Expanding Worldviews: Attending International Business Guest Lecture with CEO of the United Bank of Albania, Amel Kovačević 

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Student Commentary

By Trevor Morine / Contributor || Edited by Giulia Leo

Being from and living in the same city in the United States my entire life, my perspective of international business on the global scale is relatively narrow. I am from Seattle, Washington, and I am currently pursuing a degree in Finance with a minor in Business Economics. 

Throughout my academic career in the United States, my study of Finance and Business Economics has been primarily focused on U.S. business practices and U.S. economy. I have only taken one International Trade and Finance course at my home university so far, but I believe there is some good to come out of my limited experience in International Business.

Aware of such limited knowledge and experience of the global business world, I was able to come to John Cabot University with an open mind and an eagerness to learn about how cultural, economic, and political differences affect how business is done outside of the United States. I am currently taking International Business here at JCU and since the first two weeks, I have been able to entertain new ideas of how the business world works on a global scale. Earlier in the semester in Professor Ieva Jakobsone Bellomi’s International Business course, our class was lucky enough to hear from the CEO of the United Bank of Albania Amel Kovačević.  

Kovačević presented a guest lecture about Islamic finance and banking, and it was eye-opening. He described some of the main features of Islamic finance including that it is interest-free, it avoids uncertainty or gambling, follows Shariah law, and stays away from investing in unlawful goods or services. Kovačević also explained that Islamic finance is a type of financing that complies with the tenets of the religion of Islam.  

One of the most shocking parts to me was the idea that Islamic financing must be interest-free. Being from the United States, I learn and hear so much about interest rates and how to best benefit from interest in terms of our investments. I have spent much time in a variety of classes calculating different amounts of interest on certain loans, mortgages, and bonds. Having mostly studied American business practices, the idea of interest is all I have come to know, and I just assumed that interest was a normal part of every country’s finances. Yet, according to Kovačević, charging interest or usury is against Islamic religion. The idea of interest-free loaning and borrowing was extremely new to me, and I was very intrigued by how Islamic finances are directly affected by the beliefs of Islam religion.  

Amel Kovačević also described how Islamic banking and finance is not limited to followers of Islam, but there is an ever-growing population of non-Muslims who take ethical and environmental issues into consideration while consuming and investing. Lastly, Kovačević mentioned that Islamic finance also takes into account the idea of sustainable development goals (SDGs). Some of the sustainable development goals include sustainable and resilient infrastructure in cities, conservation of oceans and seas, and achievement of food and water security for all. Mr. Kovačević explained how Islamic finance and banking is considered “business with ethics,” and I believe that this stated sustainable development goals are great examples of how Islamic banking and finance is more than just about the money. 

I am thankful to have had this opportunity to learn and explore Islamic banking and financing. This lecture enabled me to develop a new thought process about how a country’s culture can directly impact business practices and systems. Islamic finance is deliberately impacted by Islam and closely coordinates and complies with the religion.  

Before I came to Rome to study abroad, I would not exactly say that I was close minded, but I’ve had minimal experience applying what I have learned about finance and business economics to countries around the world other than the United States. For most of the time in my education, I have taken what I have learned in class to apply and evaluate how companies in the United States operate, rather than how companies operate on the global scale. Having the opportunity to listen to and learn from a business executive of a foreign country truly helped me immerse myself into how the cultural and political systems of a country and region can affect business around the globe.  

Thank you to Professor Jakobsone Bellomi and Mr. Kovačević for the opportunity to expand my worldviews.

Kovačević’s guest lecture was part of a Spring 2022 lecture series titled “Anima Mundi—Global Perspectives” proposed and organized by Professor Jakobsone Bellomi for the Frank Guarini School of Business.