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Exclusive: First Islamic #robo-adviser to launch in Mena

The first Sharia-compliant robo advisers plans to start operations in the UAE soon, as it looks to a US$2 million funding boost this week from the Dubai venture capital firm Beco Capital. The digitally automated investment adviser Wahed Invest launched in the USA five months ago. CEO Junaid Wahedna said the company was in the process of moving to a new office in Dubai which will become the company’s new global headquarters. Wahed Invest expects to start regional operations by mid-Nov­ember, focusing initially on the UAE. According to Wahedna, the target for ethical, Sharia robo-advisory is the younger demographic, 25-35 years old, digitally savvy and educated millennials. The minimum investment of $100 enables it to tap into a broader customer base.

Business schools teach Islamic finance, and all are welcome

The world's growing Muslim population opens up near limitless potential for Islamic finance. However, the pool of talent is very limited at the moment. The International Center for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF) welcomes students from all over the world. Since its opening in 2006, half of the 1,300-plus graduates have been Malaysians, but the other half have been from over 70 countries. The list includes predominantly Muslim nations, like Indonesia, Pakistan and Somalia, but one does not have to be Muslim to enroll. Malaysian authorities are encouraging other educational endeavors, too. The Islamic Banking and Finance Institute Malaysia will launch two new programs offering professional certifications in Islamic finance. The two certifications, chartered Islamic banker and chartered takaful practitioner, are the equivalent of conventional financial qualifications.

IFSB: Islamic #FinTech Finance Bigger in Asia than First Thought

Islamic fintech finance in Asia is anticipated to be bigger than originally thought. According to the secretary-general of the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), Zahid ur Rehman Khokher, Islamic finance has the potential to expand further into the Asian market. He noted that the IFSB has been closely monitoring global developments in fintech. Yet, he feels there is a shortage of staff with the appropriate skills. Earlier this month, it was reported that Malaysia was the idea test bed for developing fintech solutions. According to Marzunisham Omar, assistant governor at the Bank Negara Malaysia, even though Islamic finance is still growing within the country, now is the time for the sector to embrace the fintech wave.

Scope of #waqf in #Malaysia should be expanded

The scope of waqf funds need to be expanded in Malaysia beyond the traditional norms of building mosques and Muslim cemeteries. Bank Rakyat chairman Tan Sri Shukry Mohd Salleh said the waqf funds can be fully utilised in other programmes. Cash waqf, he added, had been identified as one of the major tools that could resolve poverty issues in Malaysia. In order to eradicate poverty, Shukry said waqf funds should be distributed within four key sectors, namely health, education, economic development and financial assistance for small enterprises. He also said that even though a lot of waqf efforts have been made, the waqf collection system needs to be streamlined and improved professionally.

Issuance of P50-billion Marawi #bond proposed

The #Philippines House of Representatives has approved the government’s plan of tapping the bond market to finance the reconstruction of Marawi City. Ben P. Evardone said the Bureau of Treasury should pursue the issuance of a P50-billion 'Marawi Bond' considering the low interest rates prevailing in the market. By tapping the bond market to finance Marawi’s reconstruction, the lawmaker said this will free up a huge part of the regular budget for government’s other programs. According to Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, the government would allocate P15 billion to Marawi City in the next two years. He also added the tax settlement paid by Mighty Corp. and Philippine Airlines would be used to finance the rehabilitation of the war-torn city.

Islamic Development Bank to finance African #infrastructure projects

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has approved a multi-million-dollar package of financing to boost infrastructure investments in seven African nations. Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Tunisia and Suriname will benefit from a share of the total $805 million deals for investments in energy, housing, agriculture and water supply. IDB president Dr Bandar Hajjar signed the agreements with the finance ministers of the beneficiary countries. Cote d'Ivoire will receive $265m for the Cocody Bay project and vocational training. Mali will receive $166m for the country’s Sirakoro power plant project and Burkina Faso will receive $104m for a power project. Guinea is to receive $16m for a rural water supply project and Tunisia will receive $80m for agricultural development. Senegal and Suriname will receive a total of $173 for housing projects.

#UAE Central Bank warns against #Bitcoin

The UAE Central Bank has warned against Bitcoin, terming it as unofficial and lacking sufficient supervision. According to Governor Mubarak Rashed Al Mansouri, it can be easily used in money laundering and in funding terror activities. Al Mansouri also said the central bank has completed the formation of a committee for developing Islamic Sharia-compliant products in order to support the Islamic finance sector. On the level of the UAE financial exposure to global capital markets, the governor said local markets have a slight exposure as the existing liquid assets now account for 17% of the banking sector's total assets. He added that UAE banks are robust enough to deal with risks as they have sufficient capital on account of the rising level of individual deposits.

