The 8th Global Islamic Finance Awards or better known as GIFA was held in grandeur with attendance by more than 250 guests including dignitaries, government officials, diplomats, distinguished guests and captains of the industry. The Awards Gala Dinner took place in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on September 29 with Bosna Bank International as the official host. This year’s GIFA was a vibrant celebration of the accomplishments and achievements of movers and shakers that are driving positive change and moving the global Islamic finance services industry forward.
Chief Guests included His Excellency Bakir Izetbegovic, Chairman of the Council of Presidency of the e Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, His Excellency Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti and GIFA Laureate 2017 and Ms Lisa Doughten, Chief of the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UNCERF) Secretariat.
The annual ceremony is designed to highlight, encourage and reward exceptional performance and contribution in the growth of the global Islamic banking and finance community with an ultimate objective of promoting social responsibility, adherence to Shari’a authenticity and commitment to Islamic banking and finance. Being the only global Islamic finance awards programme, GIFA winners come from all corners of the world, from the USA to Indonesia, and from the UK to Kazakhstan and Eastern Europe. The winners are selected from all stakeholders – from industry players to regulators and from Shari’a scholars to the services providers on the fringe of the industry. GIFA is also the only Islamic finance award programme that recognises the role and support of governments and politicians in the development of Islamic banking and finance.
Commenting on GIFA, Dr Sofiza Azmi, Chairman of the GIFA Awards Committee and CEO of Edbiz Corporation said: “Over the last 7 years, GIFA have honoured more than 200 governments, institutions and individuals who have demonstrated strong commitment and leadership in Islamic finance.” She added that since the inaugural GIFA ceremony in Oman in 2011, “… we have seen new levels of innovation and authenticity in the products and services of our winners. These reflect the growing diversity and strength of the Islamic financial services industry.”
At this year’s GIFA ceremony, over 55 award categories were handed out including the most prestigious GIFA Leadership Award, which is presented to a head of state of government or someone similar in stature,” explained Dr Sofiza Azmi. “The coverage of GIFA is comprehensive, as we include all the industry stakeholders from politicians to academicians that have played leadership roles in their respective fields,” she added. “Since GIFA first made its debut in Muscat, Oman; the awards programme has come a long way to become the number one Islamic finance awards programme in the world,” she continued. Today GIFA is a global brand recognised as the most authentic and respected Islamic finance awards programme in the world.
In her welcome remarks, Dr Sofiza Azmi iterated: “GIFA celebrate the success of award winners who have made outstanding achievements their respective fields, contributing to the sustainability of Islamic banking and finance as a viable system within the global international financial architecture.” She added that “These are the players and thought leaders who are championing Islamic finance and converting vision into reality.”
This year, the GIFA Awards Committee decided to present 2 GIFA Leadership Award 2018; one for the country category and another for an individual who has shown commitment to the development of Islamic economy in his or her particular country. The GIFA Leadership Award 2018 for an individual was presented to President Bakir Izetbegovic by President Ismail Omar Guelleh (President of the Republic of Djibouti), who himself was GIFA Laureate for 2017. President Bakir Izetbegović was instrumental in ensuring the event was held in his country. Under his leadership, the country provided a level-playing field to ethical finance; launched the first ethical stock market index in the Balkan region and positioned Sarajevo as a hub for ethical finance.
As the 8th GIFA Laureate, Bakir Izetbegovic joins other laureates such as Tun Abdullah Badawi, former Prime Minister of Malaysia (2011); Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak, Malaysia (2012); Shaukat Aziz, former Prime Minister of Pakistan (2013); Nursultan Narzabayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (2014); Muhammandu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano, Nigeria (2015); and Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia (2016).
Meanwhile, the GIFA Leadership Award 2018 for a country was presented to Bosnia and Herzegovina. President Bakir Izetbegovic received the award on behalf of his country from Ms Lisa Doughten, Chief of the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (UNCERF) Secretaria who was one of the Chief Guests. This award recognises the great strides Bosnia and Herzegovina has made promoting and developing Islamic economy and finance in the Southeast Europe region. Due to the keen personal interest taken by President Bakir Izetbegovic, Bosnia and Herzegovina is now serving as a gateway for Islamic banking and finance as well as halal sector to the Southeast Europe region.
