Sultan Choudhury, CEO of Al Rayan Bank, talks about Islamic finance in Britain and its appeal to non-Muslims. He says, Islamic finance appeals to anyone who agrees with the underlying principles: equitable distribution for everyone, prudent spending and the well-being of the community as a whole. It also provides an ethical alternative to traditional banking. Al Rayan Bank is structured to ensure that it operates ethically on a day-to-day basis. The bank's home-purchase plans (HPP) are structured differently to conventional mortgages. HPPs are based on the Islamic finance principles of ijara and diminishing musharaka. Currently the bank estimates that more than a quarter of customers are non-Muslim and the customer base is expected to grow in the coming years.
In Great Britain there are currently six Islamic banks, while another 20 lenders offer Islamic financial products and services. Al Rayan is Britain’s largest Sharia-compliant bank with 70,000 customers and 13 offices and branches. The bank underwent a major overhaul in 2014 when it was acquired by its Qatari parent, Masraf Al Rayan. Since that point, the brand was made more accessible, the imagery is no longer just Arabic, the bank uses British imagery as it is targeting all Brits. CEO Sultan Choudhury says about 25% of the bank’s customers are non-Muslim. Mr Choudhury also has his eyes fixed on the potential of the wider international market. In particular, he highlights the GCC national and expat market and HPPs (mortgages with an interest-free and Sharia-compliant structure). He says, Al Rayan's ambition is to be the number one bank for HPPs for GCC nationals and expats.
The Bank of England said it would develop a sharia-compliant liquidity tool for use by Islamic banks, to attract business from the industry's core centres. London has for some time sought to position itself as a global hub for Islamic finance.
The central bank has issued a consultation paper on a fund-based deposit model, that would help Islamic lenders to meet regulatory requirements for liquid asset buffers. It was stated, that the facility is unlikely to be ready before the spring of 2018, and it has yet to decide on whether it will develop a liquidity insurance facility. However, the tool would be a welcomed development for Britain's Islamic banks. These include Gatehouse Bank, the Bank of London and the Middle East, Al Rayan Bank and a unit of Qatar Islamic Bank.
The pricing would be comparable with conventional tools, and attractive for Islamic banks.
Al Rayan Bank has introduced a new range of home purchase plans (HPPs) to facilitate the move of an existing home finance product to the Sharia-compliant provider. The lender will assist customers by waiving or contributing to the fees associated with refinancing home finance to another provider. Al Rayan will waive the £399 HPP administration fee and the valuation will be paid by the bank, up to a maximum of £600, while the first monthly payment will see Al Rayan pay a cashback of £300 to the customer. The news comes after Al Rayan posted a 228% surge in home finance completions in January as it reported demand for Islamic finance was at an all-time high.
Al Rayan Bank has appointed Islamic Relief as its exclusive charity partner for 2017. The bank will work with Islamic Relief by supporting Sharia-compliant microfinance projects through fundraising activities. The projects will help people living in poverty to establish social enterprise businesses in their home countries and become financially independent. One of the projects is in Mali, West Africa. The project helps local women by making money available using the Islamic finance principle of Qard Hasan (loan without benefit). The women are then able to use the money to commercially harvest the nut of the African Shea tree and create Shea Butter, which they can then use to make various products. Seema Khan, head of major gifts at Islamic Relief UK, said the microfinance partnership with Al Rayan Bank is an intelligent solution to helping people around the world out of poverty.
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.
Britain's first Islamic law compliant stand-alone High Street bank has opened for the first time in Scotland.
Al Rayan Bank, formerly the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB), which has just over 2000 customers north of the border, has opened an office in Glasgow. The West Midlands-based bank will not pay or charge interest and is founded on an Islamic financial model in which the customer and the bank share the risk of any investment on agreed terms, and divide any profits between them. The move north comes some 12 years after IBB opened its first branch on Edgware Road in London.
A bank spokeswoman said that a key reason for the move was that it was able to form a partnership in Glasgow with the Islamic Finance Council, the advisory and developmental body, with which it shares its office location in Fitzroy Place, Glasgow. Cabinet secretary for economy, jobs and fair work, Keith Brown said: “Al Rayan Bank’s welcome decision to expand its operations into Scotland for the first time highlights the real opportunity offered by ethical finance. This announcement reflects Scotland’s growing profile in ethical finance."
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.
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.
Keith Leach, chief commercial officer (CCO), Al Rayan Bank, has an answer to the question if the new UK stamp duty charges announced in the autumn budget have a negative impact on foreign investment into property. His answer showed that potential investors are looking at the big, global picture. The tax changes — what might be on the horizon — wasn’t figuring in their thought processes. What was in their thoughts was the political and economic instability in the region, he explained. With regard to the impact of the 3% hike across all bands of stamp duty on buy-to-let landlords in the UK, Leach said it could lead to landlords faced with higher charges raising rents, or abandoning the buy-to-let market with a consequent reduction in availability of rental properties.