When money meets religion: Sharia compliant #pensions in the #UK

Pension schemes are increasingly attempting to understand their members' preferences. Exclusion policies over so-called sin stocks, such as alcohol and tobacco, is on the rise across the UK. The need for sharia-accommodating pensions is likely to grow. The UK’s Muslim population reached 2.8m in 2011, according to the last census. The biggest challenge associated with sharia compliance relates to its policies on investments, but sukuk can take the place of conventional debt instruments. Christine Hallett, CEO of Carey Pensions UK, which administers the Islamic Pension Trust, says sukuk is currently too expensive for the workplace DC default charge cap of 0.75%. The industry is faced with a circular problem. Lack of demand limits the range of mature markets sharia funds can invest in. Maria Nazarova-Doyle, head of JLT Employee Benefits, sees a current absence of demand for sharia pensions, but adds that sharia considerations are becoming more prominent.

Islamic Development Bank to Research Sharia-Compliant #Blockchain Products

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is using blockchain to develop new sharia-complaint financial products. The bank's Islamic Research and Training Institute has struck an agreement with two startups, Ateon and SettleMint, to perform technical feasibility studies. IDB said that it was interested in asset exchanges that can settle in near-instant time. According to the statement by SettleMint, blockchain smart contracts can help automate the contractual processes for Islamic institutions. At the same time, they can also alleviate the additional administrative and legal complexities as well as redundancies associated with Sharia-compliant financial products. SettleMint's CEO Matthew Van Niekerk said he was excited to contribute to this project, thus to the financial inclusion and development of the 57 member countries of the IDB.

S&P report discusses whether #Fintech could disrupt GCC banks' business models

S&P Global Ratings believes that financial technology could reduce the profitability of some business lines of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) banks. S&P's credit analyst Mohamed Damak said fintech could impinge on retail banking, particularly money transfer and foreign-currency exchange. This would push some banks to adjust their operations through increased digitalization, branch network reduction, and staff rationalization. He added that fintech alone is not expected to have a significant influence on GCC banks ratings in the next two years. He believes that banks will be able to adapt to the changing operating environment through collaboration with fintech companies and cost-reduction measures. Furthermore, regulators in the GCC will continue to protect the financial stability of their banking systems. Fintech is not yet a negative rating driver. However, it will increasingly become a force to be reckoned with.

#Saudi Arabia's IDB Plans #Blockchain-Based Financial Inclusion Product

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) plans to use blockchain technology to develop sharia-compliant products to support financial inclusion in its member countries. The bank's Islamic Research and Training Institute signed an agreement with local firm Ateon and Belgium-based SettleMint for the development of the project. Blockchain involves a shared electronic ledger that allows all parties to track information, removing the need for third-party verification. The IDB said such features would allow for instantaneous clearing and settlement of transactions and asset exchanges, while helping eliminate counterparty risk.

Dubai Entrepreneur Launches Shariah-Compliant #Cryptocurrency Token

Dubai-based entrepreneur Com Mirz is set to launch a new Shariah-compliant cryptocurrency called Habibi Coin. The startup has already seen a staggering 750-member syndicate that is willing to invest in Habibi Coins with a $100-million initial coin offering (ICO). That is in addition to $3 million dollars raised by Mirza. In the same way that Bitcoin works as a decentralized payment system of digital currency with peer-to-peer transactions, Habibi Coin is essentially the bitcoin of the Middle East as it involves no intermediary. There is a significant rise in technology and digital currency that is paving the way forward in the Middle East. The Middle East is set to undertake one of the largest Shariah-compliant tokens, the Habibi Coin.

IRTI Partners With Ateon And Settlemint To Develop #Blockchain-based Products For Financial Inclusion

The Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) signed an agreement with Ateon to build a Blockchain-based financial product to support financial inclusion in IDB member countries. Saudi Arabian Ateon will be working on this project with SettleMint, which is a Belgium-based software company. Blockchain smart contracts enable the automation of the entire contractual process for Islamic institutions, alleviating the additional administrative and legal complexities associated with Sharia compliant financial products. Not only that, smart contracts are easy to verify, immutable and secure. The International Fiqh Academy has approved contracting through electronic means since 1990.

#AAOIFI Governance #Standard No. 8 'Central Shari'ah Board' has been officially issued

AAOIFI has issued its Governance Standard No. 8 "Central Shari’ah Board", which also marks the issuance of 100 standards so far. Standards have been issued in areas of accounting, auditing, governance, ethics as well as Shari’ah. According to Chairman Dr. Ishrat Hussain, this standard will support the regulators for establishing and operating Shari’ah boards at jurisdiction level. A survey with experts was conducted and public hearing sessions were held in Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Pakistan. Although the standard encourages the creation of Central Shari’ah Boards (CSB) at national levels, the guidance provided would standardise the global regulatory practices in this respect. The standard also presents a country-level approach for regulating the Islamic Finance Industry. It provides detailed guidance on the definition, scope of work, responsibilities, appointment, composition, independence and terms of reference of a Central Shari’ah Board.

