The Islamic Bank of Asia, backed by Southeast Asia's top lender, is on the hunt for acquisition opportunities in Malaysia and Indonesia to gain a foothold in the populous Muslim retail markets.
Asia is the bank's immediate priority for expansion although it is also keen on Saudi Arabia, UAE and Kuwait, the lender's chief executive Vince Cook said.
"We don't close off any options at this early stage but my expectation is that we would actually start in those markets with our own representation in our own name," the veteran Islamic banker and former Barclays executive said.
Islamic banks are turning to retail consumer demand for growth as the explosive rise of the sharia bond market slows markedly amid the global credit crisis.
Rising demand for ethical investments and growing interest by non-Muslims in Islamic finance have also turned the retail business into a potential major growth market.