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Islamic Equity Class Should Explore Solutions To Stay Competitive - Sultan Nazrin

According to the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Shah, the Islamic equity asset class needs to explore solutions and achieve critical mass volume in order to remain competitive. He delivered his keynote speech at the Franklin Templeton Investments 2018 Islamic Forum in Kuala Lumpur. He believes that Islamic finance must embrace the era of disruptive innovation, with a continued strong focus on product innovation. The global asset management landscape had been pushed to embrace new online investment platforms and failure to keep up with these changing structural dynamics could put the industry at an even greater disadvantage than at present. He said that Islamic investors could also capitalise on the emerging "green" or environmentally-friendly finance.

Dubai launches Sharia compliant #crypto assets backed with diamonds

Dubai's Al Kasir Group and Sheikh Ahmed bin Obaid Al Maktoum have jointly initiated the launch of a new crypto asset backed with diamonds. The crypto assets can be redeemed for diamonds of the same amount. Amit Lakhanpal, the founder of Al Kasir Group said this venture offers the convenience of a digital currency with the stability of a traditional asset. The name of the crypto assets unveiled at the event were Al Mas, Al Haqeek and Al Falah. Al Haqeek can be redeemed against precious gems. Al Falah can be redeemed against perfumes. The company plans to open 1,000 physical stores for customers across Gulf, South East Asia, Europe and UK. The crypto assets could be purchased over the counter.

One cryptocurrency thinks it is Sharia-compliant, but for Muslim investors the blockchain still has pitfalls

OneGram claims to comply with Islamic finance requirements with its gold-backed, Sharia-compliant digital coin. Muslim countries Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates issued warnings against the use of alternative digital currencies. Islamic jurists in South Africa have ruled in favour of cryptocurrencies, arguing that they have become socially acceptable and commonly used. According to Max Vehmeyer, client relations manager at Kagiso Asset Management, the compliance of cryptocurrencies with Sharia law is still a grey area. This is partly because cryptocurrencies have inherent risks of fraud and cheating because of a lack of regulation, which is not in line with Islamic commercial jurisprudence. Vehmeyer says the introduction of a virtual currency like OneGram limits speculation to some degree.

Global REIT: The First Sharia-Compliant REIT Launched in the #Cryptocurrency Market

Global REIT is the first ever Blockchain based Sharia-compliant REIT to be launched in the cryptocurrency space today. It is offering investors exposure to the real estate market on a global scale without the necessity of acquiring an entire property and shift the management and compliance obligations to the fund manager. At first, Global REIT will acquire assets from the UAE and rapidly acquire more assets from other jurisdictions worldwide. The first AUM (Asset under Management) will have a Net Asset Value of USD 75 million. Gradually by the end of 5 years, Global REIT is projecting an Asset Value of USD 10 billion. Global REIT has its pre-ICO scheduled to start from 1st May and ends 31st May 2018, during which it will offer Dual Utility tokens to its subscribers: Global REIT Fund Manager Token (GREM) and Global REIT Asset Token (GRET).

Al Hilal Bank and ADGM to collaborate on knowledge-based initiatives

Al Hilal Bank and Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to develop a strategic collaboration. The MoU focuses on the utilisation of ADGM Academy, the newly established financial educational centre. The MoU provides Al Hilal Bank with The Academy’s network of trainers, internationally renowned curriculum and ADGM’s business ecosystem. Al Hilal Bank Senior Managing Director Sultan Al Mahmood said this partnership represents a unique learning and development opportunity for employees to develop a best practice financial education. The signing ceremony took place on Monday, 16 April 2018 at the ADGM Academy, located on Al Maryah Island. It was attended by H.E. Ahmed Ali Al Sayegh, Chairman of ADGM and H.E Khalaf Abdulla Rahma Al Hammadi, Vice Chairman of Al Hilal Bank.

Will #Iran’s banking sector collapse?

Financial experts are warning that Iran’s banking sector is at risk of a collapse due to toxic assets. It is no secret that over the past decade all Iranian banks were negatively affected by sanctions, internal mismanagement and corruption. Another disturbing factor in the financial sector has been the presence of unlicensed financial institutions. Government interference has led to the accumulation of tens of billions of dollars of bad debts that will continue to put pressure on the balance sheets of Iranian banks for some time to come. Besides the high ratio of nonperforming loans, Iranian banks have a high portion of overvalued and illiquid assets on their balance sheets that need to be adjusted. Now several Iranian banks are following government instructions and have started to sell their noncore assets. The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) will have no choice but to push for bank mergers and also to impose and implement tough regulations on the country’s banks in order to prevent a deeper crisis.

