EdAid has launched the first ever Sharia-compliant crowdfunding platform to finance Muslim students interest-free. QardHasan will help students raise up to £30,000 within 40 days, channelling funds from charitable trusts and potential employers. The UK-based impact investment firm looks to contribute to each crowdfunding campaign by doubling every £500 raised by a borrower through the platform. The firm's founder and chief executive Tom Woolf said the new platform aims to provide affordable and fair funding options to Muslims. Woolf said the project falls somewhere in between LinkedIn and Kickstarter, as it helps students build up a broader network for their academic and professional career.
Amid Brexit-fuelled uncertainty, London is trying to do its best to stay afloat as one of the most important hubs for Islamic finance in the Western world. There are now five fully-fledged Islamic banks, one Shariah-compliant hedge fund manager and one dedicated takaful provider in the UK. Also, there are over 20 banks providing Islamic financial services in “banking windows,” more than in any other European country. They benefit from the depth and liquidity of London’s capital markets, the large pool of expertise offered by specialists. Furthermore, the London Stock Exchange is a key global venue for the issuance of sukuk.
Experts say that one of the biggest drawbacks of Brexit for the entire UK banking industry will be the loss of “passporting” privileges that allow UK banks to access the single EU market without restrictions. Another issue is legal uncertainty for existing Islamic banks over to what extent current banking and financial regulations – which have largely been influenced by EU law – will change.
Gatehouse Bank looks set to expand into Islamic mortgage lending after registering two trademarks for shariah-compliant loans. The lender bought the trademarks for Gatehouse Mortgages and Milestone Mortgages last week. Gatehouse is currently known for shariah-compliant real estate investment and financing. Last month Gatehouse announced it had hired Aldermore group managing director of mortgages Charles Haresnape. Haresnape will join Gatehouse later this year. A Gatehouse spokesman declined to comment.
Yielders has claimed to be the first UK Fintech company gaining a Sharia Compliance Certification. The equity-based property crowdfunding platform, founded by Irfan Khan, successfully completed the independent sharia certification conducted by IFC. Achieving the certification means that Yielders may significantly expand its market presence by operating across Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Being compliant with FCA regulation, Yielders offers the opportunity for the public to invest as little as £100 towards buying a share of a crowdfunded property. Yielders explains that the UK Islamic market is one of the largest, most vibrant and dynamic outside the Middle East. Ethical Islamic investment is described as being crucial to the Yielders’ philosophy. Yielders only offer pre-funded investments to the retail crowd, meaning the assets are already generating an income.
The University of East London Centre for Islamic Finance, Law and Communities held a public lecture on 22 February 2017 focused on FinTech in Islamic Finance. The keynote speaker was Professor Volker Nienhaus. Professor Nienhaus dealt with four topics: Islamic FinTech and crowdfunding regulations, Shari’ah limits to innovation in FinTech, Shari’ah encouragement for FinTech solutions and the potential disruption of Islamic consumer banking by genuine trade credit. Nienhaus predicted that Islamic consumer banking could be disrupted in the future by genuine trade credit. Islamic-compliant cash rich e-commerce platforms could provide financial services equivalent to Amazon or Alibaba on a Shari’ah-compliant basis. These platforms could sell halal goods and approve Shari’ah compliance. These platforms could instantly check the credit worthiness of buyers and would have a higher credit risk tolerance than traditional banks.
Qatar Islamic Bank's QInvest is exiting the St. Edmund’s Terrace LP Fund. The Shari'ah compliant fund was jointly owned by QInvest and a range of GCC institutional and retail investors. It invested GBP 50 million into developing a new, prime residential project through a real estate development company. The Fund was created to provide investors with the opportunity to invest in London’s prime residential market. At completion, the Fund generated 22% net returns to investors. Craig Cowie, Head of Real Estate at QInvest said the returns exceeded expectations and added a notable asset to the luxury real estate market in London. The project, 50 St. Edmund’s Terrace, completed in June 2015 and comprises of three residential blocks and 37 units. It delivered an average selling price in excess of GBP 2,600 per square foot.