Speaking on occasion, President Bakir Izetbegović expressed his appreciation for the recognition given. “Islamic finance can play a significant role in building our infrastructure, primarily through the implementation of public-private partnerships, which provides excellent results in some countries such as Malaysia, Turkey, Jordan, Djibouti,” he said. “In this I see the possibility of financing through Islamic banking in projects that would be built on the principle of public-private partnership. The potential and opportunities of Islamic banking in PPP have also been recognized by the World Bank, which analyzes Islamic banking as tool for meeting the global UN Agenda for Sustainable Development 2030 and recommends Islamic banking as one of the most suitable means of financing global sustainable development, in particular for financing infrastructure projects,” added President Bakir Izetbegović.
Other dignitaries were Abdullah Skaka, Mayor of Sarajevo; Sheikh Huseinef Kavazovi, Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina; Mr Zakri Jaafar, Malaysia Ambassador to Bosnia and Hervegovina; Mr Mark Field, British Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina; Dr. Kairat Kelimbetov, Chairman of Astana International Financial Centre, and Eng Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO of International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation.
Several prestigious awards at the individual level was also presented during the awards ceremony. The prestigious award for Islamic Personality of the Year 2018, was presented to Mr. Musa Abdelaziz Mohammad Shihadeh, CEO of Jordan Islamic Bank. GIFA CEO of the Year 2018 was won by Mr. Abdulmohsen Bin Abdulaziz Al-Fares, CEO of Alinma Bank while Mr. Khaled Jamal Al Kayed, CEO of Bank Nizwa was announced as Islamic Banker of the Year 2018. Award for the Most Outstanding Leader in Islamic Finance 2018 was awarded to Mr. Abdulbasit Al-Shaibei, CEO of Qatar International Islamic Bank. Mr. Nathif J. Adam was conferred the GIFA Special Award (Leadership Role) 2018 for his services to Islamic banking and takaful in Kenya.
Mr. Abdulmohsen Al-Fares was presented with the “CEO of the Year” award for his leadership in the Saudi banking industry, and for the integral role he has played in the establishment, growth, and success of Alinma Bank, which has become a pillar of the Saudi economy, and a leader in modern, innovative, Shari’a-compliant products and services.
Speaking on the award Al-Fares said: “I am delighted to have received this award from one of the world’s leading Islamic banking industry award programs. This award recognizes not only me; but also, all of my colleagues and staff at Alinma, whose efforts have made our collective success possible. Additionally, I am honored to have been recognized among other noteworthy individuals from around the world, who have dedicated themselves to the advancement of Islamic finance and the Islamic economy globally, and have contributed significantly in this regard.”
More than 55 awards were presented to winners from over 20 countries. Amongst the winners from Middle East were Dubai Islamic Bank, Siraj Finance, Aircraft Leasing Islamic Fund (ALIF), SEDCO Capital, ITS, OneGram and Dar Al Sharia. Other countries included South Africa (FNB Islamic Banking and Oasis Crescent); Indonesia (BAZNAS, Bank Indonesia, Indonesia Stock Exchange, BTPN Syariah); the UK (DDCAP, Gatehouse Bank, Islamic Reporting Initiative, Eiger Trading Advisors); Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (ITFC, ICIEC, Bank Al Inma); Malaysia (AmInvestment, BNP Paribas Asset Management, Silverlake, ITRAMAS Corporation, Cagamas, Salihin Advisory, MARC, MFPC, Dewina Brahim’s Holding, UiTM, Accounting Research Institute).
Commenting on the recognition of International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) as the “Best Islamic Trade Finance Institution 2018”, Hani Salem Sonbol, CEO, ITFC said: “ITFC is honored to accept this award from GIFA, which comes at a momentous milestone as we commemorate 10 years of development impact.” He added that the award is a validation of ITFC’s founding values of advancing trade and improving lives through Islamic trade finance. “The recognition underscores the ever-growing importance, relevance and viability of Islamic trade finance in rising above today’s global market volatility to do its part in facilitating a new era of global trade,” he further explained.
Astana International Financial Centre received three awards during the gala dinner. The award for “Institutional support of Islamic Finance” was received by the AIFC Governor Kairat Kelimbetov. Director of the Department of Islamic Finance Alibek Nurbekov was awarded in an individual nomination for “Policy development in the field of Islamic Finance,” and the AIFC Bureau was awarded for “Initiatives for the development of human capital” in the field of Islamic finance.
