The 2016 HUMA Islamic Finance Conference was held at Harvard University on October 14 and 15 on the role of Islamic finance in sustainable development goals. CEO of Wahed Invest, Mr. Junaid Wahedna spoke about the future of the industry and the impact of Robo-advising on Islamic financing and sustainable development goals. He said that Wahed Invest brings the latest technology into the world of ethical financing and the feedback from attendees was extremely encouraging. The two-day event included sessions to discuss the functions of Islamic finance, while also critically probing the institutional constraints and the product limitations that may challenge the Islamic finance industry in making a meaningful impact.
Wahed Invest announces the launch of Wahed, the first automated Islamic investment platform, to provide access to halal portfolio management for 2 billion Muslims around the world. The Wahed platform analyzes thousands of securities worldwide to create portfolio allocations with the highest growth potential for its clients. According to CEO Junaid Wahedna, the platform democratizes access to the best financial advice for investors. Wahed offers portfolio management for investments as little as $7,500, as opposed to the usual $500,000 minimum required by most wealth management firms. Wahed Invest is currently accessible in the United States and will be available in more than 100 countries by 2017.
The International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) launched today a new major regional program to empower young Arab women scientists. Funded by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Young Arab Women Scientists Leadership (Tamkeen) Program is the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. IsDB Department Director Osman El-Feil said that empowering women with the right skills in agricultural research will contribute to alleviating poverty and making food available to the poor. The Program will also help to identify and empower groups of women champions and build a critical mass of pathfinders.
Equitable Financial Solutions (EFSOL), Australia's largest, international Islamic finance company has announced the establishment of its Dubai office at Emirates Towers. EFSOL is actively pursuing its Middle-East expansion strategy, following the successful establishment of its ASEAN office based in Singapore. Usman Siddiqui, Managing Director of EFSOL said the new Dubai office will give investors access to the company's superior products and returns. He is confident that the EFSOL team will boost their financial products' offerings in key areas of Islamic finance.
New Yorker real estate investor Soho Properties announced it has secured $219 mn in financing for the construction of its Tribeca condominium tower. The announcement was made by Soho Properties' Chairman and CEO, Sharif El-Gamal. The financing is provided by an international syndicate of lenders, with Maybank and Warba Bank serving as joint Lead Arrangers and Intesa Sanpaolo as Documentation Agent. The construction of the 665-foot tall glass and steel tower will commence this summer and will be completed in 2018.
Ethica Institute of Islamic Finance decided to give over ninety percent of its content, the Handbook of Islamic Finance, free of charge. The 800 page ebook came out of the Certified Islamic Finance Executive program as a handy way for bankers and students to access everything in one place: contracts, articles, recommended readings, hundreds of answers to questions, and Dr. Usmani's entire Guide to Islamic Banking. Ethica's spokesperson said the ebook is designed to take a newcomer to Islamic finance through the basics of how a market works on principles of equity, trade, and leasing, without debt.
According to the fourth annual BNP Paribas Individual Philanthropy Index by Forbes Insights, the United States remains the leader globally in personal philanthropy. Europe comes in as a close second, followed by Asia, with the Middle East achieving the sharpest increase in philanthropic giving. Almost all countries were focused on Health as the top area of philanthropic giving (United States at 60%), while Asia as a region chose Environment.
David Loundy, Chairman and CEO of Devon Bank in the US, scored the highest mark on the Certified Islamic Finance Executive (CIFE) examination to win Ethica's "Weekend in Dubai" competition. Among the prizes are an internship at an Islamic bank, airfare to Dubai, accommodation, and meetings with Islamic finance scholars and bankers. David commented that Ethica's CIFE program has allowed him to put together a "proto-Islamic bank" upon completing the program that commenced formal operations January 1, 2016 as Abraham's River, a liquidity source and investment company for non-interest based finance. Ethica and Devon Bank are now working together to help make Abraham's River an interest-free vehicle for the entire US. Ethica's prize also included a free internship at an Islamic bank which David donated to the second-highest scorer.
As high as 38 percent of KSA respondents would recommend their bank as a first choice to friends or colleagues according to the first ever NPS Survey conducted in the Kingdom by Souqalmal.com. Respondents were asked to evaluate various aspects of the overall banking experience. The parameters covered customer service, product offerings and financial education, among others. The results of the survey have been used to conceptualize the inaugural Souqalmal Bank Satisfaction Index. The ripple effect of the findings will be discussed in greater detail at a FINTECH event to be held in Dubai on February 25. Souqalmal.com will also be factoring in data from the NPS Survey to award the Most Recommended Bank in KSA and UAE at the event. The nominees from KSA are National Commercial Bank, the Saudi British Bank and Alinma Bank.
The Abu Dhabi Sustainability Group (ADSG) announces the upcoming Sustainable Business Leadership Forum. The Forum fosters sustainable development, innovation, and responsible business growth. The Forum offers a platform for sustainability practitioners from every sector to share their sustainability practices. The Forum will also provide opportunities to learn from regional sustainability leaders and be exposed to some of the latest sustainability approaches from global thought-leaders. The Abu Dhabi Sustainable Business Leadership Forum will take place from: 17-18 February 2016, in Abu Dhabi.
