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Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank says its ramping up spending on digital technologies

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) is planning to spend significant financial resources on digital technology this year. The lender is not rushing to downsize its branch network, as clients continue to value human interaction. According to Phil King, head of retail banking at ADIB, the bank is also planning to open three to five branches across the UAE next year. King noted that while mobile banking transactions at ADIB rose 49% in the first half of the year, there was a 10% drop in visits made by customers to the bank’s branches in the same period. He added that new branches would be smaller in size, ranging between 35 to 70 square meters versus the larger ones of the past. As a result of the bank’s increase in consumer lending, ADIB’s retail staff has grown 7% so far this year to 247 employees compared to a year-earlier period. ADIB's second-quarter net profit rose 8.7%, beating analyst forecast, thanks to a drop in provisions, gains in income from credit cards and other fee products.

Responsible Investing: Shariah-compliant #microfinance investment fund eyeing Asean opportunities

Investing in microfinance institutions (MFIs) has become increasingly popular in the last decade. According to a 2016 report, microfinance investment vehicles (MIVs) have seen capital inflows of US$1.1 billion per year since 2006. The market size at end-2015 was US$11 billion, a fivefold increase from US$2.1 billion in 2006. While MIVs usually target countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the report points out that Asia has witnessed the largest growth in this respect. Matthew Martin, founder of microfinance investment fund Blossom Finance, points out that microfinance can better serve the needs of communities than the top-down, one-size-fits-all model of retail banking. The fund is currently limited to US accredited investors due to legal issues, but Martin hopes to open it up to other investors too. Blossom Finance only invests in shariah-compliant MFIs specifically focused on Indonesia.

SC and ISRA publish textbook on "#Sukuk: Principles and Practices"

In #Malaysia the Securities Commission (SC) and The International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA) have released a joint publication on "Sukuk: Principles & Practices". The textbook was launched by His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah. The new textbook focuses on the theories and practices governing sukuk across various jurisdictions while adopting a global perspective. Is serves as a source of reference to academicians, students and practitioners to gain greater understanding on sukuk. Recently, Malaysia witnessed the issuance of the world’s first green sukuk under SC’s Sustainable & Responsible Investment (SRI) Sukuk framework. This affirmed the country’s position as a leading Islamic finance marketplace and centre for sustainable finance.

Etiqa, ethics and #insurtech

Insurance technology or insurtech strives to innovate the insurance business of risk management. As a subset of fintech, insurtech uses big data to form a precise risk profile of the subject that is being covered. According to Maybank Ageas CEO Kamaludin Ahmad, one example is the telematics system in vehicle-monitoring. He said the intended market would include logistics companies, delivery companies and even small-medium enterprises with only three to five vehicles. Kamaludin believes insurtech can be sold and will be beneficial to people. However, it requires a change of mindset. Maybank Ageas and its household brand Etiqa Takaful are dominating the market share, capturing over half the total insurance and takaful market. Some argue that the size of the Maybank-Etiqa insurance is too big, to the extent of being deemed a monopoly. Kamaludin thinks Maybank is far from monopolising anything, the focus is not on pushing sales, but on being the best in the sector.

Bank AlJazira Partners with ShoCard to Leverage its #Blockchain Identity Management Platform

ShoCard, Ateon and Bank AlJazira are working in partnership to launch the first-of-its-kind use case in the region. The use case uses ShoCard's blockchain-based identity management solution along with the KYC solution from SettleMint. ShoCard's technology can be used for password-less login, whereby user credentials are not stored on any computer. ShoCard also ensures no personal or financial data is exchanged during transactions, thus resulting in fast, trusted authentications. Expected benefits of the system include reduced cost for identity management, reduced fraud and improved customer satisfaction. ShoCard's use case samples are easy to develop and can quickly integrate into clients' infrastructure. ShoCard has a ready-to-go complete stack with patented technology.

An #Iranian Bank Has Invested over 26 million Dollars on #Startups

Iranian banks have decided to get more engaged with the country’s startup scene. According to Alireza Daliri, Deputy Director of Iran’s Vice-Presidency for Science and Technology, Bank Melli Iran has invested around over 26 million dollars in the country’s startup market. Daliri added that the Vice-Presidency had offered the banks to either establish their own accelerators or invest on large successful and on-going projects. Eventually, the banks decided to go with the latter. Daliri added that the Vice-Presidency has started negotiations with a number of Iranian banks such as Saderat, Sepah, Export Development Bank, Tourism Bank, Post Bank and Refah, but it is difficult to persuade them. Iran’s startup scene has witnessed exponential growth in the recent years. The number of knowledge-based firms in the country has increased from 52 in March 2014 to 2732 until October 2016, but lack of funding is still a major issue.