“This recognition inspires us to further promote the Centre as a regional hub for Islamic Finance. The AIFC has created a favourable ecosystem for the development of Islamic Finance and this direction is one of the main priorities of the AIFC. It should also be noted that the initiatives taken by the AIFC in the promotion and development of Islamic Finance, improved the position of Kazakhstan in the rating of Islamic Finance Country Index from 31 in 2017 to 24 in 2018 according to the Global Islamic Finance Report (GIFR 2018),” said Kairat Kelimbetov.
DDCAP was awarded ‘GIFA Market Leadership Award 2018 (Facilitation & Support)’, and were represented at the awards ceremony and following Gala dinner by David Testa, Executive Director. Stella Cox CBE, Managing Director of DDCAP, said on the news of the award: “We are truly delighted to receive the recognition of the GIFA Committee again this year with its validation of the commitment and investment that DDCAP has made, for more than twenty years, to provide intermediary asset facilitation services to support Islamic financial market requirement.”
Malaysian Rating Corporation Berhad (MARC) was announced as the Best Islamic Rating Agency for the fourth-time. Reiterating the importance of credit rating agency ratings as important benchmarks for credit risk, MARC’s Corporate Services Head and Executive Vice President Ahmad Feizal Sulaiman Khan remarked that timely independent credit opinions were an “essential enabler” of improved market efficiency which in turn contributes to deeper and more liquid markets. “We are very grateful for this prestigious award; it speaks of MARC’s single-minded devotion to its responsibilities as a key information intermediary in an evolving marketplace”, he said.
Oasis Crescent was named Best Islamic Fund Manager for 2018. Alongside this notable accolade, Oasis CEO, Adam Ebrahim received the GIFA Championship Award 2018 in the category of Islamic Asset Management. These awards follow the accolade Oasis received in 2017 from GIFA for the Oasis Crescent Global Equity Fund which was named the Best Global Shari’ah- compliant Equity Fund.
Commenting on the awards, Adam Ebrahim said that, “it is a great privilege and honour to receive the Best Islamic Fund Manager of the Year award as well as the Championship Award for Islamic Asset Management in 2018. Both these accolades reflect our unwavering commitment to deliver consistent investment excellence to our investors and we value the trust they place in us.”
Other award winners were S&P Global, Moody’s, Bank of Khartoum, Bosna Bank International, Astana International Financial Centre, Meezan Bank and VG. Path Solutions walked away with 2 awards – GIFA Market Leadership Award for Islamic Financial Technology and GIFA Advocacy Award 2018 (Islamic Finance Technology) to Mr Mohammed Kateeb, Chairman and CEO of Path Solutions.
The Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) bagged two awards: Best Supporting Institution of the Year 2018 and Best Emerging Islamic Capital Market 2018. Both awards were received by Mr. Hasan Fawzi, Director of Development at IDX. “The achievement of IDX by winning two categories at GIFA 2018 shows the recognition and global appreciation of IDX’s commitment, consistency and hard work together with relevant stakeholders in developing the Indonesian Islamic capital market,” Mr. Hasan said.
Faculty of Business & Management (FBM) of UiTM has been awarded Best Islamic Finance Qualification 2018 for Bachelor of Business Administration (Hons.) in Islamic Banking. This prestigious award recognizes the contributions played by FBM in providing talented human capital for the Islamic finance industry in Malaysia. FBM is the pioneer institution to offer qualification in Islamic finance at the bachelor’s degree level in Malaysia.
FNB Islamic Banking was awarded Best Islamic Banking Window 2018, an award that the bank has won for the second consecutive year. “Winning this award for a second time on a global platform is certainly an honour that tells us that we are answering our customers’ needs,” said Mr. Amman Muhammad, CEO of FNB Islamic Banking.
He added that “as a bank with a 180 years of a focused customer-centric approach to helping our clients, this award is another proof point for us in showing that what we package as innovative solutions for both business and retail are received by the market as worthwhile answers to our customers. Winning the award is an affirmation of this.”
