The year 2016 records quite remarkable achievements in terms of financial technology (fintech). The Investment Account Platform (IAP), Malaysia’s first multi-bank platform for financial intermediation in the Islamic financial system, was launched on the 17th February 2016. The IAP serves as a central marketplace to finance small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with initial funds of RM 150 million. Eight Islamic Crowdfunding Platform operators from across the globe clicked together to form Islamic Fintech Alliance (IFT Alliance) and launched it on the 1st April 2016. Then, on the 26th September 2016, New York-based Wahed Invest launched Wahed, the world’s first automated Islamic investment platform. Two months later, the Kuala Lumpur-based Faringdon Group announced that it would be launching Asia’s first Shariah compliant Robo Advisor. The online tool called Algebra will provide automated portfolio management advice. Further progress of these initiatives and new innovative entrants will position 2017 for more excitements.
Sabah Credit Corporation (SCC) increased the size of its Sukuk Musharakah programme from RM1.5 billion to RM3.5 billion. According to CEO Datuk Vincent Pung, the move will allow SCC to consolidate outstanding Sukuk issuance and generate an additional RM1 billion for the corporation to plan its future loans growth. Pung also announced i-Cash, a personal loan facility, offering borrowers simplified and online loan processing and the flexibility of drawing the loan. Finance Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman noted that SCC had anticipated a significant drop in profits of RM16 million initially to RM54 million for the year 2016, but instead reported a beyond expectation pre-audited profit of over RM60 million as of December 2016. He said the corporation has also donated over RM23 million through more than 150 Corporate Social Responsibility projects such as rural hostels, orphanages, half-way homes and centres for single mothers.
The planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, is expected to bring the full potential of Islamic finance in infrastructure funding into action. The CPEC will see €54bn in investments up to 2030 to create or expand highways, railways, ports, airports, power plants, solar parks and wind farms, pipelines and optical fibre lines. Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has repeatedly emphasised that Pakistan wanted to make Shariah-compliant financing its first choice for infrastructure and long-term financing needs. In fact, the government plans to shift between 20% and 40% of its debt financing to Islamic sources from conventional ones, which is also the case for CPEC projects. Co-financing for the corridor comes from Chinese state loans, as well as from the Asian Development Bank and the new, China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The CPEC is predicted to create more than 700,000 direct jobs up to 2030 and add two to 2.5 percentage points to Pakistan’s annual economic growth.
According to S&P's latest report, the global sukuk market is expected to remain fairly quiet in 2017, with total issuance reaching around $60bn -$65bn. The relatively subdued sukuk market anticipated for this year is mainly due to reasons related to complexity of sukuk issuance. S&P Global Ratings’ Global Head of Islamic Finance Dr Mohamed Damak said returning issuers, new entrants, and regulatory developments can stimulate issuance activity, but more likely in the medium term. S&P anticipates some GCC countries might take the Islamic finance route alongside a conventional one. Bahrain will most likely remain a prominent player after issuing $3.2bn of sukuk in 2016. Other GCC members will probably tap the market in 2017. The buyers of sukuk are not only in the GCC or Malaysia, but come from a broad range of investors, including conventional financiers in developed markets. More importantly, there is reportedly a large gap between sukuk issuance and demand.
The Nigerian Stock Exchange is set to list Nigeria’s first non-interest commercial bank, Jaiz Bank. The council of the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) has approved the bank’s listing of its entire issued share capital on the exchange. Jaiz Bank will be listing a total of 29.46 billion ordinary shares of 50 kobo each at 1.25 naira, indicating a start-off market capitalisation of 36.83 billion naira. The bank has more than 20,000 shareholders, including shareholders such as the former Chairman of First Bank, Umaru Mutallab, industrialist Aminu Dantata, and development finance institution- Islamic Development Bank. The listing will be executed by way of an introduction, however, the company has indicated its interest in an Initial Public Offering.
Debt issuance from the GCC is expected to surge in 2017 with sovereign issuers leading while conventional bonds outstripping sukuk both in terms of amounts raised and number of issues. The key drivers to bond issuances in the GCC during 2016, which more than doubled to $66.5 billion (Dh244.5 billion), was primarily the sovereign bond issuances by Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar. Saudi Arabia’s first international bond issuance valued at $17.5 billion in October last year was the biggest recorded emerging market bond. Saudi Arabia has indicated further bond issuances in the near term and the Kingdom has a target debt-to-GDP ratio of 30% by 2020 as compared to 13.2% for 2016. Banking sector contribution to bond issuance witnessed a steep decline from 22% in 2015 to 15% in 2016, although the size of the total offering increased by 36% $11.7 billion.
