A multinational group of companies dedicated to the Islamic banking industry has announced the first nominee for the Islamic Banking & Finance internship, cosponsored by Bank of London & the Middle East (www.blme.com) in London, Wafi International in Riyadh (www.waficorp.com) and Safa Investment Services (www.safainvest.com) in Geneva and Riyadh.
Thomas R. Woods, graduating end 2012 from Durham University (U.K.) with a Master’s degree in Islamic Finance, was chosen to serve for six months. Fluent in Arabic, Woods will focus first on global capital markets and professional asset management from the BLME offices in London, and then will conduct the first-ever study of historic investment returns at Islamic endowments (Awqaf) at the Safa offices in Riyadh. Wafi will supervise Woods’ work in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Awqaf, which have an estimated $270 billion in total assets, are considered a key potential contributor to economic development in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the wider Muslim world. Growing at estimated double-digit rates annually, these endowments could potentially fuel broad areas of investments, from IPOs to secondary capital markets and Sukuk. Globally Awqaf are thought to have at least a half trillion dollars or more in total assets, making Awqaf one of the largest pools of investment funds in the Muslim world.
The role of Awqaf in economic development is not well understood. It is thought they mostly own local real estate assets, with little diversification. The Islamic Banking & Finance internship was designed to address this information gap. The results of Woods’ research will be published in March 2013.
John A. Sandwick, Manager of Safa Investment Services, said, “The world is changing, yet most Awqaf still make the same investments as they did over a hundred years ago. We feel the results of this internship will raise a few eyebrows. Of the quarter trillion dollars in Saudi Awqaf we see almost no professional asset management. Beneficiaries of endowments – mostly the poor and needy – may be better off if we can point to ways for improved administration of this enormous and fast-growing pile of assets.”