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

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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.

Nicholas Moody