Business ISLAMICA Magazine
Question & Answer Session with David McLean
Managing Director, MEGA

November 2008

1.Q: MEGA is a leading business information firm that focuses on the global Islamic banking and finance industry. What specific successes have you achieved over the years?

A: When we launched the World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) 15 years ago we were operating in an industry that was still very much in its infancy. That first year we had 120 pioneering delegates and one sponsor. We have been fortunate to grow as the Islamic banking industry has grown and today WIBC attracts more than 1,000 delegates from 45 countries and has grown to have 60 market leaders as sponsors. I’m also happy to say that the very first sponsor is still with us to this day, 15 years later, and not only on WIBC but is now a major client across our entire portfolio of Islamic finance brands. So our success is about client value, it’s about making a promise and then delivering on it – and keeping this up consistently for many years.

Our exclusive focus on the Islamic banking industry has also enabled us to thrive. We don’t have to dabble in a ‘mix n match’ of many industries as other conference companies do. Rather we focus on creating value for the players in the Islamic banking, finance, and investment markets – and that’s all we do. Our clients appreciate this focus and are happy to work with us across a number of our brands.

2.Q: What are the factors that contribute to a successful event?

A: Success starts with the right partners and over the years MEGA has been fortunate to have worked with many industry leaders. Across our portfolio of events we regularly collaborate with institutions such as the Central Bank of Bahrain, Dubai International Financial Centre, McKinsey & Company, and Ernst & Young. Also of critical importance is the desire to go beyond the ‘conference basics’ of the right topics and speakers in order to find innovative new sources of value. The launch of the ‘WIBC McKinsey Competitiveness Report’ has taken the conference format to new levels by creating powerful new research insights into the Islamic banking industry and has over the past 5 years become an indispensable reference resource for industry decision-makers. This approach of adding a substantial research base to the standard conference platform has become so successful that we have extended the initiative with the launch of ‘The World Takaful Report’, and ‘The Islamic Funds & Investments Report’, both done in collaboration with Ernst & Young.

Success is also about bringing together a genuinely international representation of the industry leaders and enabling them to engage the issues that really matter, and identify the future growth opportunities in the Islamic banking industry. The launch of ‘The World Comes to WIBC’ initiative has created a platform for generating new insights into the most exciting countries for Islamic banking; while the success of the UK Pavilion brings to WIBC 18 of Britain’s key institutions and leaders in the Islamic finance market.

3.Q: There is an increasing awareness in Islamic banking even to non-Muslims, clearly evident with Islamic banks opening in Asia; most recently in Hong Kong. Will MEGA create issue-related conferences to respond to this growth? Will you expand the venues of The World Islamic Banking Conference (WIBC) in order to tap the growing markets?

A: In addition to the phenomenal growth in our traditional markets of the GCC we are also seeing Islamic finance achieve significant market presence in Asia as well as in non-Islamic geographies such as Europe and North America. The launch of Euro WIBC in London during July 2008 was a huge success and tapped into the UK government’s plans to establish London as a key international centre for Islamic finance. We’re currently working on a number of expansion opportunities with our key clients that will take our brands to new markets.

4.Q: The liquidity problems in huge conglomerates like Lehman Brothers and American Insurance Group are some topics that WIBC delegates would want to discuss. Although these issues do not directly concern Islamic banking. Is the 15th Annual WIBC going to put focus on the ongoing credit crisis?

A: The credit crisis is having a profound effect on the international financial markets and a number of major players have been severely impacted. While Islamic financial institutions have thus far appeared to be immune from the direct effects of the crisis, we will address the issue during a session at the 15th Annual World Islamic Banking Conference. This session will be led by Toby Birch, whose book, ‘The Final Crash’, has an almost prescient insight into what has become the credit crisis besetting major conventional banks today.

5.Q: How do you see MEGA and your brands growing further in the future?

A: Further exciting growth lies ahead and we are working with our key clients to create new opportunities to expand our portfolio of brands into new market segments and geographies. This year we have already launched the WIBC brand in London very successfully as Euro WIBC and we see many more opportunities to create new brands and further extend our leadership position in the Islamic finance markets internationally.