#Green #sukuk set to become sustainable #investment tools

Sukuk investing in environmentally sustainable projects has become increasingly popular in the recent past. In the latest development, Malaysia saw its first green sukuk in July, when solar power firm Tadau Energy came out with a green sukuk with a tenure of 16 years, raising 250mn ringgit ($59.2mn). Malaysia’s Securities Commission came up with a Sustainable Responsible Investment Sukuk Framework as early as in 2014. This regulation clarified that proceeds of such sukuk should be used to preserve the environment, conserve the use of energy and promote renewable technologies. The World Bank lauded Malaysia for its innovative approach. Another initiative emerged in the Gulf Cooperation Council. The Green Sukuk and Working Party was set up as a collaboration of experts in project development, environmental standards, capital markets, and Islamic finance. Founders include Masdar City’s Clean Energy Business Council, the Climate Bonds Initiative and the Gulf Bond and Sukuk Association. The group is now developing green sukuk for interested issuers, including governments, companies and development banks.

SECP introduces draft of Sharia Advisors #Regulations 2017

To enhance the credibility of Islamic financial services sector, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) introduced a draft of Sharia Advisors Regulations 2017. The new regulations are expected to professionalise Shariah advisory services. Companies would only be able to engage the advisors who would be on the SECP’s panel of Shariah advisors. To join this panel, advisors need to meet proper criteria and abide by a code of conduct that emphasises independence and objectivity. The draft of Shariah Advisors Regulations 2017 is available on the SECP’s website and is now open to the public for consultation.

#Malawi approves #Islamic #Banking, Sharia-compliant services

The Malawi government has approved to embrace the Islamic banking system, however not through fully fledged Islamic banks, but through the "window model" only. According to Reserve Bank Governor Dalitso Kabambe, bank supervisors will shortly be engaging with each bank to prove guidance on reporting requirements of Sharia-compliant products and services. Kabambe promised that as soon as the guidelines are developed, they will be shared with each bank. In relation to this, the Muslim Association of Malawi recently invited an expert in Islamic Finance who facilitated the meeting. The South African Mufti, Ismail Ebrahim Desai, a renowned scholar in Islamic Finance advised the government on issues of proper regulation and supervision.

Sultan Nazrin Says Relentless Support For #Islamic #Finance Is Critical

The Sultan of Perak State, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, spoke at the opening ceremony of the 14th Kuala Lumpur Islamic Finance Forum (KLIFF) 2017. He said Islamic finance has come far but there are at least six challenges at the moment. He said challenges at present include lower oil prices and changes in the global regulatory and supervisory framework. Sultan Nazrin said Islamic finance managed to cope better than its secular counterpart in terms of growth, albeit from a smaller base. Sultan Nazrin addressed the six challenges faced by the industry. In his view, the Islamic banking industry needs to improve profitability, the industry needs to maintain high standards of loan quality and corporate governance. Islamic capital markets need to grow at a faster pace, the negative trends of corporate issuances of sukuk need to be reversed. The Islamic equity market and takaful insurance need more development. Sultan Nazrin reminded that Islamic finance community must not be deviated from the objective of doing good.

#Britain plans new #sukuk deal; Brexit may boost Islamic finance

Britain plans to reissue Islamic bonds in 2019 in a sign the country’s exit from the European Union may accelerate plans to develop the Islamic finance industry. In 2014, Britain became the first Western country to issue sukuk, raising £200mil (RM1.125bil). A spokesperson of the Treasury assured that the UK was committed to ensuring the future success of the sector. Brexit could threaten London’s dominance as a financial centre. A Reuters survey showed around 10,000 finance jobs may shift out of Britain or be created overseas in the next few years because of Brexit, with Frankfurt and Paris benefiting most. According to Bilal Khan, partner at Islamic finance consultancy Dome Advisory, Brexit has increased the government’s interest in Islamic finance. Because of Brexit, the UK is keen to build economic links with non-EU countries. He said a second sovereign sukuk issue by Britain might be expanded to raise as much as £1bil.

Bank Negara: Islamic finance will focus on quality growth

#Malaysia is second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of Islamic banking in the world. Of the US$71 billion Syariah-compliant asset funds managed, 33% are in Malaysia. The country’s central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) continues to raise awareness of Malaysia as an international Islamic financial centre. According to BNM assistant governor Marzunisham Omar, the next area of focus is quality growth. The 16 Islamic banks and 11 takaful operators are seeing value-returns by embarking on initiatives through Value-Based Intermediation (VBI). VBI is a business strategy by Islamic financial institutions, driven by a desire to create value rather than focus on short-term objectives. VBI is a business strategy of the institution to drive growth and sustain growth. It is a collaborative effort by the central bank together with Islamic banking institutions. Today nine Islamic banks are already involved and the central bank is working to develop a value-based scorecard to measure the success of banking institutions.

#Islamic #banks and #Takaful sectors likely to witness more #mergers

The merger of National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD) and First Gulf Bank (FGB) in the UAE last year had triggered a number of unconfirmed reports of bank mergers across the GCC. However, most of these reports were denied by bank managements. While bankers and analysts say the time is ripe for more bank mergers, they expect more merger deals to happen in the Islamic banking and Takaful industry. A proposed merger of Kuwait Finance House and Ahli United Bank is expected to result in second biggest Islamic Bank in the GCC after Al Rajhi Bank. The merger of Qatari banks Masraf Al Rayan, Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar is progressing and is expected to complete by end of the year. Some countries have only a small number of local banks, which limits competition. This means that profitability has remained solid and is therefore less likely to be a driver for M&A. Another stumbling block is the ownership structure of GCC banks, well established local private shareholders often control sizeable stakes and foreign banks only hold minority stakes.

