Gulf Times

#Qatar Islamic Bank offers family shield ‘takaful’ policy

Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB) launched its family shield takaful policy, designed to provide nationals and residents financial security during unforeseen circumstances. The product is tailor-made to mitigate financial liabilities of the family of the insured, in case of unforeseen events like death or disability. For QR75 per month, customers can purchase a family shield term takaful plan through the QIB mobile app and get takaful coverage for QR250,000. QIB continues to make all financial products and services available digitally. It offers customers the possibility to perform all daily banking needs through its mobile app at any time, from anywhere, without the need to visit a branch.

Virus crisis highlights potential role of Islamic finance in reaching sustainable development goals

Amid an ongoing severe global healthcare crisis some research institutions and scientific entities are wondering if and how the world will change after the virus has eventually subsided. A new report issued last week is shedding light on the anticipated fundamental changes of the corporate world in terms of economic and social sustainability. The report is entitled "Islamic Finance and the SDGs: Framing the Opportunity" and is released as the first edition of the new "Thought Leadership Series" by the Islamic Finance Council UK (UKIFC) in partnership with the International Shariah Research Academy for Islamic Finance. The report states that the Islamic finance industry could play a key role in contributing to achieving the SGDs formulated by the United Nations. The UKIFC acknowledges that Islamic finance institutions are just at an early stage of engagement with the SDGs. Steps to be taken were therefore an improvement in understanding of how any given organization can effectively engage with the SDGs.

Islamic finance gaining stronger foothold in #China

As this year’s GDP growth of China is forecast to reach a 44-year low of just 2.5%, there is enough ongoing in the background to prepare for a post-coronavirus rebound. One such sector bustling with activity is Islamic finance which has grown in importance since China embarked on the program of the New Silk Road, officially known as Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Expanding across Central and Western Asia and eventually the Middle East, the BRI leads through many Islamic economies and jurisdictions, so it is obviously advantageous for Islamic finance and halal trade to join and contribute to the BRI. There is also development of the sector within China itself. Malaysia’s Affin Islamic Bank together with Hong Kong-based Bank of East Asia has been looking into the opportunity of launching Islamic banking services in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. China’s Ningxia and Xinjiang autonomous regions are home to a Muslim population of about 25mn.

Qatari humanitarian organisation pledges $43mn to UNHCR Refugee Zakat Fund

Qatar based Thani Bin Abdullah Bin Thani Al-Thani Humanitarian Fund will contribute $43mn to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refugee Zakat Fund. UNHCR also launched the findings of its 2020 Islamic Philanthropy Report. According to the report, in 2019 the Refugee Zakat Fund received $43mn, including the largest ever single contribution made by Thani Bin Abdullah Bin Thani Al-Thani Humanitarian Fund of over $35mn. The Fund’s Zakat contribution has helped support 164,696 vulnerable families. The donation has provided much-needed cash assistance to fulfill immediate needs, as well as, the provision of food.

Islamic Development Bank comes to the rescue of virus-hit members

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has set up an emergency funding line to tackle the coronavirus crisis. The Strategic Preparedness and Response Facility with a volume of $730mn is established in order to support the member countries and to mitigate the negative health and socio-economic impact of the pandemic. The emergency funding includes $280mn from the IsDB’s Bank and Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development to be used for sovereign projects and programmes, $300mn from IsDB’s division International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation to support trade finance among member countries, as well as $150mn to be applied to insurance coverage.

Foreign banks invited to open Islamic branches in the #Philippines

With the approval of a new Islamic banking law in the Philippines doors are now open for domestic and foreign banks to open an Islamic banking window or to establish a subsidiary Islamic bank in the country. The law states that it is the responsibility of an Islamic bank, or window, to ensure its compliance with Shariah principles. Like in other Muslim nations without a central regulatory Shariah board, Islamic banks in the Philippines will have to constitute their own Shariah advisory council. Under the law, Islamic banks in the Philippines can offer current accounts, savings accounts, investment accounts and foreign currency deposits, among other financial products. They can also issue Shariah-compliant funding instruments, including sukuk, upon approval by the central bank’s monetary board.

#Qatar reaches out to Shariah market in #Malaysia, #Turkey

Qatar has taken the lead in reaching out to Malaysia and Turkey through which the country aims to be the dominant player in the global Shariah financial landscape. Under the proposed plan, Turkey would cover Islamic finance needs in Europe, Qatar would serve the greater Middle East and North Africa and Malaysia will continue to serve the Asian markets. The London Stock Exchange is currently a global venue for the issuance of sukuk, while Hong Kong and Luxembourg have also made inroads but Qatar believes the market should be led by Muslim countries. Qatar Financial Center (QFC) Authority CEO Yousuf Mohamed al-Jaida has a vision to cover the entire globe’s Islamic financial transactions between three financial centres, Doha, Istanbul and Malaysia, therefore he sees a need to share platforms and technology.