Iyad Asali, General Manager, Islamic International Arab Bank: Interview

In this interview, Iyad Asali, General Manger of Islamic International Arab Bank speaks about the future of Islamic banking in Jordan. The Central Bank of Jordan (CBJ) reported that 69% of the population in Jordan are financially excluded. This gives Islamic banks an opportunity to develop new financial services for this segment. Jordan’s Islamic banks are currently trying to take advantage of this situation to raise awareness of their services. They are also working to improve financial literacy through media, events, social networks and conferences. Over the past five years Islamic International Arab Bank has developed a new framework for sharia-compliant SME financing in coordination with the CBJ. This cooperation led to the founding of an Islamic tool for mobilising funds to SMEs at subsidised costs and the establishment of a sharia-compliant fund to guarantee start-ups financing. This programme empowers a large segment of SMEs across various sectors, especially those owned by young entrepreneurs and women, and those located outside Amman.

Lessons Learned in Designing an App to Build Financial Health

CFI and the Microfinance Centre (MFC) in Warsaw are working together to build a smartphone application to assist customers and improve their financial health. As part of the project, a simple financial health quiz was developed which will serve as the foundation of the application. Customers appreciated concrete, practical advice, particularly with regard to short-term money management. Instead of simply hearing what they "should" do in general terms, consumers want advice on "how" to do it. They also want help to prioritize among the many possible actions they could take. Too many tips can leave people overwhelmed and paralyzed. Users indicated that games, other quizzes, and memorable stories would help guide behavior and motivate ongoing engagement. The ability to print out tips, tools, advice, and a calendar for budgeting was suggested.

Islamic Development Bank grants $63.3 million to #Sudan

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) signed a grant agreement worth $63.3 million for the establishment of facilities and services in South Darfur, Sudan. Earlier this month, the IDB agreed to lend Tunisia $185 million to finance developments including an electricity project. The bank agreed to finance an electricity link worth $150, as well as the construction of hospitals in Kasserine and Kef worth $34 million. The IDB is a Jeddah-based multilateral development financing institution. It began its activities in 1975. The present membership of the bank consists of 57 countries.

Richest 1% to own two-thirds of world's wealth by 2030: new study

As the wealthy continue to accumulate money faster than average income earners, the rich-poor divide will only widen over the next few years. According to the latest research by the UK’s House of Commons, in 12 years' time more than two-thirds of the world’s wealth will be in the hands of just 1% of the population. The remaining 99% have seen their wealth grow at a lower pace of only 3% per year. There are no similar analysis to determine the rich-poor divide within the UAE, but Dubai is increasingly becoming a magnet for the world’s wealthy. According to Knight Frank’s Wealth Report, the population of ultra-high-net-worth individuals (UNHWIs), each owning at least $30 million in assets, is expected to jump by 60% by 2026. Dubai is home to the highest concentration of millionaires and multi-millionaires and UNHWIs for any city in the Middle East.

How #cryptocurrency traders are wooing Islamic investors

The global surge of interest in cryptocurrencies extends into the Gulf and Southeast Asia, the main centres of Islamic finance. However, many Islamic scholars argue that cryptocurrencies are not religiously permissible, as they are products of financial engineering and objects of speculation. UAE-based OneGram is issuing a gold-backed cryptocurrency, which is certified as valid by Islamic advisors. Each OneGram cryptocurrency unit is backed by at least a gramme of physical gold stored in a vault. Tens of millions of dollars worth of the currency have been issued so far. About 60% of the planned number of coins remains to be sold. In Malaysia a similar initiative was launched in October. HelloGold launched an initial offer of its gold-backed cryptocurrency and received approval from Amanie Advisors. Among other experiments, UAE-based Halal Chain conducted an initial coin offer in December which is linked to data on Islamically-permissible goods.

MENA #fintech sector to attract US$2.5bn in deals by 2022, study finds

According to MENA Research Partners (MRP), the current MENA fintech market is estimated at US$2bn and expected to witness an annual growth of US$125mn until 2022. MRP CEO Anthony Hobeika said that the funding of fintech changed a lot in the last 6 years. While in 2010 funding was provided exclusively by venture capital firms, new funding vehicles such as accelerators, private equity institutions, corporation, banks and angel investors are showing interest. Up until recently, banks considered fintech as a competitor. Now banks are acquiring, partnering and also sponsoring fintech companies. As an example, some GCC banks collaborated with specialised fintech startups to implement the new VAT regulations.