Here’s How #Oman Is Helping Young Omanis Become Future Investors

At the beginning of the new school year, Meethaq Islamic Bank along with the Ministry of Education and Injaz Oman has started a financial literacy program called Little Investor. It covers over 4,000 students in Muscat, Batinah, and Dhofar. The aim of the initiative is to broaden the early financial education among Oman’s kids, to help them create healthy savings habits and to motivate them to develop their entrepreneurial skills. As an example of a successful public-private partnership, the initiative aims to unite the nation and make the people give back to their country. The four pillars of the program include financial literacy, sustainable tourism, green environment and enriched lifestyle. Injaz Oman is a non-profit organization working towards improving young people's leadership and entrepreneurial skills. Meethaq Bank confirmed it would stick to its social responsibility initiatives and would keep investing in the sustainable development of Oman.

Rasmala Trade Finance #Fund surpasses $100 million

Rasmala Investment Bank Limited (RIBL) announced that assets under management in the Rasmala Trade Finance Fund have recently surpassed $100 million. The Fund specialises in providing short-term structured and/or asset-backed liquidity and has delivered 34 consecutive months of positive returns generating an annualised return of 4.5% for investors since inception. The Fund has seen interest from regional and international institutional investors as well as family offices, corporates, and high net worth investors. The Fund provides a regulated Shari'ah compliant investment vehicle to diversify international asset allocation. David Marshall, Head of Products at Rasmala, said the team worked hard on expanding the Fund’s asset base while matching inflows with investment opportunities. He promised to remain focused on tailoring products that offer clients real alternatives.

QINVEST bullish on #Turkey, bets on EM equities

Qatar’s QInvest is set to reinforce its presence in Turkey. Head of Asset Management at QInvest, Dr Ataf Ahmed is seeing huge opportunities in various asset classes in Turkey. In 2016, QInvest acquired ERGO Portfoy, rebranded as QInvestPortfoy and became a leading asset management group in Turkey. The company is also seeing opportunities within Emerging Markets (EM) equities, despite the inherent volatility of the asset class. Inflation is coming in under control and there are a number of positive surprises in economic growth. There is also exposure to broader EM within some of the global funds and mandates, however this represents approximately 10% of total assets across all QInvest funds. In the GCC region businesses have adjusted to low oil prices. According to Ahmed, GCC nations are reinforcing their plans to diversify the economies, moving into sectors like finance, trade and tourism.

Felda to issue #sukuk before year-end

In #Malaysia the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) will issue a RM2 billion long-term sukuk before the end of the year. Chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Abdul Samad added that apart from the sukuk, Felda is also finalising the sale of their hotel in London. Three years ago, Felda Investment acquired Grand Plaza Hotel in the upmarket Kensington area and this hotel became a status symbol for Felda. Shahrir likened the hotel sale to monetising non-core assets of Felda. Earlier in the year, Felda also made some money when it sold its 2% stake in Malayan Banking to the bank for RM280 million. The chairman also noted that sentiment among the settlers had improved considerably. Of the original 112,635 settlers, Shahrir said 94,956, or 84%, had continued to sell their fruits to Felda mills.

Turkey to issue gold-backed bonds and #sukuk from Oct 2

Starting from October 2, Turkey will issue gold-backed bonds and sukuk to attract into the economy gold savings held by households. According to the Turkish treasury, the maturity of the bond and sukuk will be 728 days, with a 6-month interest of 1.20%, index-linked to gold prices.

#Nigeria's 100-bln-naira debut sovereign #sukuk oversubscribed by 5.8 pct -debt office

Nigeria’s government launched a 100-billion-naira debut sovereign sukuk on the domestic market. According to the Debt Management Office, the sukuk was oversubscribed by 5.8%. The bond is structured as a lease and guaranteed by the government of Nigeria. The seven-year Islamic bond fetched 105.87 billion naira in subscription from retail and institutional investors.

#Saudi #insurers soar after decision to allow women to drive

Investors in Saudi Arabia are betting insurance stocks will be key beneficiaries from allowing women to drive. An index composed of 33 insurance stocks rose the most in three months. The Company for Cooperative Insurance, or Tawuniya, increased the most in seven months, other beneficiaries include Al Rajhi Takaful and Walla. The announcement to allow women to drive is one of the most dramatic moves in the government’s bid to open up society. Accroding to Jaap Meijer, head of research at Arqaam Capital, the number of cars in Saudi Arabia is likely to increase at least 20% in the next ten years as a result of the decision. He added that the increase is expected to be gradual. Net loss ratios on female drivers is likely to be lower than for men, as empirical evidence suggests that women are in fact safer drivers than men.

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