According to Noor Bank's CEO Hussain Al Qemzi, Islamic banks need to understand that they need to provide efficient and transparent services to their clients. Just being Sharia compliant cannot make a product less transparent and more expensive to access. Technology remains an important driver for innovation. Islamic banks that only look at product development and not product delivery or customer acquisition, will risk being left behind. There is a need to continue product development. Variable return products need to be developed and propagated in the market. According to Al Qemzi, it is important to refute traditional sayings that Sharia compliance limits innovation. Sharia principles reject prohibited practices but do not reject innovation. Progressive Islamic education is a key area, the Islamic banking curricula have to be developed so that they combine financial sciences with other economic sciences.
According to Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC), leveraging the opportunities that Islamic banking and finance instruments represent is now more critical than ever before. DIEDC has identified a five-pronged approach to achieve this. First, Islamic economy has to be treated as one organic ecosystem that transcends borders and special interests. Second, a partnership is needed between Islamic and traditional finance to develop real projects in which both can work as stakeholders. It is also important to look for new strategic partners, not excluding countries that are experiencing internal conflicts. Such partnerships should be a true reflection of mutual interests. Islamic financial institutions have to factor in inclusive development and social impact as key priorities.
Bahrain-based Bank Alkhair has obtained approval from the State Bank of Pakistan to sell its stake in Pakistan’s Burj Bank to Al Baraka Pakistan Limited (ABPL). This transaction follows the announcement on 5 September 2016 about the merger of Pakistan’s Burj Bank and ABPL, creating an institution with assets totaling more than $1.1 billion. Ayman Sejiny, Group CEO of Bank Alkhair said the bank was pleased to sell its stake in Pakistan’s Burj Bank to Al Baraka Pakistan Limited. Bank Alkhair has completed several landmark transactions since its inception, including the establishment of t’azur, a regional Takaful company and the acquisition of Bahrain Financing Company, the oldest foreign exchange and remittance houses in the GCC.
Silatech founder and chairperson HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser witnessed the signing of a number of Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with its partners to support the Arab youth. HH Sheikha Moza also chaired the first meeting of the new Board of Trustees of Silatech at which Silatech’s annual performance 2016 and strategy and achievements report 2016 were presented. Silatech signed an agreement with QNB Africa to empower Youth in Sudan with Sama Al Shabab Portfolio. This way QNB Sudan will direct 12% of its portfolio towards financing youth enterprises. Another MoU to employ Tunisian youth was signed in order to create 50,000 jobs by 2020 and reduce migration of Tunisian competencies abroad. In another agreement, Silatech partnered with the World Congress for Muslim Philanthropists to develop the first innovative Micro-waqf platform to connect youth entrepreneurs with donors and investors.
The assets in #Bahrain’s Islamic banking sector have risen from $1.9 billion in 2000 to $25.1 billion in 2015 and account for around 13% of the kingdom’s total banking assets. According to Director & Group CEO of Al Salam Bank-Bahrain, Yousif Abdulla Taqi, the bank is particularly appealing to a growing number of international clients. Investors are attracted to Islamic finance products for various reasons such as: diversification, ethical investments and asset-based investments. Al Salam Bank-Bahrain (ASBB) has a 6% market share of total Bahraini bank financing. The bank recently signed an agreement with Eagle Hills Diyar and Diyar Al Muharraq to set up an escrow account for the real estate development projects in the kingdom.
Malaysia and Bahrain should take the lead in exploring the potential of introducing the world’s first Islamic financial technology (fintech). According to Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) Director David Parker, the favourable initiatives undertaken by regulators from both countries provide a positive edge for Islamic fintech. In Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia Governor, Datuk Muhammad Ibrahim said a regulatory framework to enable the adoption of fintech would likely be announced by year-end. During the 23rd Annual World Islamic Banking Conference held here, Bahrain Central Bank Governor Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj hinted that the bank would soon issue regulations to facilitate fintech solutions. Bahrain Islamic Bank CEO Hassan Amin Jarrar described the need to introduce Islamic fintech to the world Islamic financial market as "critical" and if Malaysia and Bahrain do not take the first step, other big countries will snatch away the advantages.
