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Islamic #FinTech in 2018

2018 may prove to be a pivotal year for Islamic finance stakeholders and their approach to developments in FinTech. Potential areas for FinTech are remittances, insurance, investment advisory services and online trading. In the coming years, demand from consumers is expected to give rise to the faster adoption of these technologies. Instead of mirroring conventional financial products, commentators see the opportunity to provide genuine Islamic-compliant alternatives to the traditional banking model. In December 2017, KFH Bahrain, Al Baraka Banking Group and Bahrain Development Bank announced the establishment of ALGO Bahrain. It will be dedicated to research and development in the Islamic-compliant FinTech sector. In addition, the largest FinTech hub in the Middle East and Africa will open in February 2018. The new hub named Bahrain FinTech Bay is operated by Singapore-based fintech incubator FinTech Consortium.

#Venezuela to issue oil-backed #cryptocurrency in ‘coming days’

President Nicolas Maduro announced that Venezuela would issue 100 million units of an oil-backed cryptocurrency known as the petro. Maduro said that the petro would be backed by 5 billion barrels in the Ayacucho block of the Orinoco Oil Belt. Based on the latest price of the country’s oil basket, the total issue would be worth about $5.9 billion. Maduro believes the cryptocurrency will help the South American country challenge the tyranny of the dollar, economic war and US-led financial persecution. Over the past year, the US Treasury Department has blacklisted numerous top-ranking officials, including Maduro and many of his ministers. Home to the world’s largest crude reserves, Venezuelan oil output fell to a 14-year low last July. Maduro didn’t comment on whether Venezuela bondholders would be paid with petros. At the start, the petro will be obtained through auctions or direct allocation by the country’s Cryptocurrency Superintendent.

#Zakat Fund aid amounted to QR13.6m in December

Qatar's Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs provided zakat to the needy families, the zakat totalled QR13,624,806 last December. The aid was distributed to the beneficiaries, including the permanent aid provided monthly and the irregular aid, which is related to specific needs and emergency conditions. The funds were distributed according to Shariah and after comprehensively researching each beneficiary case and undergoing a social and field research. The cases are then presented to specialised committees, who meet daily and assess the cases, guaranteeing the delivery of assistance to beneficiaries in need.

Nominations open for Royal #Award for Islamic Finance

The Royal Award for Islamic Finance is on a global search for an exceptional individual in the field of Islamic finance. The biennial award is spearheaded by Bank Negara Malaysia and the Securities Commission Malaysia. It recognises Islamic finance visionaries who contribute significantly to the growth of Islamic finance. The award recipient is selected by an independent seven-member international jury chaired by Tun Musa Hitam. The most recent recipient of the Royal Award for Islamic Finance in 2016 was Prof Datuk Dr Rifaat Ahmed Abdel Karim. He was instrumental in founding the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) and the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB). The closing date for nominations is March 31, 2018, and interested persons can submit their nominations online.

Emerging Markets: Middle East debt markets roll with the punches

The Middle East faces a very tricky 2018. War rages in Yemen. Qatar and its neighbours are at loggerheads, in an inter-Gulf feud without precedent. Saudi Arabia is purging its princes. But bond and loan markets are placid. Overall borrowing in the region in 2017 came in at a much higher level than before the oil price fell in 2014. The feeling across the capital markets is firmly that although the region poses risks, it is also rife with opportunities for 2018. One country where that optimism might not be so high is Qatar. The political turmoil in the region has reined in debt capital market bankers’ enthusiasm about Qatar, once the jewel of the Middle East capital markets. On June 5 last year, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt and Libya cut diplomatic ties with Qatar and installed sanctions over allegations of the emirate’s links to terrorist groups. In December 2017, Qatar National Bank and Commercial Bank of Qatar approached the international loan market. Now banks are brushing their concerns aside and bankers are more optimistic about Qatar’s funding capability.

BEP Systems to deliver Gatehouse Bank’s residential financing processes

BEP Systems has added Gatehouse Bank to its roster of financiers using their customisable Apprivo2 system. Gatehouse Bank will use the new system to help make their business more efficient. For Gatehouse Bank, BEP have re-configured their systems to comply with Shariah requirements when dealing with home purchase plans. Charles Haresnape, CEO of Gatehouse Bank, said it was vital that the software house understood Shariah requirements and BEP Systems delivered excellent solutions across home purchase plans and buy-to-let financing. Chris Little, managing director of BEP Systems, said Gatehouse Bank had seen the advantages Apprivo2 and strategic advantages would be delivered to fit their business model. He added that Apprivo2 was the fastest growing system in the UK serving specialist finance providers.

