Islamic Banking

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Islamic finance in the shipping industry

As the shipping industry continues to struggle with access to finance, Islamic finance may be a viable option for ship owners. The global growth of sukuks has been steadily increasing, but Islamic finance has its own uncertainties. The lack of standardisation in documentation contributes to this uncertainty. The UAE had established the Higher Shari’ah Authority back in 2016, whose mission is to issue fatwas and ensure the legitimacy of Islamic products and services. Any documentation developed under the auspices of the Authority still needs to be negotiated by the parties and adapted according to the structure and type of the sukuk. It is hoped that the shipping industry will be able to benefit from the continuous growth of Islamic finance.

Creating footsteps in Kuwait’s Islamic banking sector

Kuwait Finance House (KFH) has embarked on a digital transformation journey. Kuwait and Bahrain have each launched their respective digital banking platforms and soon, Malaysia will have its own. By the end of 2018, a seamless digital customer experience is expected to be publicly available. In Malaysia the KFH is active in the infrastructure financing front, supporting the third light rail transport system (LRT 3) and the second Mass Rapid Transit (MRT 2) projects through the provision of Islamic financing facilities. The project is expected to benefit the local communities through the promotion of real estate developments around the proposed train stations. Furthermore, the project is expected to generate more than 2,000 jobs during the construction phase.

AAOIFI adoption set to standardise #UAE Islamic finance

The Central Bank of the UAE announced that the country's Islamic finance industry will be required to comply with AAOIFI Shariah standards from September 1. Islamic finance products in the UAE have historically adhered to AAOIFI standards, but the formal move to adopt AAOIFI standards will benefit the Islamic finance industry not only in the UAE. According to Dar Al Sharia CEO Mian Nazir, this move will facilitate standardisation of the Islamic finance industry across markets. These regulations are expected to grow consumer confidence and benefit the sukuk market as well. Dar Al Sharia is holding workshops to help relevant stakeholders, from internal Shariah control committee members to lawyers, develop an understanding of AAOIFI’s Shariah standards.

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.

Islamic Banks' Assets Surge To AED565 Billion In H1 2018

Assets of Islamic banks operating in the UAE amounted to AED565 billion by the end of H1 2018, a 6.7% growth of AED35.5 billion over the corresponding period in 2017. The assets of Islamic banks account for 20.55% of total bank assets in UAE, valued at AED2.749 trillion, by the end of June 2018. The value of credit provided by Islamic Banks during the first half of the year surged to AED367 billion, a growth of 5% against the same period in 2017. Loans and credit facilities provided by Islamic banks made up 22.6% of total loans. Deposits held by Islamic banks amounted to AED392.4 billion, making up 23.3% of total deposits held by UAE banks, estimated at around AED1.7 trillion by the end of June.

Albaraka Türk launches mobile-only banking service for Europe's Muslim community

Turkey's Albaraka Türk is targeting Europe's Muslim community with the launch of an interest-free digital banking app. "Insha" is initially being rolled out in Germany ahead of a Europe-wide expansion. It features a document-free account opening process and comes complete with a debit card. In addition to financial products, the app offers a range of Islamic-friendly services including a Zakat Calculator and a "Nearest Mosque" locator. Meliksah Utku, general manager at Albaraka Türk, says that the insha project marks the first step in the bank’s strategic entry into the European market.

#Malaysia's use of Islamic bonds to fund deficit credit positive: Moody's

According to Moody's Investor Service, the Malaysian government is increasingly using longer-term Islamic instruments to fund its deficit to lower liquidity risk. The shift toward Islamic financial instruments is seen as credit positive for the sovereign. The Malaysian government has a sizable debt burden currently at 50.8% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP). The Malaysian Government Investment Issues (MGII), local currency, Shariah-compliant debt instruments, accounted for 50% of total federal government financing in 2017, up from a 26.4% share in 2008. The country's active participation in Islamic finance is part of Malaysia's broader vision to position itself as an international center for the instrument, and a recognized goal in the central bank's financial sector master plan.