Steady uptrend for Islamic finance in Pakistan: SBP

The Islamic banking and finance sector in Pakistan continues to be on an upward trajectory, with assets, deposits and the number of branches of Islamic banks all showing solid growth. According to the latest Islamic Banking Bulletin issued by the State Bank of Pakistan on September 13, assets of Pakistan’s Islamic banking industry stood at Rs2,992bn ($19.8bn) by June-end, 2019, a growth of 20.6% as compared to June-end, 2018.

Islamic finance a main pillar for the Islamic digital economy

Muslim countries are increasingly working on establishing an ecosystem called "inclusive Islamic digital economy."
Such a concept aims at combining the core sectors of what today constitutes the digital economy under Shariah compliance, besides Islamic finance and investment products, also e-commerce, food, transportation and logistics, the sharing economy, as well as lifestyle, travel and entertainment. Forecasts say that the global Islamic digital economy will reach an estimated value of $277bn as of 2020. This data suggests that the Islamic digital economy is going to be a huge opportunity for businesses in the future and cannot be ignored by any market player. In Islamic finance, micro-financing, co-investment platforms and online investment advisory are currently the most prevalent services. However, there is still accumulated demand for online incubation funds and start-up financing, including Islamic crowd funding.

HBKU’s College of Islamic Studies calls for research papers

The College of Islamic Studies at Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU) has announced a Call for Papers for its International Conference on Islamic Finance and Circular Economy. The conference is jointly organised with the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC) Authority and will take place from December 3-5 in Doha. During the three-day conference, attendees will examine the emergence of a circular economic paradigm in recent years, exploring the means, processes and incentives to learn from nature and to minimise waste. Scholars are invited to submit their papers on topics such as: Circular Economy: An Islamic Perspective; Circular Economy: Concepts, Models - Challenges and Opportunities; Circular Economy and Islamic Finance; Circular Economy: Urban Innovative Actions and Design; and Transition to Circular Economy: Case Studies. Both Arabic and English manuscripts will be accepted.

Islamic Finance Centre opens in #Kazakhstan

Qatar's Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU), Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, and Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) have opened an Islamic Finance Centre (IFC) in Kazakhstan. The opening ceremony was attended by HBKU president Dr Ahmad M Hasnah, along with the rector of Al-Farabi University, Dr Galym Mutanov, and AIFC board vice chairman Yernur Rysmagambetov. The IFC is equipped with the most advanced technological tools offering training programmes with the aim of becoming a research hub and educational cluster in Islamic finance. HBKU's College of Islamic Studies (CIS) will support this centre and the two institutions will be working on student exchange programmes, joint conferences, and mutual research projects.

#Sukuk remains a key vehicle for infrastructure financing in Asia

Sukuk remains an important segment in Islamic finance in Asia where they are preferentially used to fund large public or private infrastructure or combined public-private projects. Recent estimates by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) have put the infrastructure financing needs of developing Asian economies at $22.6tn from now up to 2030, which equates to $1.7tn per year. Looking back, more than ten Asian countries issued a total of $73.1bn in infrastructure sukuk between 2002 and the end of 2015. Malaysia’s ongoing Economic Transformation Programme is expected to accelerate the issuance of Infrastructure sukuk. In addition, China’s Asia-wide Belt and Road Initiative has created a business case for Islamic funding. The Philippines and Indonesia are both seeking to use sukuk for badly needed infrastructure improvements. Kazakhstan and more Central Asian countries are expected to follow.

#Qatari issuers raise $19.97bn, lead GCC bonds and #sukuk market in H1

According to a recent report by Kuwait Financial Centre, Qatari issuers led the GCC aggregate bonds and sukuk market in the first half of this year, raising a total of $19.97bn. The report stated that the aggregate primary issuance of bonds and sukuk by GCC entities, including central banks’ local issuances, GCC sovereign and corporate issuances, totalled $95.25bn in H1, 2018, which represents a 9.64% increase on H1, 2017. Qatar raised $12bn and Kuwait was the only GCC sovereign entity not tapping the international bond markets in H1, 2018. Conventional issuances raised $50.17bn, or 80.19%, of the total amount raised in GCC bonds and sukuk market during H1, 2018. Sukuk raised $12.39bn, 30.84% lower compared to $17.93bn raised in H1, 2017 and represented a share of 19.81% of the market in H1 2018.

#Indonesia’s Bank Mandiri is on track to list its Islamic finance unit in 2020

Indonesia’s Bank Mandiri plans to list its Islamic finance unit Mandiri Syariah in 2020. According to Mandiri’s president Kartika Wirjoatmodjo, the Islamic bank is seeing 16% to 17% growth in savings, triple the pace of conventional banks. Indonesian authorities are nudging commercial banks to widen the pool of Shariah-compliant products for the nation’s more than 260mn people and the government is aiding the efforts by selling sovereign sukuk. With assets of about 93tn rupiah ($6.4bn), Mandiri Syariah is Indonesia’s largest Islamic finance company. Wirjoatmodjo expects the pool to top 100tn rupiah by the end of this year. Total assets at Indonesian Shariah banks were 426tn rupiah at the end of May, compared with 7,673tn rupiah for conventional banks.