Deoband’s new #fatwa bans Muslim women from marrying into families of bankers

The largest seminary in #India, Darul Uloom Deoband, has issued a fatwa asking Muslim women to not marry into a family whose members work in banks. Deoband argued that the income from banking jobs is considered haram (forbidden) earnings. The edict was pronounced after a person asked Darul Ifta if he should marry his daughter to a man whose father worked in a bank. The Islamic scholars have upheld the fatwa, contending that the religious body’s stand was in line with the Islamic law. Islamic researcher Maulana Nadimul Vajdi said that if a person, knowingly or unknowingly, has indulged in haram earning, the person concerned should quit the job and find another one in which the income was not considered forbidden under the Islamic law.

Top #Egyptian cleric forbids Muslims from #Bitcoin trading

The Grand Mufti of Egypt has explicitly prohibited trading in Bitcoin, explaining that it is forbidden in Islamic Sharia for the risks it holds, and its been used to fund terrorists. A Fatwa has been issued that the virtual currency should not be used to make financial transactions because it has no monetary cover by the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE). Mufti Allam remarked that Bitcoins undermine the legal system, as companies can evade taxes and not disclose their profits due to the fact that Bitcoins are untraceable. Furthermore, companies turn their attention to crypto currencies as it allows them to launder money or finance terrorist activities and engage in other fraudulent behaviors. The Mufti concluded that Bitcoin does not have a physical form and leads to fraud, therefore prohibited its use as it leads to more corruption.

#Turkey issues #detention warrants for 68 Bank Asya shareholders in post-coup probe: police

Turkish authorities have issued detention warrants for 68 shareholders of Bank Asya. The police operation targeted the network of the cleric accused for orchestrating last year’s failed coup attempt. The targeted shareholders all had voting rights to determine the bank’s administrative board. So far 49 of the 68 suspects had been detained. Bank Asya was founded by followers of the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and was seized by the state in 2015. According to the Turkish government, Gulen masterminded the 2016 attempted coup, in which more than 240 people were killed by rogue soldiers. Gulen has denied the charges and condemned the coup. Since the abortive putsch, more than 50,000 people, including civil servants and security personnel, have been jailed pending trial and some 150,000 suspended or dismissed from their jobs.

#Indonesia Hampers #Fintech in Using #Cryptocurrencies

From January 1, Indonesia is introducing a ban on crypto coins as payment options. The Indonesian government wants to ban forms of payment processing and make payment processing available only by owning a banking license. Such moves show how governments could crack down on crypto coins, while being generally accepting of fintech payment systems, even going as far as licensing them. Indonesia recognizes fintech firms as those providing payment systems, market support, investment management or risk management, P2P lending, financing providers and other financial services. All new fintech products in Indonesia would be tested in a sandbox environment before receiving a license.

Reviving 'waqf' institutions in #Indonesia

Waqf have played an important role in the social and economic development of Muslim societies. However, many waqf properties in Indonesia suffer from abuse and neglect. Chairman of the Indonesian Waqf Board (BWI) Mohammad Nuh urged the transformation of the great potential of waqf into a real force to support the national economy. Current development of waqf is hindered by five core issues: misperception, legislation, governance, professionalism and the availability of funding. Important issues such as the provisions of a survey or census on waqf and tax incentives are lacking in the current legislation. A survey on waqf is crucial in mapping the current problems and status of waqf assets. In Indonesia waqf institutions are largely not bankable and hardly have a channel to financial institutions in financing the development of their properties. The newly appointed Indonesian waqf board may revive waqf institutions by identifying priorities, careful implementation and better administration.

#Fintech Is The New Oil In The Middle East And North Africa

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the financial technology sector is coming of age. According to the State of Fintech report, fintech startups in the region have raised over $100 million over the past decade and investment is predicted to double by 2020. Disclosed investment in fintech had jumped 100% to over $35 million by October 2017. The number of fintech startups also increased from 46 in 2013 to 105 in 2015. It is estimated that it will more than double again to 250 by 2020. Despite the ubiquity of smartphones and internet connectivity, 86% of the adult population in the region is unbanked, while three in four GCC bank customers are ready to switch banks for a better digital experience. According to Abdulaziz Fahad Al Jouf, CEO of PayTabs, fintech could become as great a force in the Middle East as oil. In this environment, the region’s financial institutions are compelled to keep pace with the rapidly evolving fintech industry.

First Shariah-compliant commodity ETF launched by Affin Hwang AM

Affin Hwang Asset Management (Affin Hwang AM) has launched its first Shariah-compliant exchange traded fund (ETF) with investment results that closely track the performance of gold prices. The new TradePlus Shariah Gold Tracker will invest a minimum of 95% of its net asset value in physical gold bars purchased from the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). The remaining balance is invested in Islamic money market instruments and Islamic deposits for liquidity purposes. Affin Hwang AM managing director Teng Chee Wai said the fund provides an efficient entry point to gain exposure to gold by tracking the LBMA Gold Price AM index. Certified by advisory firm Amanie Advisors, each unit of the fund is physically-backed in a secure vault. Investors are provided with an option for physical redemption, for a minimum redemption unit block of 500,000 units, which is equivalent to an estimated 5kg of gold.

