Americas

Toronto-Based Wealthsimple Launches Shariah-Compliant Portfolio

#Canadian Wealthsimple Financial introduced a Shariah-compliant portfolio to expand its product offerings in an increasingly crowded robo-adviser market. According to co-founder Michael Katchen, Wealthsimple’s Halal Investing portfolio is aimed at setting the company apart from its peers. He expects the portfolio’s interest to closely mirror the company’s socially responsible products. Wealthsimple’s fees are a flat 0.5% for the first $100,000 invested and drop to 0.4% on any additional investment. Privately held Wealthsimple has raised 100 million Canadian dollars ($79.6 million) over several funding rounds over the past three years led by a subsidiary of the Power Corporation of Canada. Katchen said he expects to tap another round of venture funding before seeking an initial public offering.

Business #schools feed hunger for courses on Islamic finance, aboriginal leadership

As the world of business is global, business schools are getting similarly global in their outlook. The need for a more diverse approach in business schools crosses all levels, from the makeup of faculty and the curriculum to the students themselves. Walid Hejazi, associate professor at University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management stresses that diversity from a business school perspective is not so much a moral or equity imperative as it is about long-term sustainability. In his view, businesses that are diverse in their workforce are not only more innovative, they also work more effectively. Other business schools are following suit emphasising diversity on all levels. For example, the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University introduced an Aboriginal Business and Leadership EMBA program to advance aboriginal leaders’ business education.

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Bitcoin Mania versus Tulip Mania?

Dear Reader,

regular readers may remember my critic on bitcoin from an Islamic perspective missing intrinsic value. The former blog entry you find here: http://www.islamicfinance.de/?q=node/7840 - almost two years ago.

So far bitcoin just went up higher and higher, with wild fluctuations but nevertheless.

It reminds on how bubbles work, think about the tulip mania in 1637 a nice piece of economic history. A single tulip bulb was traded and bought on credit. Check the Wiki page on it:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulip_mania

As bitcoin has even less value than a tulip except for payment purposes, it is the payment functionality, which can lead to destruction. What happens if a new alternative currency is becoming en vogue, which has a better usability and faster transaction time? In my view this is most likely trigger to burst the bubble.

FT Alphaville covers now the difficulties coming up with bitcoin's increasing transaction numbers causing inconvenience in using the digital currency:

https://ftalphaville.ft.com/2017/05/17/2188961/the-currency-of-the-futur...

In the Trump era, one US Muslim #investor tries a louder voice

Bashar Qasem is the most outspoken voice among Muslim investors in the United States. He was the only Islamic financial representative among religious shareholder advocates who sent a letter in February to protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s travel ban. Qasem's Azzad Asset Management firm started its work in 2005, weighing in on issues like worker safety, climate change and lobbying disclosures. This direct advocacy will test whether U.S. Muslim investors will support the sort of faith-based shareholder activism common among other religious groups. Qasem's strategy appears to be helping to differentiate his firm from other asset management firms. Azzad's assets increased 11% in 2016 to US$487 million (£393 million) at year-end. Growth included US$5.7 million into the firm’s mutual funds, the third consecutive year of inflows.

#Suriname #Islamic #bank selects #Kuwaiti technology #partner

Trustbank from Suriname is one step closer to open its doors to customers interested in Islamic banking products after it signed a new licensing deal with the Kuwaiti based software vendor, Path Solutions, to implement Islamic Banking and Investment System as a new core banking platform.
This is major thing for the Path Solutions, as it’s the company’s first Islamic core banking software deal in the Americas. The company won the deal as one of three shortlisted vendors besides Oracle FS, Temenos. Path Solutions won the deal because of ist Sharia compliance, product functionality and technological superiority.

#American #Muslims Grapple With Interest-Based Borrowing

Samantha Lord-Konare converted to Islam six years ago and then she found herself in a quandary because of a student and credit card loan that her new religion prohibited. Lord-Konare vowed not to use her credit card but resolving the issue of her student loan was more challenging.
She consulted the imam who presented her with four options. She could pay off her loan in one lump sum, obtain an interest-free loan, receive the money as a gift, or do her best to pay off her student loan as quickly as she could. "Of course, I had to choose the last. I could never ask someone for that amount of money," said Lord-Konare.
Islamic scholars say there is a clear prohibition on usury in the Koran. The Shariah also stipulates that Muslims should acquire wealth in a legal and ethical manner; any element of usury, gambling or chancing is forbidden.