According to Standard & Poor’s (S&P), global sukuk issuance fell short of market expectations last year, although it was higher than in 2015. The sukuk market will remain subdued in 2017, since the issuance process is still quite complex. S&P Global Ratings' Global Head of Islamic Finance Dr. Mohamed Damak said the sukuk market did not play a countercyclical role in core Islamic finance markets in 2016 and a stabilisation of total issuance in 2017 is forecasted at around $60 billion-$65 billion. Standard & Poor’s do not foresee a substantial increase in sukuk issuance in the GCC this year. The rating agency thinks that some member countries might take the Islamic finance route alongside a conventional one. Bahrain will most likely remain a prominent player after issuing $3.2 billion of sukuk in 2016. Other GCC members will probably tap the market in 2017.
The Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) has approved the draft of the governance standard on central Shari’ah boards. The proposed standard covers several key aspects such as the appointment, composition and dismissal of the board members; tenure of the board; functions of a central Shari'ah board; responsibilities of the appointing authority; fit and proper criteria and independence. The draft is expected to be issued by beginning of 2017 and will be posted on the AAOIFI website. The AAOIFI board also discussed progress on projects being carried forward into 2017, including the Internal Shari’ah Audit, Shari’ah Compliance and Fiduciary Rating, and Comprehensive Ethics projects. The next meeting is proposed to be held by March 2017, in Oman.
#Oman is preparing an international bond sale, as the country seeks to plug a budget deficit caused by low oil prices. The sultanate has sent invitations to banks to arrange the sale of a dollar or Islamic bond and responses are due this week. A fresh sale would be the latest in a series of issues by the oil-producing state. The sultanate sold US$2.5bn worth of bonds in June last year and tapped the bonds for an additional US$1.5bn in September. It was reported to have raised US$1bn from the international loan market last January and will get RO600mn from local debt in 2017. Oman is also seeking to reduce expenditure and from this month will impose new tariffs on its biggest electricity consumers. The state’s budget deficit is estimated by the International Monetary Fund to narrow to 10.3% of gross domestic product this year, from 13.5% in 2016.
Due to sharp declining trend in oil prices, slow economic pace and Arab spring, the trend of the Islamic Banking & Finance had been slow in 2016 in the Middle East and Arab region. A sufficient development was recorded in Africa, Central Asia and Far East, especially in the African market. Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Pakistan, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain are prominent where the contribution of their total assets of Islamic banking is 82% to the Global Islamic Banking market. According to a research by CIBE CEO Zubair Mughal, there will be a steady growth of approximately 13% to 15% in Islamic finance market during 2017 and the total volume of Islamic finance will cross $3 trillion figure by 2020, which will be accompanied by a definite addition of Sukuk along with Islamic banking. While the Sukuk market in Malaysia, Pakistan, UAE, Turkey, Central Asian countries and Africa seem determined in 2017.
The Insurance (Amendment) Act 2016 signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta is set to enhance Kenya's position as the premier Islamic financial hub in Africa. The move came a week after the Capital Markets Authority (CMA) was admitted by the Council of the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) as an associate member of the board. The new law provides for the licensing and regulation of Takaful insurance business in Kenya in order to encourage international investment in this sector. The decision to admit CMA was made at the 29th IFSB Council meeting held in Cairo, Egypt on December 14. In October, the government launched the Islamic Finance Project Management Office (PMO). CMA's Chief Executive Paul Muthaura said the authority membership in IFSB is a key step towards the development of Kenya as an Islamic finance hub. The Insurance (Amendment) Act 2016 now enables the operationalisation of risk-based solvency requirements for insurers that were introduced in the Finance Act 2013. Among those proposals is a requirement that an insurer should maintain a 100% capital adequacy ratio at all times.
It seemed as if the path had been cleared for the introduction of Islamic finance in India after the country’s central bank made a proposal to launch Islamic banking windows at conventional banks. With two crucial effects awaiting: Firstly, greater financial inclusion of unbanked Indians, not necessarily only around 170mn Muslims, but also those interested in ethical banking, and, secondly, an increased influx of investments from Muslim regions, namely the Gulf, into India.
However, the proposal got rebuffed in December by the Indian finance ministry which, in a surprising declaration, argued that Islamic banking was “not relevant” any more in achieving the objectives of financial inclusion as the government had already introduced other programmes for all citizens towards that end.
India’ Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar also said that a number of legal changes would become necessary even if limited Islamic finance products were to be introduced, which would result in “numerous legal hurdles.”
Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) is leading a $272m Islamic financing facility for Meydan Group to fund its projects in Dubai. The deal was structured to meet Meydan’s financing objectives, on the back of its ongoing District One Project, a master-planned luxury residential neighborhood in Dubai’s Mohammed Bin Rashid City.
Dubai Islamic Bank and Al Hilal Bank were both mandated lead arrangers for the financing, which matures in December 2018. Tirad Al Mahmoud, CEO of ADIB, said: “[The deal] also evidences the results we are achieving through stepping up our corporate financing activity, with a particular focus on high-growth companies and the real estate sector.” The deal will help utilise financing for the group’s current and future projects including those along the Dubai Water Canal. The funding will also help finance continued investment across all Meydan areas.