La Société internationale islamique de financement du commerce fait le point de son portefeuille au #Cameroun

La Société internationale islamique de financement du commerce du Groupe de la Banque islamique de développement (BID) est satisfaite de sa coopération avec le Cameroun. Aliou Barki Kane et le ministre camerounais en charge de l’Economie, Alamine Ousmane Mey ont passé en revue le portefeuille de coopération avec la BID. Aliou Barki Kane a déclaré que 560 millions de dollars ont été tous décaissés, remboursés et les bénéfices ont été mesurés à travers les intrants agricoles et également la commercialisation du coton à travers la Sodecoton. Barki Kane a ajouté que la coopération avec le Cameroun a été fructueuse et les fonds ont été mis à la disposition des bénéficiaires finaux.

New products, standards buoy Islamic trade finance business

Islamic trade finance is poised for change with the launch of new products and common standards. Islamic banks have been laggards in trade finance but some see a business opportunity here. According to the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI), digital tools such as blockchain can support this by helping to lower costs and speed up sharia-compliant transactions. Islamic trade finance is estimated at around $186 billion, compared to the $4.4 trillion worth of trade finance activity in Muslim-majority countries. Some firms are now introducing digital Islamic trade finance platforms. Emirates Islamic Bank has already launched its online supply chain tool. There is also a push towards standardisation of practices. The Bankers Association for Finance and Trade (BAFT) and the International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) are developing standard documentation for both Islamic-funded and unfunded trade finance deals.

How Islamic finance can manage rupiah stability

According to the Jakarta Interbank Spot Dollar Rate, the rupiah dropped to a new low of 14,418 against the US dollar on July 3. In the last few weeks, all emerging markets showed an increase in foreign currency volatility. Since April 2018, there has been capital outflow from the Indonesian bond market amounting to almost US$1.9 billion. Solving this problem can be done in two steps. First, sensitivity to capital outflow must be reduced by reducing dependency toward it. Second, capital inflow is needed that is less sensitive to global externalities. Islamic finance may contribute to financial stability, as all transactions must be asset-backed. The principle of risk-sharing between counterparties will help prevent excessive risk-taking. Islamic finance can also help create rupiah stability through its various sharia-compliant instruments, which could attract global investors.

Official Launch of the IFSB Islamic Financial Services Industry Stability Report 2018 at the Astana Islamic Economy Forum

Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) officially launched the sixth edition of the Islamic Financial Services Industry (IFSI) Stability Report 2018. The Secretary-General of the IFSB, Dr. Bello Lawal Danbatta highlighted some of the key findings of the 2018 Report, particularly the rising domestic systemic significance of Islamic finance in many key jurisdictions. According to the report, the global IFSI has returned to a robust growth of 8.3%, following two years of growth stagnation. While Islamic capital markets marked a strong performance in 2017 on the back of sovereign sukuk issuances, some underlying weaknesses persisted from the previous year, including those in the corporate sukuk market. The takaful sector continues to face challenges as a result of stiff competition from larger and more established insurance companies.

Savings Status Quo Challenged As 79% Of Shariah-Compliant Accounts Now Beat The Market

Gatehouse Bank surveyed eight different types of account: easy access, 1, 2, 3 and 5 Year Fixed Term and 30, 60 and 90 Day Notice accounts. It found average returns on Shariah-compliant savings products trumped their mainstream counterparts on all account types bar one, easy access. Overall, the average rate on Shariah-compliant products was 1.54% while the average for mainstream accounts was 1.29%, a difference of 0.25%. All but three of the 14 Shariah-compliant accounts surveyed beat the market average. Shariah-compliant savings accounts in the UK are growing in popularity, amongst both Muslim and non-Muslim savers. According to Gatehouse Bank CEO Charles Haresnape, what we’re seeing is the emergence of a genuine challenge to the UK savings establishment.