#GCC sovereigns to lead emerging market #bond issues in #2017

GCC is expected to account for about 31% of sovereign bond issuances from emerging markets this year. The expected 2017 sovereign issues will be distributed among GCC, Eastern Europe Middle East Africa and Latin America, according to forecasts by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Issues from the GCC has been increasing rapidly mainly due to low oil prices, with some new issuers in 2016, and analysts expect the 2017 issuance to continue to be high. Among those, Kuwait inaugurated the external sovereign debt market with $8 billion (Dh29.3 billion) to finance a budget deficit resulting from low oil prices. Sovereign issuance for 2017 is forecast to be 6% higher compared to the previous year. In 2016, sovereigns issued $135 billion, mainly from Latin America, while corporates issued about $300 billion, mainly from Asia. Analysts expect gross sovereign external issuance to come in at $144bn in 2017.

Qatar- Islamic finance making inroads into the #US

Islamic finance is increasingly making inroads into the US in a variety of forms, but widely out of the radar of the broader public. In the recent past, there has been a rise in the number of Islamic financial service providers. There are now about three dozen official Islamic finance providers in the US. Among the top institutions offering Islamic financial services in the country in terms of asset size are Lariba American Finance House and the associated Bank of Whittier in Los Angeles, as well as University Islamic Financial in Michigan. In terms of skills training, Harvard University has an Harvard Islamic Finance Program and the Franco-American Alliance for Islamic Finance is organising Islamic finance seminars this summer. On the consumer side, Islamic finance in the US is mostly prevalent in the real estate market.

Massive gold-backed #ETF certified as sharia compliant

US-based State Street Global Advisors announced that a huge exchange-traded fund for investment in gold has been certified as being sharia compliant. The question of whether ETFs themselves comply with Islamic law has not been addressed. The fund, called SPDR Gold Shares, is one of the world's largest ETFs, having a net asset balance of more than $30 billion. Managed and marketed by State Street Global, it is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The World Gold Council paved the way for certification by asking the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions to determine criteria for gold trading. The AAOIFI announced standards for gold trading in December 2016. Joseph Cavatoni, who is in charge of ETFs at the World Gold Council, said the certification is an important step toward meeting demand for gold in the Islamic financial market.

Azzad joins coalition asking CEOs to oppose Pres. Trump's refugee and immigrant ban

Azzad Asset Management has joined other socially responsible investment institutions in signing a coalition letter to the 19 CEOs who are members of President Trump's Strategic and Policy Forum. The letter asks to oppose the president's recent executive order barring refugees and certain immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries. In addition to public outcry against the ban on humanitarian and constitutional grounds, many have pointed out the negative impact of barring international workers on the economy. The letter was signed by 64 socially responsible investment firms and human rights and religious organizations. The Strategic and Policy Forum's first meeting is scheduled for February 3.

Charles Haresnape to leave Aldermore

Charles Haresnape, Aldermore’s group managing director of mortgages, is leaving the real estate company after six years. Haresnape will be joining shariah-compliant Gatehouse Bank as chief executive. An Aldermore spokeswoman confirmed that Haresnape was leaving and said he had been instrumental to the growth of the company's mortgage business. She added that Charles Haresnape would remain in the business whilst Aldermore searched for his replacement.

Trump policies, higher rates may spark emerging market #debt crisis

US President Donald Trump has been accused of courting international trade friction and a new international debt crisis. There were already signs given the huge debt built up over a decade of record low interest rates, and that rates had begun rising. The next international debt crisis could well be in the emerging market corporate sector. Global debt has reached US$217 trillion, equal to a record 325% of global gross domestic product. Investors in Brazil, South Korea, Thailand, Chile, Czech and Malaysia especially have been big borrowers. While most of this has been in local currencies, corporates in India, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia as well as Hong Kong and Singapore have borrowed heavily in foreign currency. This creates a currency mismatch situation.

Goldmoney Inc. Announces Compliance with Shariah Standard on #Gold

Goldmoney announced that Goldmoney Network Accounts and Wealth Holdings have been endorsed as Shariah-compliant by the Shariah Supervisory Board of Amanie Advisors. Islamic investors can now instantly purchase, save, and transact in gold globally on the Goldmoney platform. Goldmoney's chief strategy officer Josh Crumb said that the company's platform democratizes access to 100% reserved and allocated gold-based savings, payments, and investment solutions. CEO Roy Sebag stated that compliance with Shariah law was an important step in the company's growth, enabling Goldmoney to expand its offerings to the Islamic market.

