economies strategically positioned between three continents, Malta has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU and has recently seen its GDP growth expand year-on-year.  But perhaps the most important aspect of the Maltese economy has been its attraction for foreign businesses with only a 5% tax on profits. It is no secret that Malta is a tax haven, probably one of the most effective tax havens in the world.

But you can’t pick and choose who takes shelter, and it’s no secret that money launderers have been taking advantage of the regulatory landscape in this archipelago.

The conditions of a tax haven suit criminal enterprises, who can take advantage of the opaque environment and blend their illegal activities with the same operations enjoyed by high net worth individuals and corporations who are looking to reduce their tax bill. And last year Malta’s keenness for secrecy and avoidance resulted in a damning report by Moneyval – the Council of Europe’s Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) body – which found that while the nation had made some efforts to curb money laundering there was still much to be desired in order to bring the tax haven up to standard. Overall, they were of the opinion that Malta viewed combating money laundering as a non-priority and this resulted in branding Malta with low to partial ratings for 30 out of the 40 Financial Action Task Force (FATF) recommendations.

The findings of the report were stated to have the potential to “create within the wider public the perception that there may exist a culture of inactivity or impunity”. This follows on from a series of international high-profile stories regarding Malta and financial crime. Most shocking was the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia – who investigated corruption and money laundering in her native country – and was killed by a car-bomb three years ago leading to international outrage and condemnation.

Now Malta is in a race against time to turn their reputation around or they will suffer genuine consequences. The FATF have threatened to place Malta on a “greylist” of high-risk jurisdictions unless they have shown a genuine commitment to combatting financial crime and implemented the recommendations of the Moneyval report. If they fail, this would make Malta the first EU country to make the list and join others such as Panama, Syria and Zimbabwe.

The pandemic has actually given Malta more time to meet these obligations, and it has been widely reported that an initial summer deadline has now been moved to October due to the widespread disruption.

As we head into the autumn, there are signs that Malta has begun to take action. The Malta Financial Services Authority (MFSA) has created and established an empowered AML now headed up by Anthony Eddington, formerly of the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority and who has previous experience of tackling anti-financial crime at Deutsche Bank. This team has already begun working closely with international experts, specifically partners in the US through the US embassy in Malta and the United States Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC). In May this collaboration led to 25 new cases focused on money laundering in particular, and with plans to increase standard inspections and on-site investigations into businesses in Malta, it appears there is a change to the country’s priorities.

Importantly, the report highlighted a problem for countries that choose to become tax havens. In some cases it was not that the Maltese authorities deliberately turned a blind-eye, but simply that they did not have the necessary knowledge to effectively tackle financial crime in the first place. Law enforcement appeared unable to even recognise when crime was occurring.

But this blurring of financial compliance will not help businesses if Malta does indeed become “greylisted” this year. While not as devastating as being blacklisted (the two occupants of this list are Iran and North Korea) there are significant detrimental effects to being put on the FATF greylist. Although this signals that the country is committed to developing AML/CFT plans (unlike the blacklist) it still sends out a warning signal to the world that this is a high-risk area, with the country in question subject to increased monitoring and potential sanctions from the IMF and the World Bank. Make no mistake, being put on the greylist will be catastrophic for Malta’s economy.

It remains to be seen how the work to avoid such a calamity will affect Malta’s tax haven status. Perhaps with an increased fight against financial crime there will be less ability to defend one of Europe’s most competitive tax regimes. But if Malta does not show they are genuinely committed to tackling this problem, then the pandemic disruption to the island’s tourism may be minor in comparison to the grey clouds that now approach their shores.

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How will the UK prepare a supply chain for the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines?

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How will the UK prepare a supply chain for the distribution of the Covid-19 vaccines? 3

By Don Marshall, Marketing role at Exporta.

The challenge of mobilising a supply chain for the introduction of a global and nationwide vaccine will be enormously complex. The process will be costly, and it’s likely the figures will stretch to the hundreds of millions for both the production of the vaccine itself and its distribution across the UK. We must prepare and plan a supply chain strategy to ensure it reaches those most in need in a timely and safe manner.

The task of immunising a whole population is something that has never been planned or likely imagined by anyone within a standard supply chain. A supply chain that goes directly from the manufacturer to the end consumer, or user/ patient in this case, is complex and goes beyond the scope of any single logistics company. It would have to be conceived and delivered via a large joint effort and collaboration between multiple organisations. Effectively distributing the vaccine will depend on the source of manufacture, its storage requirements, and protection of the vaccines from manufacture through to patient administration.

The majority of vaccines require storage within a specific temperature range and need to be handled safely and in hygienic conditions. Depending on where the vaccines are manufactured, the transport legs will vary; if they are coming from overseas, air freight will increase cost and complexity. In addition to supplying the vaccine, syringes, needles and containers also need to be taken into account when preparing the supply chain.

Securing the specific types of boxes or containers i.e. the lidded containers normally used for transporting pharmaceutical products will mean acquiring them from all available stockists and manufacturers. Delivery vehicles would then need to be considered, with temperature-control factored in. The medical supply chain can inform their approach to distribution by assessing data from previous supply chains, and how large quantities of vaccines have been sent out in the past. Collating successful vaccine delivery examples from other parts of the world would be advantageous here, the more we can do to prepare for a logistical challenge of this magnitude, the better.

The distribution of this COVID vaccine will be unique in its scale and for that reason, additional supply chains will need to be mobilised. Apart from medical supply chains, those best suited for this type of transportation are the fresh/frozen food industries and supermarkets. I would mobilise these businesses to assist with the vaccine’s distribution wherever possible and use their car parks and facilities for the temporary medical centres needed to administer the vaccine to the public.

Using the food industry and supermarket networks would leave the current pharmaceutical supply chains intact for health services, pharmacies and the NHS. It would protect those vital services and continue to serve communities across the UK. Inevitably, it would place a short term strain on food supply chains, but these are supply chains that are well-equipped and versed in coping with excess demand i.e. the spike endured from the brief spell of public panic buying at the start of the crisis. With adequate resourcing and planning, I believe the UK supply chain can and will handle this challenge.

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