IFSB launches 2018 financial services industry stability report

The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) has launched the 2018 Islamic Financial Services Industry (IFSI) Stability Report. The Secretary-General of the IFSB, Dr. Bello Lawal Danbatta, highlighted some of the key findings of the 2018 Report, particularly the rising domestic systemic significance of Islamic finance in key jurisdictions. The study found that the global IFSI has returned to a robust growth of 8.3%, following two years of growth stagnation. In addition, the IFSI surpassed the $2 trillion mark as of the end of 2017. The report also states that the growth of the industry in 2017 was actively driven by all three sectors of the IFSI, but with a significant contribution by the performance of the Islamic capital markets boosted by Sukuk issuances from sovereign and multilateral institutions.

#China’s support is critically instrumental in developing Islamic finance

While China and Arab countries discuss ways to develop their bilateral ties, #Kazakhstan aims to become a new global financial hub. At the newly established Astana International Financial Center (AIFC) an economic event was carried out between July 3rd and 5th to talk about the main issues of global finance. Experts have emphasized China has a priority role in the global economy and that China’s support can be very instrumental in the development of Islamic Finance. Kazakhstan has also positioned itself to take advantage of China’s Belt and Road initiative as it strived to draw investors from Central Asian countries as well as from the Arab world. Lawyers have also stressed that because the newly formed Astana International Exchange will be operating under the principles of English common law, it will create even more opportunities for collaboration between Central Asian countries and the Arab world.

Blockchain platform-as-a-service for Islamic finance launched

Blockchain experts ArabianChain Technology and Curiositas will offer blockchain-based smart contracts and legal automation for Islamic finance products. The 'Wethaq' platform is targeting Islamic capital markets, acting as a platform-as-a-service for financial institutions, fundraisers and investors to use in the trading of sukuk products. Wethaq is expected to see issuance of its first Smart Ijara in the first half of 2019. The joint venture will combine Curiositas' legal automation and financial engineering expertise with ArabianChain's Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) Protocol and smart contracts. According to Dimitrios Vourakis, Managing Director of Curiositas, Wethaq separates the essential structuring services provided by financial institutions from additional services such as custodianship and payments, and offers the latter on its automated platform.

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.

Banks want 'costly' Islamic banking regulations adjusted

Banks in Uganda have petitioned the central bank to review key regulations in Islamic banking to make it less costly for the banks. According to Patrick Mweheire, the chairman of Uganda Bankers' Association (UBA), the current regulation requires that a commercial bank that applies to offer Islamic banking must have its own sharia panel comprising nine muftis. Mweheire suggested that UBA should instead have one panel which can be used by all its members when advancing Islamic banking products to the public. UBA CEO Wilbrod Owor said there were a lot of issues in the sector that affect them and need their attention: money laundering, terrorism finance, and digital technologies etc.

South America is on radar of Islamic finance

South America isn’t known to be a popular region for Islamic finance. However, there have been some activities to approach it as a new frontier. The first foray Islamic finance has made on the continent was into Suriname. Last year, the Central Bank of Suriname approved Islamic finance products and services in the banking sector and the first Islamic bank in the country, Trustbank Amanah, started operations on December 7, 2017. The other South American country opening up is Guyana. The Islamic Development Bank sees Guyana as a major oil and gas producer in the future when industrial development kicks in. In a first step the country received $900mn in financial and technical assistance from the Islamic Development Bank over a three-year period, commencing in 2018. The money will be used for development of Guyana’s economic infrastructure, the establishment of Islamic banking institutions is planned for later.

Why Islamic finance is yet to realise its full potential in #Kenya

Kenya's Islamic finance industry is over a decade old but is yet to realize its full potential. The uptake of Shariah compliant financial products has been adversely affected by the absence of supportive legal and regulatory infrastructure, lack of skilled Islamic finance professionals, poor perception and lack of awareness. One other challenge is the lack of harmonisation of the Shariah standards. Industry stakeholders need to undertake a comprehensive training of the Shariah scholars and enhance public awareness in Islamic finance. Aqeel Consulting takes the initiative to organise a technical workshop for the Shariah scholars between July 11 -12, 2018 at the Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club.

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