Al Rayan Bank has revealed that applications for two of its home finance plans reached an all-time high in 2016, as demand for Islamic finance soared. Both the bank’s home purchase and buy-to-let purchase plans received a record number of eligible enquiries last year. This surge follows a 9% rise in applications to the bank in 2016, marking a 99% increase over the past five years. Keith Leach, chief commercial officer at Al Rayan, said there was still substantial room for growth in the market and the bank expects demand to continue to rise in the coming years. Al Rayan estimates that 94% of its fixed-term deposit customers who joined last year are not of the Muslim faith. The announcement comes just weeks after Al Rayan launched a Sharia-compliant buy-to-let range in Scotland.
The Islamic Insurance Association of London (IIAL) has called on brokers to better serve the needs of Muslim clients by offering solutions that comply with Sharia or Islamic law. The trade group conducted a global survey of potential buyers and almost 50% of the respondents felt that they were not offered the right option by their brokers when it comes to placement or renewal discussions. IIAL chairman Max Taylor said there is a real need for the Islamic insurance markets to work together to tackle the misconception that cover is not currently available. He added that global standards would create a level playing field and provide clarity for the buyers, leading to an increased appetite for Islamic insurance products.
According to Maisam Fazal, head of commercial finance at Al Rayan Bank, Sharia-compliant peer-to-peer (P2P) lenders could soon be coming to the UK market. Despite welcoming more firms to the Islamic finance market, Maisam suggested that rates as low as Al Rayan’s could make it off-putting for potential new entrants. He explained that having competitive rates was paramount for Islamic finance banks, as the cost of funding could make products more expensive. Maisam claimed that Al Rayan was unique in offering lenders Sharia-compliant debt.
The increasing economic importance of banks in Muslim-majority countries has made Islamic finance a useful skill. The globalisation of business education means that many schools now have campuses in countries where Islamic finance is a significant part of the local banking sector. British higher-education institutions lead the non-Muslim world in the teaching of Islamic finance, with longstanding courses run by London Business School, Durham, Aston, Bangor, Salford and Cass Business School. More than 60 institutions in the UK now teach Islamic finance, up from fewer than 10 a decade ago. London Metropolitan University is the latest UK institution to add an option to learn about the subject, relaunching its MBA in January with Islamic finance.
The Church of Scotland and Islamic Finance Council UK are meeting at a private round table in the British Parliament. As part of the interfaith initiative for a more socially responsible financial system, faith leaders, parliamentarians and finance practitioners gather to agree a shared values framework. The joint venture was launched earlier this year in response to the systemic failure and non-sustainability of the current financial model. The event is the second in a series of three workshops. The first reviewed the theological and philosophical underpinnings of Christianity and Islam in order to identify commonalities. At the second workshop the shared values framework will be reviewed and refined before participants explore the practical obstacles to realising ethical finance. Omar Shaikh of the Islamic Finance Council UK said that bringing the debate to the heart of London sends a strong international message that faith communities can work together for the greater good of society.
The British government has announced that it has removed Bank Saderat Iran (BSI) from its list of sanctioned entities. The decision to delist the bank was in line with the amended regulations by the European Union regarding the lifting of sanctions against Iran. The regulations required the sanctions against the BSI to be maintained until 22 October 2016. Britain has previously lifted sanctions against three other Iranian banks. In January, the Bank of England announced that it had reactivated the licenses of Melli Bank, Persia International Bank and Bank Sepah International. This followed the implementation of a nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries. Iran agreed to restrict certain aspects of its nuclear energy activities in return for measures by the P5+1 to remove certain economic sanctions imposed against the country.
Cobalt Insurance and Capita Managing Agency have received approval from Lloyd’s of London to launch the first Sharia-compliant syndicate of the specialist insurance market. Once it gets full approval, the new Lloyd’s business will be named Cobalt Syndicate 1438, which is the Islamic calendar’s number for the year 2017. Cobalt founder Richard Bishop said the aim of the syndicate was to look to underwrite new business from emerging markets and working with others in Lloyd’s to extend their participation in those markets. Cobalt will start underwriting in the first quarter of 2017 with initial focus on developing a property and specialty-focused book of commercial business from emerging markets in the Middle East, North Africa and Asian regions.
