Mumtaz Rafi, general manager of the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) in Hong Kong, offers a case study in successful Islamic banking.
"[It] works very well for both customers and the banks that serve them," he says. "The global banking crisis of 2008 and 2009 had no impact on Islamic banking. This revealed the strength of its products, mechanisms, protective power and ethical dimension. As with many other banks, Islamic banking is enjoying increasing popularity around the world."
Karachi-based NBP, Pakistan's largest commercial bank, has a remarkable global reach, with a strong presence in Islamic countries such as Bahrain, Egypt, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. It has over 1,250 branches in its homeland.
Founded in 1949, NBP has been in Hong Kong since 1960, with the city serving as its Asia-Pacific headquarters, manned by some 30 staff looking after operations in Japan, South Korea, and China.
Staff turnover is stable, according to Rafi. "This year has been marked by excellent growth. This is most welcome after two very tough years," he adds.
"For those considering a career in banking, character and integrity are very important. If you're getting into banking simply to make a fast buck, you may well learn that you have made a career misstep," Rafi says.
These are exciting times for NBP, which is also the national bank of the second largest Islamic country in the world in terms of population.
The bank has recently announced its intention to establish a world-class training centre in Karachi. It also hopes to initiate an overhaul of the company's corporate culture to ensure higher customer satisfaction and the implementation of the most up-to-date hiring practices that will meet international standards, according to Rafi.
These will be introduced globally, which means an increased workload for Rafi, in an already busy, though profitable, year. But he says that "change, for the benefit of our customers, is a constant in the world of banking."