#Iran, #Venezuela launch joint development bank

Iran and Venezuela inaugurated a joint bank to finance their development projects. The opening ceremony took place in Tehran during a visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. The Tehran based Iran-Venezuela Joint Bank has an initial capital base of 200 million dollars, with each nation providing half of the funds. The Export Development Bank of Iran, which is under sanctions from the US Treasury, was tasked with creating the joint bank. The joint bank will work within Iran’s banking regulations and its activities will be overseen by the Islamic republic’s Central Bank. The board of directors comprises four Iranians and four Venezuelans. A joint investment fund will also be launched in Venezuela.

US Senator refutes fake press release targeting Kuveyt-Turk bank

An unknown group of people have purposefully leaked new allegations surrounding the Turkey-based bank Kuveyt-Turk. A press release published on Nov. 19 claimed that US Senator Dick Durbin would hold hearings to investigate two key banking institutions in Kuwait and whether they helped fund terrorism. The press release read that Durbin would target Kuwait Finance House and its subsidiary in Turkey, the Kuveyt-Turk participation bank. A spokesman at Senator Durbin's office flatly denied the report and said it was completely false. The fake report has surfaced amidst an ongoing court case in California against the two banks on the terror funding charges. Kuveyt-Turk's lawyers dismissed the charges by saying the allegations have no merit because banks are not responsible for the allegations. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the allegations over Kuveyt-Turk and Kuwait Finance House were proof of Western double standards.

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Are Contract for Differences #CFD / #Binary Options halal? Well, no. Why?

Many Muslims contacted me in the last years with one single repeating question: Are CFD and/or Binary Options halal meaning permissible in Islam? There are indeed forex brokers offering so called Islamic accounts avoiding outright interest. But still: A contract of difference does not involve the ownership of any underlying (currency, stocks etc.) hence money against money is exchanged in different amounts - this is the most simple test for the prohibited Riba. Any Muslim receiving such offers should therefore insist of receiving the Fatwa and if not provided leave out.

The intention on those trading activities everyone can ask himself; mostly it will be akin to gambling and this on top of the fact that the trading activity itself is a zero sum game; meaning what one wins another looses, which rules out again to participate in such business. It does not do any better that aside from luck the outcome is influenced by know how - the same is true for classical money games as Poker or Backgammon. Still nobody would classify Poker therefore as halal.

Faith-Based Investor Group Calls for Drugmakers to Be Transparent on Pricing

Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) are asking 17 American drug companies to be more transparent about when and why they raise prices. The investors say rising costs are putting prescription drugs out of reach for many patients. The ICCR hopes the proposals are listed in company proxy statements and put to shareholder votes at annual meetings in spring 2017. Some state legislatures have already introduced bills requiring companies to justify price increases. ICCR member Catherine Rowan hopes they get enough votes to prod companies to adopt pricing-transparency policies. She added that congressional committees have called some pharmaceutical chief executives to testify and the legislative pressures are going to persist.

#Bahrain's Ibdar Bank buys $78M prime #housing complex in Maryland, US

Bahrain-based Ibdar Bank has announced the acquisition of a $78-million multi-family housing property at Montgomery county in Maryland, USA. The area boasts the third-largest commercial downtown in the USA, being home to the headquarters of the White House, World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Ahmed Al Rayes, acting chief executive of Ibdar Bank, said the acquisition was the Bank's first successful foray into the USA and was aligned with the Bank’s strategy to diversify its international real estate portfolio. Bassam Kameshki, the director of Real Estate at Ibdar, said the Bank has selected a straight forward asset class in a strategic location. The investment holding period will be up to 5 years. Besides real estate, Ibdar Bank is also engaged in private equity, capital markets and investment advisory activities.

Islamic Development Bank may help fund #Guyana’s #housing drive

A visiting team from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) met Guyana's officials from the Ministry of Communities and the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) on Friday. Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan said the government recognises housing as a major public policy issue. He disclosed that the initial focus is the construction of 5,000 apartment units as part of medium terms plans to deliver 10,000 units to eligible Guyanese. He expressed optimism that components of the housing program will be included in Guyana’s eventual submission to the IsDB. IsDB's Director of Country Programs Department, Mohammad Alsaati, said that the bank was seeking for specific projects that can be undertaken in the near future and will work with the local stakeholders to develop worthwhile business opportunities.

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