According to leading expert on Islamic Finance, Mehmet Asutay, Brexit may have some effect on real estate investments in the UK but London will continue to remain the centre for Islamic investments. Asutay noted that if Islamic finance continues to invest in real estate in the UK, they might find another hub in Europe rather than the UK. He said that having a large amount of liquidity, the Gulf region has contributed to expansion of Islamic financing and he called for expansion of Islamic financing in other developing countries. Professor Asutay said that in Europe, the UK and Luxembourg have been developing strategies to become important centres for Islamic finance. But the UK is also aiming to become an important centre for teaching and learning Islamic Economics and Finance.
deVere Mortgages and Al Rayan Bank have announced that they have entered into a strategic partnership to offer Sharia-compliant mortgage alternatives. The alliance follows deVere Mortgages’ reporting of an average 55% increase in mortgage enquiries since the UK’s EU referendum, with the majority of these applications from people living in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman. Mike Coady, Managing Director of deVere Mortgages said the tie-up with Al Rayan Bank would add real value to their core market, which is Muslim and non-Muslim buyers based overseas who are looking to purchase property in Britain. Sultan Choudhury, CEO of Al Rayan Bank added that deVere Mortgages would help to reach an even wider group of people who are looking for ethical, Sharia compliant home and property finance.
The UK Peer to Peer Finance Association (P2PFA) has released a commissioned study on the economics of the peer to peer lending market in the UK. The study focused specifically on the eight-member platforms of the P2PFA which collectively comprise over 75% of the UK market. Reinder van Dijk, Partner at Oxera consulting, called peer to peer lending a 'real innovation' bringing benefits to both borrowers and investors. According to the report, P2P lending has created additional competition and choice in the market for loans and investment. P2P lending provides new options for retail investors, opening up access to risk-and-return from an asset class of consumer and business loans with net returns of between 4% & 8%. P2P lending does not create systemic risk, P2PFA member platforms provide a level of transparency which empowers investors.
Lawyers have warned that failure to prevent economic crime could lead to more senior individuals being prosecuted for misconduct. The UK government's proposed legislation could lead to deferred prosecution agreements with the Serious Fraud Office. The involved companies would potentially give evidence against individuals implicated in misconduct. According to Judith Seddon, partner at Clifford Chance, the corporate criminal liability will provide for an additional serious consequence of failing to satisfy existing requirements for anti-money laundering and financial crime prevention.
The Bank of England has fined Qatar Islamic Bank’s UK, a subsidiary of Qatar Islamic Bank, for failings in reporting its financial resources to the regulator in 2011 and 2012. The Bank’s Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA) imposed a fine of 1.385 million pounds ($1.95 million) on QIB for failing to undertake a regular assessment of its capital. Guy Priestley, QIB UK’s interim chief executive, said the problems identified by the PRA have been remedied.
Investcorp organised its annual Investcorp Leadership Program at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. The four-day program, held between 29 March and one April 2016, was attended by 41 aspiring young business leaders from the GCC. The program officially began with a keynote address by Mohammed Al Ardhi, Executive Chairman of Investcorp, who spoke about the importance of innovation and entrepreneurship. Faculty from Oxford Saïd delivered a series of interactive sessions on shaping the markets in which companies operate, embedding entrepreneurship in organizations and scaling family businesses. Demonstrations of the latest research in bioresearch and microscopy were also organised at the University’s Advanced Bioimaging Unit.
Gatehouse Bank plc has announced its entry into the residential property finance market. With a focus on greater London, Gatehouse will offer Shariah-compliant financing solutions for clients seeking to acquire or refinance residential properties. This new product was developed following strong client demand for residential property finance solutions. Gatehouse will offer clients bespoke property finance products, from simple single residential investment finance to more complex company structures including property portfolio and short lease finance. Abdulaziz AlDuweesh, Chief Investment Officer of Gatehouse sees significant opportunities to grow Gatehouse's presence in this market.