A Pakistani-born, UK-trained accountant is enjoying the challenges of leading the Ernst & Young (E&Y) Islamic financial services group, having celebrated his recent promotion to partner in the firm’s Bahrain office.
Sameer Abdi, 32, was one of three new Bahrain partner promotions in January, along with Srikant Ranganathan, the director of technology security and risk services, and Fawad Laique, formerly an executive manager in audit and advisory banking services.
Bahrain has traditionally been the capital of financial services in the Middle East and it is only recently that Dubai and Qatar have come into the market.
The Big Four firm has a strong presence in Bahrain, with around 400 staff out of an estimated 1,000 in the country’s profession. Abdi said E&Y is the biggest firm on the island state with average growth of 15 to 20 percent a year.
Abdi said the emergence of these new centres does not threaten Bahrain’s position as a key financial services player. “I don’t think a balance of power will shift from one place to another. I think all the financial centres have the capability of doing really well here and that’s because we have such a great market at the moment,” he explained. “The market is huge, the pie is big enough for everyone to eat out of and the pie keeps growing. That is important to understand because people always think it’s either one or the other, but it’s not.”
Abdi said there has been a lot of a change in the Middle East since he arrived in the Persian Gulf island state eight years ago. He has grown into the role as global head of Islamic finance as the sector has expanded. E&Y’s Islamic finance group has been established since 1998. Abdi claimed the firm has a leading role to play in the Islamic finance industry as it is a “pioneer” of the industry.
He estimated the global Islamic finance industry could be worth $2 to $3 trillion in five years’ time and E&Y intends growing all four areas in this industry – corporate finance, advisory, audit and tax.
Abdi is involved in building the global firm’s capability in the practice through its Bahrain-based Islamic finance centre of excellence – a virtual information source for the global network. “The centre is not just a training centre. We have created a knowledge web/hub here where we manage all our information needs and all our research – that’s what we use to service our clients and all our other offices as well. You can’t really think of it as a physical library, it’s not a training centre or an academy. We have put together all our best practices and information knowledge bases in one area and we have created the headquarters for our Islamic business out of Bahrain. It is more knowledge-based than anything else,” he said.