Meezan Bank, Pakistan’s first and largest Islamic bank has recently signed an MoU with Al-Sadiq Consulting Ltd, China’s first Islamic Finance consulting Company to explore opportunities for Islamic finance in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The agreement focuses on the ever-increasing economic participation between Pakistan and China and the opportunities that may be derived from improved Islamic banking channels between the two countries.
The MoU was signed by Mr. Irfan Siddiqui, President & CEO – Meezan Bank and Mr. Ibrahim Ding, Managing Director and Senior Partner – Al-Sadiq Consulting at Meezan Bank’s Head Office, Karachi. A
Meezan Bank has also expressed interest in providing financial, advisory and Shariah-related services to such and similar projects and transactions in collaboration with Al-Sadiq Consultancy. Mr. Irfan Siddiqui, President & CEO – Meezan Bank welcomed the enthusiasm of the Chinese experts/delegate and said, “We are extremely confident that our new partnership with Al-Sadiq Consulting Ltd, China’s first Islamic finance consultancy company will successfully be able to drive more advantages for Islamic finance in the near future.
The Emirates Islamic Bank recently organised an ‘Innovation Day’ where various internal teams shared and showcased their innovations with working prototypes, to the bank’s management.
Emirates Islamic staff across business units participated in the event, designed to ideate and showcase innovative solutions in banking and financial technology. Emirates Islamic’s Innovation Day was aligned with the National Innovation Strategy launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai as a primary tool to achieve UAE Vision 2021 in the finance and banking sector.
Commenting on the bank’s push toward innovation, Jamal Bin Ghalaita, CEO of Emirates Islamic said: “Banking today demands an innovative and fresh approach to keep pace with the evolving needs of our customers. Tapping into our internal talent pool for ideas allows us benefit from their varied skills and experience to create products that match customers’ expectations and needs.
In January 2012, the Central Bank of Nigeria granted Jaiz Bank an approval in principle to operate as a regional interest-free bank in northern Nigeria. As a result of that, Jaiz bank became the first and the only full-fledged Islamic banking in Nigeria. Islamic banking is based on the principles of profit and loss sharing.
According to Mr. Muhammed Nurul Islam, a manager at Jaiz bank, the bank offers what is called a mudaraba (profit- and loss-sharing deposit). And Jaiz bank does not finance any customer without a purpose; he explain further that the primary means of Islamic finance are based on trading, and the bank trading activities are Sharia-compliant investments with the money deposited by customers. The customers and Jaiz bank share the risks and profits between them.
Saudi Arabia has met with banks to discuss the potential sale of Sharia-compliant bonds in the first quarter to help plug its budget deficit, according to five people familiar with the matter. The country is considering selling sukuk, or Islamic bonds, with different maturities to the five-, 10- and 30-year debt it sold in October, one of the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private. This could include tenors of seven and 16 years, the person said. No final decisions on the size or timing have been made.
Kuwait's central bank has issued new governance rules for Islamic banks, including requirements for external sharia audits, as regulators seek more transparency and accountability in the sector. Regulatory scrutiny over Islamic banks has been building as they now hold around a quarter of total banking assets in the Gulf, while in Kuwait that figure stands at around 40 %. Kuwait's central bank said the rules published this week aim to increase customer confidence in Islamic banking by strengthening both internal and external oversight. This follows similar steps by Bahrain which proposed new requirements in September for its Islamic banks, including external sharia audits. The central bank directive, which must be fully implemented by January 2018, provides guidance covering independence of sharia boards as well as fit and proper criteria for scholars.
ICS Financial Systems Limited (ICSFS), the global software and services provider for banks and financial institutions, today announced a successful implementation of its awards winning software; ICS BANKS® ISLAMIC System, in Noor Al-Iraq Islamic Bank, an Iraqi based bank which was formerly known as Sama Baghdad Islamic Bank.
Noor Al-Iraq Islamic Bank has officially announced the successful go-live of ICS BANKS ISLAMIC System, in its Head Quarter and branches all over Iraq. The bank experienced a smooth implementation with a record breaking time of two months, where it adopted ICS BANKS ISLAMIC Core Banking, Credit Facilities & Risk Groups, Remittances, Murabaha, Musharaka, Istisna’a, Investment Accounts & Profit Distribution, Time Deposit, Trade Finance and part of ICS BANKS Delivery Channels (DC); ICS BANKS Internet Banking.
A Chartered Accountant and Tax Administrator, Mr. Bicci Alli has said that the federal government as well as states cannot shun Islamic financial instruments whose market is valued at over $2.6 trillion, because it has the capability to bridge the infrastructure deficit in the country.
The federal government is presently looking for financial and legal advisers and trustee firms to organise its first Islamic bond in the domestic market, the Debt Management Office (DMO) said on Monday. Nigeria is working on a debut sovereign sukuk but has yet to determine the size of a potential deal. Issuance of a sovereign sukuk is part of a plan by Nigeria’s debt office to develop alternative sources of funding and to establish a benchmark curve.