Industry body AAOIFI close to finalising #standards for Islamic endowments

The Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) is close to finalising governance and sharia standards for Islamic endowments, known as awqaf. Deputy Secretary General Omar Mustafa Ansari said the development of an accounting standard for awqaf was underway. A governance standard for awqaf would provide guidance on internal controls, policies and procedures, transparency and disclosures. According to a Dubai government estimate, awqaf may hold around $1 trillion in assets around the globe. Most awqaf do not disclose full financial figures, although their underperformance is believed to be considerable since they are run by administrators rather than return-oriented investment managers.

Islamic Scholars Debate Validity of #Cryptocurrencies

The world's top Islamic finance scholars are scrutinizing the validity of cryptocurrencies. The discussions are part of the annual sharia conference of the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) being held in Bahrain this week. The key question for scholars is whether cryptocurrencies fall under the so-called "ribawi" category, which includes commodities like gold and silver. AAOIFI primarily issues accounting and sharia standards for Islamic finance institutions, but there is no current indication on cryptocurrencies. Scholar deliberations, however, could clarify what types of cryptocurrencies are religiously acceptable and influence future product development.

A 200-year-old idea offers a new way to trace stolen bitcoins

Bitcoin's blockchain provides evidence of every Bitcoin transaction that's ever taken place. Many of the transactions recorded on that distributed ledger are crimes. But a group of Cambridge cybersecurity researchers argues that one can still distinguish the contraband coins from the legitimate ones. Based on a legal precedent from an 1816 British court decision, they say that the first coin that leaves a Bitcoin address should be considered the same coin as the first one that went into it, carrying with it all of that coin's criminal history. The Cambridge researchers have gone so far as to code a proof-of-concept software tool, which they plan to release later this year.

#Malaysia can be Islamic #fintech leader, says Fitch Group unit

According to research agency BMI, Malaysia has the potential to be a world leader in Islamic financial technology (fintech). The research firm said Malaysia’s Islamic banking sector was worth US$202 billion last year, while its Islamic loans also more than doubled to 30.2% the same year, compared to just 7.8% a decade ago. BMI noted Malaysia has a developed infrastructure, an increasingly affluent and tech-savvy population, and high mobile and broadband penetration rates coupled with fast internet speeds. The Memorandum of Understanding between MIMOS and the International Center for Education In Islamic Finance (INCEIF) has laid down the foundation for the development of Islamic fintech in Malaysia.

Jaiz Bank, IDB Sign $20m SMEs Financing Deal

Jaiz Bank and Islamic Corporation for the Development of Private Sector (ICD) have signed a $20 million line of agreement to finance the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) of Nigeria. The financing deal covers sectors such as industry, communications, technology, health, manufacturing and agriculture. Hassan Usman, Managing Director of Jaiz Bank, signed on behalf of the bank while Okan Altasil, the Regional Office Director of ICD, signed for the corporation. The ICD management said the reason for extending such financing to some Nigerian banks was because SMEs have crucial role to play in a country’s growth and development. The ICD had previously extended a total of $120 million line of financing facility for the development of SMEs in Nigeria.

#Saudi- Finance Minister heads the Kingdom's delegation to the 43rd Islamic Development Bank board of governors Annual Meeting in Tunis

Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan will head the Kingdom's delegation to the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank between April 4-5 in Tunis. The Saudi delegation will include Dr. Ahmad Al-Khulaifi, Governor of the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), Dr. Hamad Al-Bazie, Vice Minister of Finance, Eng. Yousef Al-Bassam, Vice President and Managing Director of the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). The IDB annual meeting's agenda will comprise of discussion sessions about the 2017 IDB activities report, IDB's institutions annual report and the establishment of the Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development (ISFD). The ISFD aims to alleviate poverty, develop capacity, and eradicate illiteracy, diseases and epidemics in member countries via funding various productive, social and service projects and programs.

The rise of Muslim #Millennials and what it means for Islamic finance

Millennials are the generational demographic bracket following Generation X, which was a more consumerist, independent-minded age cohort. In the Muslim world, the Arab Spring, the Global Recession and other developments like dropping oil prices had major impact on this generation. A study by credit card firm Visa showed that Millennials make up the fastest-growing consumer segment in the GCC region. Visa estimates that Millennials in the UAE will receive an average income of $40,000 annually by 2019 which naturally makes them an important customer segment for banks. Millennials are generally savvy with digital technologies and the sharing economy. They have a more liberal approach to economics, which means that they are generally not brand-loyal but rather look for the best deal. Muslim Millennials are truly asserting their needs in Islamic finance, as they do in halal travel, food, media and fashion. For Islamic banks, this means that laggards will lose out on this very important customer segment, if they do not invest in their digital banking solutions.

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