Gatehouse Bank was named Best Islamic Investment Bank 2018, in recognition of its successful Real Estate Investment Advisory and Build-to-Rent capabilities. Gatehouse Bank CEO, Mr. Charles Haresnape commented: “We are delighted to win this award in recognition of our real estate investment services.”
He added that the UK’s housing shortage is there for all to see but we’re trying to do our bit to help address it. By building high-quality homes we are able to provide housing in areas that often need regeneration as well as healthy, ethical returns for investors.
International Turnkey Systems (ITS) was awarded Best Islamic Finance Technology Provider 2018. Commenting on the accolade, Mr. Esam Alkeshnam, CEO of ITS said: “ITS is pleased to win this award from the esteemed Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) programme, underscoring our commitment to delivering world-class financial technology solutions.”
Mr. Alkheshnam added: “I believe that the Islamic Financial Services industry is entering a new era driven in large by Financial Technologies (Fintech). ITS is working to equip financial institutions with the technologies that they need to remain competitive and succeed in this new digital space and this award is testimony to our continued dedication to deliver on that promise.”
BAZNAS (National Amil Zakat Agency) of Indonesia received the GIFA Championship Award 2018 for zakat management category, making it the first zakat institution in the world to receive this prestigious award. Prof. Dr. Bambang Sudibyo commented that the award is evident of the recognition given to BAZNAS as a zakat management organisation that is carried out in accordance with the standards of professional Islamic financial institutions.
The Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC) was awarded the Global Islamic Export Credit and Political Risk Insurance Award 2018. The Chief Executive Officer of ICIEC, Mr. Oussama Kaiss said, “It is truly an honor for all of us at ICIEC to receive this prestigious international recognition”. Mr. Kaissi, added that “The Global Islamic Export Credit and Political Risk Insurance Award 2018 is a valuable testament to the innovative Shari’a-compliant services we are offering to our business partners in this field.”
This year, GIFA Awards Committee introduced several new categories. Best Islamic FinTech Product/Initiative of the Year 2018 went to OneGram, Dewina Brahim’s Holdings was announced as the Best Halal Brand Award 2018, Best Central Bank of the Year 2018 was conferred to Bank Indonesia while Central Banker of the Year 2018 was awarded to Mr Ahmed Osman Ali, Governor of the Central Bank of Djibouti. Meanwhile, Best SRI Sukuk of the Year 2018 went to ITRAMAS Corporation.
The award for the Best Central Bank of the Year 2018 was conferred to Bank Indonesia. Commenting on the award, Executive Director of Bank Indonesia Communication Department, Mr. Agusman said that this award is an international recognition of the many initiatives carried out by Bank Indonesia in developing Islamic economics and finance in the country and internationally.
Commenting on the Awards Ceremony, Dr Sofiza Azmi said: “We are delighted to see so many luminaries and proponents of Islamic finance here with us this evening as well as a large number of foreign guests from so many different parts of the world. Their tonight reflects not only the significance of this prestigious GIFA Award but also the universality and diversity of Islamic finance today.”
Ms Lisa Doughten, Chief of UNCERF Secretariat together with President Ismail Omar Guelleh were the Chief Guests of the night. In her keynote speech, Ms Doughten called for the Islamic finance community to come together for humanitarian aid assistance. “…the world of humanitarian assistance, and the world of Islamic finance, are not that far apart. In fact, through Zakah, sadaqah, and the institution of waqf, the Islamic finance sector was inherently built on the notion of humanitarian assistance,” Ms Doughten said.
Addressing the room of 200 dignitaries and guests, Ms Doughten pointed out that “Already now, the concept of Islamic Social Finance has laid a great foundation for such breakthroughs, as have ‘green sukuks’ and other socio-economic instruments such as zakat, waqf, and qard al-hassan.”
Ms Doughten also announced that the GIFA Awards Committee is considering to introduce a new top-category award in 2019 – the GIFA Award for Humanitarian Assistance. “With the goal of raising awareness for the growing need for humanitarian assistance, and indeed to inspire new momentum for the message of people, planet, profit, and purpose – which has always been so intrinsically connected with Islamic Finance – the Awards Committee of the Global Islamic Finance Awards has decided to introduce the GIFA Award for Humanitarian Assistance in the 9th GIFA Ceremony,” said Ms Doughten. She also commended the management of GIFA for their visionary thought leadership and determination in turning ambitions into action.