With Islamic finance entering London’s financial market and billions of dollars of investment in the UK and global real estate coming from Gulf Cooperation Council countries and other Muslim jurisdictions, the UK government was one of the first in the West that started propelling initiatives on Islamic financing vehicles for property purchases as early as in 2013. Meanwhile, Islamic financing facilities have become so popular for real estate transactions in the UK undertaken by Arab investors that the next International Real Estate Finance Summit, the premier real estate event in the UK scheduled to take place on December 1 and 2, 2015, in London, will entirely focus on the opportunities Shariah-compliant finance vehicles entail for property financing.
Al Rayan Bank is renewing its commitment to Birmingham as it gets set to relocate to a new head office in Edgbaston. The bank has purchased offices in Calthorpe Road and will move 100 of its employees from its current leased offices later this month. In February 2014, Al Rayan Bank was acquired by Masraf Al Rayan, the second largest Islamic bank in Qatar by market value. A rebrand followed before the bank posted its financial performance. In 2014, the bank’s operating income increased by 168%, customer financing increased by 86% and retail deposits increased by 59%. The bank also transformed a £5.5m loss in 2013 to an after tax profit of £1.2m.
Al Rayan Bank has boosted its staff in order to expand its mortgage business through mortgage advisers. It comes as the bank appointed Saalik Haleem as intermediary specialist. Mr Haleem, who is based at the bank’s operational headquarters, has been tasked with boosting the 13 per cent intermediary share of the bank’s mortgage business and creating new relationships with mortgage advisers across the UK. He has worked in Islamic finance for several years, specialising in the areas of advisory and Islamic investments, specifically Sharia-complaint Oeic/unit trusts.
Matthew Glover, head of IT and change delivery at Al Rayan Bank, says its use of cloud amounts to a competitive advantage against big banks, and its customer base of 60,000 gives it an edge against challenger banks which are similarly unburdened by legacy. Being an Islamic bank makes Al Rayan’s business different, too. Glover is not himself Muslim, and neither are many of its customers, he says. He heads a team of 14 IT and business professionals. The IT estate is a mix of on-premise and cloud. Apart from the core banking system, which is a Misys platform running on an IBM AS/400, Salesforce is the most important part of the bank’s technology landscape.
Al Rayan Bank PLC, formerly known as Islamic Bank of Britain, has officially opened its new private banking branch in Knightsbridge, London. The flagship branch adds to Al Rayan Bank’s existing network of five branches and three agencies throughout the country. It will provide high net worth individuals and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) clients with private banking services including real estate finance, day-to-day banking services and bespoke investment opportunities. In 2014 the bank’s operating income increased by 168 per cent, customer financing increased by 86 per cent and retail deposits increased by 59 per cent. The bank also transformed a £5.5 million loss in 2013 to an after tax profit of £1.2 million, the first time in its eleven year history that it has posted a profit.
Al Rayan Bank, formerly known as Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB), yesterday announced its strongest financial performance to date, resulting in the Bank more than doubling its operating income and posting its first profit since its inception in 2004. The bank’s operating income increased 168 percent to £11.8m in 2014 from£4.4m in 2013. The bank saw 86 percent increase in total customer financing, to £450.3m. Retail deposits increased 59 percent to £509.8m and while wholesale deposits increased 53 percent to £31.7m. Increasing consumer confidence, the continued strength of the housing market and opportunities to provide property finance to the commercial sector as well as to investors in the Gulf has enabled Al Rayan Bank to post its best results to date.
Al Rayan Bank PLC, formerly known as Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB), has announced the appointment of Tim Sinclair as senior head of marketing and retail sales at its Birmingham office. Sinclair has played a role in the realignment of the bank’s sales channels, towards a more direct model. This has been achieved by developing the bank’s online capabilities, resulting in a 439% growth in direct sales between 2011 and 2014. Sinclair has also championed several research projects, which have helped Al Rayan Bank to develop a clearer understanding of the British Muslim consumer and business marketplace, a previously under researched area.
The British Muslim Awards sponsored by the Al Rayan Bank, formerly known as Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB), aim to recognise a wide range of achievements which cover various aspects of society including business, charity, sport, arts and culture and much more. This year the event took place at the Chateau Impney Hotel, Worcestershire on Tuesday, January 27. Several nominees for each of the categories had been announced prior to the event. Categories include Muslim in the Community, Arts & Cultural Awareness, Young Achiever of the Year, Charity of the Year, Responsible Media of the Year, Religious Advocate of the Year, Muslim Woman of the Year, Best at Sport, among others.
Shareholders of the Birmingham-based Islamic Bank of Britain have given their approval to change its name to Al Rayan Bank. As a result of the rebranding, the bank has introduced a new Al Rayan Bank logo and brand identity, which are being implemented across its website, literature and branches. Al Rayan Bank’s activities will continue to be monitored by an independent Sharia supervisory committee and a dedicated compliance officer. It will continue to operate as a UK regulated bank and customers’ deposits will remain protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme.
Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB) plans to change its name to Al Rayan Bank PLC, subject to formal shareholder approval. The change will be completed in December 2014. The rebrand follows IBB's acquisition, earlier in the year, by Qatar-based Masraf Al Rayan (MAR). Rebranding activity will involve the introduction of a new Al Rayan Bank logo and brand identity. It will continue to operate as a UK regulated bank, and customers' deposits will remain protected by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. With an increased focus on corporate and real estate finance, Al Rayan Bank will develop its presence in London. Its retail banking and operational head quarters will remain in Birmingham.