US-based Azzad Asset Management has welcomed Pope Francis' encyclical calling for swift worldwide action to combat climate change, protect the environment, and move toward economic equality. In the encyclical released 'Laudato Si' the pope issues an urgent invitation to people of all faiths to reduce their consumption of resources and make changes in their daily lives in order to safeguard the earth for future generations. He calls for sweeping government and economic reforms to counter environmental destruction and economic injustice. Azzad added its voice to that of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) which welcomed the pope's statement. Azzad joined ICCR earlier this year, becoming the first Muslim member of the shareholder coalition.
Islamic Reporting Initiative invites partners to create the first, mainstream reporting standard for Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility, based on Islamic Principles. Launched only last month, the Islamic Reporting Initiative is rapidly gaining support and momentum from across the Islamic world. The initiative aims to generate sustainable growth by building a framework for CSR built on Islamic principles, with the potential of reaching more than 50 Islamic countries worldwide. Together with partners in the Islamic world, the initiative was launched by Drs Daan Elffers, the Chairman of last year's CSR Summit in Saudi Arabia and a judge for the recent CSR Excellence Awards held in the UAE. For more information visit http://www.islamicreporting.org
Representatives from the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and Azzad Asset Management have announced that Azzad will join ICCR as its newest member—the first Islamic firm to be affiliated with the group. As a member organization focused on corporate social responsibility and environmental advocacy, ICCR leverages the influence of its shareowner members to enact change. The two organizations expressed optimism about the opportunities this collaboration affords. Azzad representatives reportedly hope to bring a fresh, Islamically inspired perspective to the many corporate and social issues confronted by ICCR.
Saturna Capital Corporation (Saturna) has announced the launch of the Saturna Sustainable Equity Fund (SEEFX) and the Saturna Sustainable Bond Fund (SEBFX), two mutual funds that will invest globally in securities of issuers rated by Saturna as low risk in the areas of the environment, social responsibility, and governance (ESG). Saturna expects the funds will appeal to the growing number of investors who seek to incorporate sustainability and social responsibility into their investments, particularly retirement portfolios. The Saturna Sustainable Equity and Bond Funds will be available on major platforms such as National Financial Services (Fidelity), Charles Schwab, Pershing LLC, and TD Ameritrade.
The Azzad Wise Capital Fund, America's first Halal, socially responsible fixed-income mutual fund, turned four years old this month. Falls Church, Virginia-based Azzad Asset Management launched the interest-free fund in 2010. Over its four-year history, the Azzad Wise Capital Fund has proven to be an diversification and income-generating tool for investors who observe the Islamic law. Although it does not deal with debt instruments created from interest-based lending, the Azzad Wise Capital Fund shares in the gains from its ventures, which include Islamic bank deposits and Sukuk. Bashar Qasem, Azzad President and CEO, started Azzad Asset Management in 1997. In 2000, Qasem and his colleagues oversaw the launch of the Azzad Ethical Fund, and ultimately created the Azzad Wise Capital Fund to diversify client accounts.
Donors at the launch of the Global Fund's Fourth Replenishment pledged US$12.0 billion for the next three years, the largest amount ever committed to fight against AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The contributions announced today include funding from 25 countries, as well as the European Commission, private foundations, corporations and faith-based organizations. Besides several countries, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is committing up to US$500 million to the Global Fund for the 2014-2016 period. Securing fresh resources for the next three years will help the Global Fund move closer with its partners toward a tipping point in controlling these epidemics, turning what scientists call high-transmission epidemics into low-level endemics and making them manageable health challenges instead of global emergencies.
Azzad Asset Management has announced the launch of a series of estate planning seminars across the United States aimed at helping congregants at mosques and Islamic centers create inheritance plans that comply with both U.S. and Islamic law. It is the 1st Islamically compliant waqf model consistent with U.S. law. The Azzad estate planning seminars began in early September in the Southeastern United States. As part of those sessions, certified financial planners explain the fundamentals of Islamic inheritance law, the importance of wills, and the implications of bequests—in addition to the role each plays in conjunction with a family endowment.
A sukuk deal issued by Asya Sukuk Company Limited is the first Turkish bank sukuk internationally placed where the obligor is a company which is entirely Turkish owned. The sukuk certificates issued are unconditionally and irrevocably guaranteed by Bank Asya. The inaugural issuance is for $250,000,000 and will have an initial yield of 7.5% per annum. The sukuk will be issued in fixed rate resettable Tier 2 certificates which are due in 2023. BNY Mellon has been appointed delegate, principal paying agent, registrar, transfer agent and Irish listing agent on the deal. It will perform fiduciary duties and make profit and principal payments to investors on behalf of Asya Sukuk Company Limited. It will also handle administrative duties related to the issuance of the certificates.
According to a new Deloitte report, an organization's environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance can directly and indirectly impact its market valuation. The report highlights that short-term ESG issues and events, including human rights issues, product recalls, boycotts and protests often trigger the strongest and most immediate impact on stock prices. However, there is less convincing evidence that ESG performance leads to higher stock returns over the long-term. Deloitte's report highlights how and why ESG performance is expected to continue to be a consideration in financial valuation and several reasons risks may play an increasingly important role on performance.