Common Shariah norms for Islamic finance still remain a tricky issue

Shariah governance and regulations in Islamic finance remain a diverse topic despite countless initiatives to set a common international framework. There are different approaches towards establishing unified standards. Another issue is that Islamic scholars are often of different opinion on a subject, owing to different interpretations of Islamic laws. In countries with more liberal interpretations of Shariah rules such as Malaysia or Turkey, economic factors will be given more weight at the cost of Shariah principles, which can lead to a conflict of interest. Countries with comprehensive guidelines on Shariah banking are Sudan, Indonesia and Malaysia. Oman, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nigeria also have regulatory bodies and common guidelines. The UAE, Kuwait and Qatar are practising self-regulation of Islamic financial institutions. All this makes a common regulatory structure on Shariah compliance an extremely tricky issue.

A new term is born: Shariah #fintech, and it has quite some potential

#Indonesia’s Deputy Finance Minister Mardiasmo said at the third Annual Islamic Finance Conference that fintech will play an important role in Islamic finance. Shariah fintech is a new buzzword to describe the venture of financial technology into Islamic finance. The status quo is that few Islamic banks have been open to adapt new technologies, but many scholars in Shariah boards are challenged in this particular case of progress meeting tradition. The result is that not Islamic banks are the drivers for Shariah fintech, but startups, entrepreneurs and inventive enterprises. In Indonesia online microfinance services are part of this new wave of Shariah fintech. Some Shariah fintech startups are focusing on agri-finance platforms, Islamic crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending and mobile payment applications, while others are developing blockchain solutions for Islamic finance services, automated halal investment, trading platforms and robo-advisers.

East Africa rides the Islamic finance train; #Uganda next to join

Countries in East Africa are increasingly joining the Islamic finance industry as their Muslim population grows and demand for Shariah-compliant banking and finance rises. In Ethiopia the central bank is planning to develop Islamic finance in order to improve financial inclusion, while Somalia’s central bank has given licences to six Islamic Banks and two takaful companies. Both Tanzania and Kenya have recognised the potential of Islamic finance, in Rwanda Islamic finance made its debut in 2016 with an Islamic microfinance Institution. Only Burundi, South Sudan and Eritrea don’t have ambitions to set up Islamic banks. The latest regional entrant in the Islamic finance sector is Uganda. Finance minister Patrick Ocailap said that a framework for the implementation of Islamic banking in the country has been developed and will be operational by October 2018.

Islamic finance feels heat from $700mn Dana saga

Global standards are likely to become more explicit and a shift to centralised regulation may accelerate after Dana Gas reached a conditional deal with creditors on its contested $700mn sukuk issue. Dana shook the industry last June, saying it would not redeem its sukuk on maturity. It proposed swapping them for new sukuk with lower profit rates. The original sukuk used a mudaraba structure, which Dana said had fallen into disuse. Investors have been worried by the prospect of other issuers avoiding redeeming their sukuk by saying conditions have changed. According to Akram Laldin, deputy chairman of the Malaysian central bank, the Dana saga had strengthened the case for setting up centralised bodies that could approve Islamic contracts and rule on disputes. The Dana case appears to mean the end of the old mudaraba sukuk structure, criticised as un-Islamic by some scholars due to features such as guarantees on principal and fixed returns.

Asia’s Islamic finance industry growing stronger by the year

The Malaysia International Islamic Finance Center (MIFC) published in cooperation with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) the latest report entitled “Islamic finance in Asia: Reaching new heights”. According to the report, Asia’s Islamic finance assets registered an annual growth of 8.4% between 2011 and 2016 and stood at $528.7bn, or 26% of the world’s Shariah-compliant financial assets, at the end of 2017. Furthermore, Asia has grown to the largest market for sukuk. $52.3bn or 52.5% of all newly issued sukuk came from Asia in 2017, with most notable contributors being Hong Kong, Indonesia and Pakistan. The region also has a global market share of 60.7% of sukuk outstanding and is market leader in Islamic funds. The report states that Malaysia, Bangladesh, Brunei and Indonesia are currently among the most developed Islamic banking jurisdictions in Asia.

The rise of Muslim #Millennials and what it means for Islamic finance

Millennials are the generational demographic bracket following Generation X, which was a more consumerist, independent-minded age cohort. In the Muslim world, the Arab Spring, the Global Recession and other developments like dropping oil prices had major impact on this generation. A study by credit card firm Visa showed that Millennials make up the fastest-growing consumer segment in the GCC region. Visa estimates that Millennials in the UAE will receive an average income of $40,000 annually by 2019 which naturally makes them an important customer segment for banks. Millennials are generally savvy with digital technologies and the sharing economy. They have a more liberal approach to economics, which means that they are generally not brand-loyal but rather look for the best deal. Muslim Millennials are truly asserting their needs in Islamic finance, as they do in halal travel, food, media and fashion. For Islamic banks, this means that laggards will lose out on this very important customer segment, if they do not invest in their digital banking solutions.

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