With the growing demand for Islamic finance, the need for specially-educated professionals in the field becomes crucial. Ahmed Alkholifey, chairman of Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) elaborated this idea in his keynote speech on the second day of the 23rd World Islamic Banking Conference. As an attempt to tackle the lack of human capital in Islamic banking industry, the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) attempts to train individuals on the field providing degrees that combine theory and practice. Ahmed A. Hameed Al-Shaikh, deputy director of BIBF, said one of the most popular courses was Advanced Diploma in Islamic Finance (ADIF), which gives a general yet intensive overview of Islamic finance. Education provided at BIBF is tailored to cater to each group of students as needed.
Mohammed Al-Quwaiz, vice chairman of the #Saudi Capital Market Authority (CMA), underscored the importance of Sukuk and debt instruments for investors. He made the remarks during the opening of Sukuk Conference with the theme of "Sukuk Market: Challenges and opportunities" in Riyadh. The two-day event was organized by CMA in collaboration with the World Bank. Al-Quwaiz noted that Sukuk and debt markets represent important options to provide funding for various projects and facilities. The conference covers the elements of Sukuk markets, the dynamics of Sukuk markets, ways to create an effective environment for Sukuk market, regulatory issues and corporate governance in Sukuk market, and the role of debt markets in economic growth. The conference is discussing the challenges in Saudi Arabia in particular and in the GCC states in general.
Al Baraka Banking Group is targeting the sale of capital-boosting sukuk worth $300 million in the first quarter of 2017. The announcement was made on the sidelines of an Islamic banking conference by the group's CEO Adnan Ahmed Yousef. He also added that the issue would enhance the bank's core Tier 1 capital. Al Baraka had a total capital adequacy ratio of 15.15 percent as of June 30, according to a regulatory disclosure on its website.
According to the Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Report 2016, Bahrain leads the GCC’s Islamic finance development for the fourth consecutive year. The report is jointly produced by Thomson Reuters and the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD). Bahrain ranks first globally in terms of Governance due to its well established regulatory environment and governance mechanisms. The regulations cover Islamic financial institutions including Islamic asset management and Sukuk. Bahrain is among the top ten countries for the other indicators as well. For the Knowledge indicator, its Islamic finance ecosystem is supported by 17 providers offering Islamic finance related education including universities and institutions. Meanwhile, its Islamic financial institutions continue to contribute socially, with US$ 18.5 million charity, zakat and Qardh al Hasan funds disbursed in 2015.
GFH Financial Group (GFH) has signed a final Sukuk restructuring agreement with Gulf Holding Company (GHC) and Al Rajhi Bank. The agreement allows for the rescheduling of the Villamar project’s finances and officially marks the re-launch of the project located in the Bahrain Financial Harbour. Villamar @ The Harbour is one of the flagship projects of GHC and is valued at $700 million, being a residential complex spread over 35,900 square meters. As per the agreement, GFH will participate in financing completion of the project with an amount up to $50 million. The restructuring will have a positive impact on GFH’s shareholding in Gulf Holding Company.
Islamic banks are gradually embracing socially responsible finance, from renewable energy to microfinance efforts, helping unlock new funding sources for environmentally-friendly projects, an industry survey shows. The two sectors have developed separately from each other, but green projects could benefit from tapping Islamic banks in countries like the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia, where they now hold a quarter of total banking assets.
Around two-thirds of financing in Saudi Arabia follows Islamic principles, which forbid investing in gambling, tobacco and alcohol. This resembles the screening methodology used by ethical funds in Western markets. Green finance is increasingly important for Islamic banks seeking to differentiate themselves from their conventional peers, the Bahrain-based General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) said in a report.
Next week’s influential World Islamic Banking Conference in Bahrain will see a lot of interesting and highly relevant keynotes, debates and panels, but also a premiere that highlights a phenomenon not yet clearly studied in the industry: The role of women in Islamic finance and the opportunities that arise for them.
Simply Sharia Human Capital, a London-based recruitment and training center solely dedicated to Islamic finance, at the conference will unveil a report called “Women in Islamic Finance & Islamic Economy: Unlocking Talent,” one of the rare studies that actually look into roles, careers and achievements of women in the Islamic finance industry, and the job opportunities it holds for female career seekers from an educational perspective.