REFILE-Islamic banks lag on corporate #governance -report

A report by the World Bank and the General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (CIBAFI) aims to encourage the sector’s governance. The findings are based on a survey of 77 Islamic banks across 22 countries, covering the industry’s core centres in the Gulf region and Southeast Asia and extending to Islamic banks in Africa and Europe. The report found risk governance was a weak spot for Islamic banks, recommending increased use of independent directors and strengthening the role of risk management officers. Sharia governance is another area of relative weakness, the big issues being the lack of diverse experience of the members on the sharia board and the infrequency of sharia board meetings. The report recommends the development of a new or revised standard for corporate governance that is specific to Islamic banks.

#SECP notifies #Shariah #Standards No 17, 18 and 23 of AAOIFI

The Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) has notified for public consultation three Shariah Standards of Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions. These are: Shariah Standard No 17 - Investment Sukuk, Shariah Standard No 18- Possession and Shariah Standard No 23 - Agency and the Act of an un-commissioned agent.
The SECP has been playing an active role in the Islamization of the economy. It endeavored to replicate the best international practices in the Islamic financial services. In order to ensure harmonization and standardization in the business practices of Islamic financial institutions, it has been gradually adopting Accounting and Shariah Standards issued by Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions as a benchmark for Islamic financial services while keeping in view the local business context.

Islamic finance key to Sarawak's infrastructure growth, says RAM Ratings

According to RAM Rating Services, the infrastructure growth in Sarawak is expected to be mainly funded by Malaysia's vibrant sukuk market. This year sukuk has been the preferred funding route for Sarawak-based entities, with majority from the power sector. Issuers from the port, construction, property, manufacturing, plantation, oil and gas support services, financial services and telecommunication sectors have tapped into the sukuk market as well. RAM Ratings deputy CEO Promod Dass said Malaysia's sukuk market will remain a key funding avenue for the infrastructure development in Sarawak. He applauded the Malaysian government and Securities Commission for building a solid foundation for the sukuk market.

AfDB and IsDB partner to boost agriculture and fight drought in #Nigeria, #Somalia and #Uganda

A joint initiative of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) will boost agriculture and enhance drought resilience in Nigeria, Somalia and Uganda. Stronger ties between the two banks will help ramp up agricultural production along important crop and livestock value chains. For example, in Nigeria the Plateau State Potato Value Chain Support Project of the AfDB and the planned IsDB’s Agro Pastoral Development Project in Kano State will promote higher household incomes through productive agro-pastoral activities. In Somalia, AfDB’s Say No To Famine project is providing emergency assistance support and facilitating drought resilience building through the restoration of community assets.

#Brunei launches financial literacy body for saving-oriented culture

Brunei set up the National Financial Literacy Council for creating a prudent and saving-oriented culture. A study made in 2015 revealed that in Brunei 34% of the household respondents do not have a household budget, as for individual respondents 49% do not actively save, while 24% need credit to finance their everyday needs. The National Financial Literacy Council was established with the aim of ensuring that all Bruneians have access to well-suited financial products, independent and credible information and advice. Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah said the establishment of this council was timely and helpful in raising the quality of life of the people, specifically in terms of financial well-being.

CEO of Al Rayan Bank receives OBE from Prince William

The CEO of Al Rayan Bank, Sultan Choudhury, has received his Order of the British Empire (OBE) from Prince William. Choudhury was appointed OBE in the Birthday Honours of Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of his services to Islamic finance. Choudhury was part of the management team that obtained Western Europe’s first authorised Islamic banking licence in 2004. He has since grown the Bank to become the UK’s largest Islamic bank. Al Rayan Bank offers the largest Sharia compliant product range in the UK. The Bank currently has more than more than 80,000 customers throughout the UK, more than a quarter of which it estimates to be non-Muslim.

Dana Gas profit boosted by financial settlement with Kurdistan Regional Government

Dana Gas reported a steep rise in third-quarter profit, benefiting from a $1 billion payment as part of a settlement agreement with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The agreement boosted Dana’s third-quarter earnings and net profit for the nine-month period ending on September 30, which amounted to $125 million against $26 million during the same period one year earlier. The settlement led to a reversal of the provision for payments to the KRG, with the balance of unpaid receivables booked to new petroleum costs. The company is at the centre of a legal dispute after having refused to redeem $700 million in outstanding Islamic bonds claiming they are no longer sharia compliant. It has started legal actions in UK and UAE courts to avoid redeeming the sukuk. Dana claimed being confident pursuant to independent legal advice of prevailing in its interpretation of the outcome.

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