#Malaysia is Perfect ‘Test Bed’ for #FinTech Development: Central Bank

Malaysia’s central bank said that the country is the ideal test bed for developing financial technology (fintech) solutions. Marzunisham Omar, assistant governor at Bank Negara Malaysia, explained that the growth of the sector has provided innovative opportunities within the financial industry. While the country’s central bank is keen to push a fintech agenda, its position on digital currencies is not as clear. Bank Negara governor Muhammad bin Ibrahim said that a blanket ban on cryptocurrencies was not out of the question. The bank is currently developing guidelines for them. Either way, by the end of the year, the bank is expected to reveal its position on the cryptocurrency market.

Arcapita And Mumtalakat Acquire NAS United Healthcare Services

Arcapita and Bahrain Mumtalakat Holding Company have partnered to acquire an approximately 90% stake in NAS United Healthcare Services (NAS). Arcapita is a global Shari'ah compliant alternative investment manager. Mumtalakat is the sovereign wealth fund of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Abu Dhabi-based NAS is a regional leader in the provision of third-party administrator services to more than 40 health insurance and takaful companies in the Arabian Gulf. NAS services a pool of more than 500,000 insured members and processes more than 3 million medical claims per year. The market for outsourced medical claims management in the GCC region is expected to grow significantly. Most GCC governments have either implemented mandatory healthcare insurance coverage or plan to launch initiatives in the next 2 to 3 years.

Faith And #Investment Come Together As Polling Shows The Public Want Investors To Act With Conscience

The Church of England is circulating a video which discusses investment issues within the church. The initiative is part of Good Money Week to stimulate responsible investment. The YouGov research for Good Money Week shows that there is a high demand for ethical and sustainable investment. 57% of Britain's public believe investment managers have responsibility to ensure holdings are managed in a way positive for society and the environment. There is a rising demand for fossil free funds: 40% want a fossil free option, up from 35% last year and 32% in 2015. This rises to 57% of adults under 24. The research also found that UK savers feel disempowered by financial intermediaries. 76% of Britain's public don’t know how much of their pension is invested ethically and 30% believe they have no say in how their assets are invested. During Good Money Week, the Church of England provides the tools to find out more about ethical investment and helps to take the first steps.

Christ Coin launches as first faith-based #cryptocurrency

Christ Coin has launched as the first Christian cryptocurrency. Built by Life Change, Christ Coin has a mission to meet the spiritual and practical needs of anyone and unite Christians together as one community. Following the initial crowdfunding period, anyone can sign up on the Life Change Platform and be monetarily rewarded by interacting with the platform. There are various ways of interacting, like volunteering, participating in small groups, posting content and even reading the Bible. Investment in the crowdfunding is not required. Luke Forstmann, co-founder of Christ Coin, said Christ Coin was an investment opportunity which goes much farther than personal finance. It is created to change lives, support ministries and inspire people to grow in their faith. As with other cryptocurrencies, Christ Coin will offer quarterly buybacks and burn of coins. This allows Christ Coin to grow and increase the currency value.

Bank AlJazira Partners with ShoCard to Leverage its #Blockchain Identity Management Platform

ShoCard, Ateon and Bank AlJazira are working in partnership to launch the first-of-its-kind use case in the region. The use case uses ShoCard's blockchain-based identity management solution along with the KYC solution from SettleMint. ShoCard's technology can be used for password-less login, whereby user credentials are not stored on any computer. ShoCard also ensures no personal or financial data is exchanged during transactions, thus resulting in fast, trusted authentications. Expected benefits of the system include reduced cost for identity management, reduced fraud and improved customer satisfaction. ShoCard's use case samples are easy to develop and can quickly integrate into clients' infrastructure. ShoCard has a ready-to-go complete stack with patented technology.

SECP introduces draft of Sharia Advisors #Regulations 2017

To enhance the credibility of Islamic financial services sector, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) introduced a draft of Sharia Advisors Regulations 2017. The new regulations are expected to professionalise Shariah advisory services. Companies would only be able to engage the advisors who would be on the SECP’s panel of Shariah advisors. To join this panel, advisors need to meet proper criteria and abide by a code of conduct that emphasises independence and objectivity. The draft of Shariah Advisors Regulations 2017 is available on the SECP’s website and is now open to the public for consultation.

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