In order to improve the feasibility of middle- and low-income housing, eight main links must be optimised. The cost of land, trunk infrastructure, site planning, design, financing, construction, offtake, and management must all be lowered, while producing high-quality units close to employment, healthcare, educational, and recreational amenities. In turn, policy-makers and developers must examine each development stage carefully, identifying associated costs and eliminating unnecessary ones. Minimum onsite parking requrements can negatively impact the feasibility of middle- and low-income housing. Changes to onsite parking requirements must be supported by well-managed on-street parking and other public parking options. Advanced data collection technology could also be enlisted to measure parking use in residential buildings and to fine-tune parking options based on real-world conditions.
The Shari’ah Board of AAOIFI held its annual meeting from 17 to 19 November 2016 in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The meeting was concluded with issuance of a number of resolutions as well as the adoption of two new Shari'ah standards. The new standard on the Liability of Investment Manager defines the concepts of transgression and negligence and breach of contractual stipulations on the part of the investment manager. The standard also sets out the Shari'ah rulings pertaining to investment manager's liability or volunteering to bear liability. AAOIFI has also approved a new standard on Gold and it Trading Controls. The standard will be officially launched at a press conference whose date will be announced shortly. It will also be published together with other standards in the new edition of AAOIFI's standards.
The local unit of HSBC Holdings is advising Saudi Arabia’s Public Pension Agency on the sale of its struggling financial hub to the country’s sovereign wealth fund. The Public Investment Fund is offering to acquire the Riyadh district for less than the pension fund’s 30 billion riyals ($8 billion) investment. The wealth fund is being advised by JPMorgan Chase, but a deal hasn’t been reached yet. The King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD) is about 70% complete and is failing to attract its target clientele, banks, auditors and lawyers. The sale is meant to rehabilitate the 1.6 million square-meter district which includes over 70 buildings. The district will become a special economic zone with looser visa rules and direct links to Riyadh airport as part of plans to restructure the development.
#Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB) expects to secure the licence from the Moroccan authorities for its joint-venture bank in the kingdom before the year-end. CEO Abdulbasit A. al-Shaibei said QIIB firmly believed that Morocco presented a 'good opportunity' for the bank, being a gateway to North Africa, which is in need of Shariah-based, value-driven banking. He said QIIB and its partners in Morocco have identified the branches and installed the IT systems. While there are opportunities, al-Shaibei said any new market would pose some challenges. In terms of overseas ventures, QIIB will now be focused only on Morocco. Al-Shaibei said 2016 was a challenging year not just in the Middle East, but everywhere. However, he said he remained very optimistic about the Qatari economy and the future opportunities of the country.
Saudi Investment Bank closed a 500 million riyals ($133.3 million) Tier 1 sukuk sale on Monday. The subordinated Islamic bond was sold privately. The debt transaction will boost the bank's capital base and its capital adequacy ratio, in addition to diversifying the Saudi bank's funding sources and its maturity profile. The joint lead managers of the transaction were Alistithmar for Financial Securities and Brokerage and J.P. Morgan Saudi Arabia.
Trading of shares in Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union National Bank and Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank were suspended on Sunday. The shares jumped last week because of renewed speculation that the Abu Dhabi government might engineer a merger between ADCB and UNB, and another between ADIB and Al Hilal Bank. Both moves would be part of an efficiency drive. There was no immediate official statement from the banks, but banking industry sources said the banks were expected to send statements denying that they had plans to merge.
The newly formed Islamic investment bank ADCorp has named Talal Al Zain as its chief executive. Its two main shareholders, Abu Dhabi Financial Group (ADFG) and GFH Financial, said the new company has an authorised capital of US$100 million and will be the first Sharia-compliant institution in Abu Dhabi Global Market. Mr Al Zain, formerly chief executive of PineBridge Investments Middle East, said that ADCorp would focus on corporate finance, wealth and asset management for institutions and ultra high net worth clients. He said that geographically the firm’s investment strategy will allow ADCorp to become the long-term business partner of choice for clients in the region.