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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.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank joins local #fintech hub

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) marked a new partnership with Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) to promote the growth and development of the FinTech ecosystem in the UAE. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed by Sagheer Mufti, CEO at ADIB, and Richard Teng, CEO of the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of ADGM. ADIB and ADGM participate in joint innovation projects on digital and mobile payments, blockchain and distributed ledgers and artificial intelligence. Both entities will also seek to develop local FinTech entrepreneurship through mentorship and knowledge transfer across incubation, accelerator, academic and internship programmes. ADIB continues to integrate pioneering FinTech solutions into its banking services. The bank has partnered with Fidor to launch the region’s first community-based digital bank. This year, ADIB launched its new generation of digital branch called ADIB Express and has revamped its internet banking platform to enable an intuitive online banking experience.

Global #debt may be understated by $13 trillion - BIS

Global debt may be under-reported by around $13 trillion because traditional accounting practices exclude foreign exchange derivatives. Bank for International Settlements (BIS) researchers said it was hard to assess the risk this missing debt poses, but that the main worry was a liquidity crunch like the one that seized FX swap and forwards markets during the financial crisis. The $13 trillion exposure exceeds the on-balance-sheet debt of $10.7 trillion that was owed by firms and governments outside the United States at end-March. The fact these FX derivatives do not appear on balance sheets means little is known about where the debt lies. According to Claudio Borio, head of the BIS's monetary and economic department, the debt remains obscured from view.

Islamic Development Bank Group is investing more than US$2 billion into projects in #Kazakhstan

The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is investing more than US$2 billion into innovative projects in Kazakhstan. The three major initiatives are the establishment of an organization on food security of Muslim countries, a project of integration of Islamic infrastructure and the establishment of the Astana International Financial Center. IDB CEO Bandar Bin Mohammed Hajjar said the investment would strengthen the bilateral relationship between the IDB and government of Kazakhstan. The IDB has recently established the Foundation for Development of Science, Technology and Innovation. In addition, the bank undertakes the creation of the cooperation ecosystem, which should unite efforts of governments, businessmen and scholars of Islamic countries, and allow to realize the most advanced ideas into ready-made, commercial products.

#Algeria turns to Islamic finance, bourse to rescue 'worrying' economy

Algeria’s new government will introduce Islamic finance and develop its stock market to draw more investment into the economy. The country currently struggles to cope with a sharp fall in energy earnings. Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia plans wider reforms and the start of fracking for shale hydrocarbons to boost oil and gas revenue. Algeria's finances have been hit by a more than 50% drop in crude oil prices since mid-2014, the government said 2017 would end with real difficulties, while 2018 looked to be even more complex. Algeria has failed in the past to modernise its stock market and has a very low level of liquidity. Its firms currently rely on state finances, which in turn depend on the oil and gas sector. The government plans to continue spending cuts, including subsidies, but analysts say spending cuts alone may not be enough to tackle the crisis. Foreign exchange reserves fell to $105 billion in July this year from $193 billion in May 2014.

Advancing financial #inclusion for #Indonesian #women

Commonwealth Bank and Mastercard announced a collaboration to better financial inclusion for Indonesian women. This collaboration will have three key pillars: enhancing formal networks by knowledge exchange among women-owned businesses, innovating through new digital learning tools and investing in research. Early in 2017, Indonesia’s Financial Services Authority (OJK) released a research showing that Indonesia’s financial literacy and inclusion indices stood at 29.66% and 67.82%. OJK called upon the industry to implement inclusion programmes to achieve their target of 75% for the financial inclusion index by 2019. Commonwealth Bank and Mastercard will help drive the growth of women-owned businesses by educating them about customer and market trends. Additionally, both will invest in research to continue the conversation about financial inclusion.

#Kurdistan pays $1 billion to Dana Gas, partners to settle London case

#Iraq’s Kurdistan region will immediately pay $1 billion to UAE-based Dana Gas and its partners to settle a long-running London court case. The full and final settlement of the $2.24 billion case is the latest effort by the semi-autonomous region to put its finances in order ahead of a referendum seeking independence from the government in Baghdad. Kurdistan has ramped up oil sales independent from Baghdad and is hoping to raise gas exports. The settlement is significant for both parties, with Kurdistan settling the dispute at a time it is working on reshaping public finances. For Dana, the Kurdish settlement will be eagerly watched by its bond holders which are disputing Dana's move to restructure its $700 million sukuk on the grounds it is no longer sharia-compliant.

Digitisation of #Indonesian Banks

Consulting firm Solidiance launched its new report entitled Digital Evolution in Indonesia's Banking Industry. In this report millennials are projected to account for around 58% of Indonesia's total population by 2027. Indonesia has a population of more than 260 million people and only 36% of the population are connected to financial institutions, leaving in the region 150 million citizens unbanked. The report also noted that digitalization helps provide greater opportunities for banks to seize the market share. The market will be soon occupied with digital-native millenials who prefer to use the new channels available them. The Solidiance report estimated the number of Internet users in Indonesia is expected to explode in the coming years from as low as 35% of the population in 2015 to an estimated 68% in 2020.

DFSA launches #crowdfunding framework

The Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA) launched its regulatory framework for loan and investment-based crowdfunding platforms. The DFSA crowdfunding regulations have the ability to catalyse growth in the FinTech industry by targeting the specific requirements of crowdfunding platforms. The regulations ensure clear governance for FinTech businesses and provide appropriate protection for their customers. They also formalise the DFSA’s approach to regulating crowdfunding platforms which had operated since 2016. Data provided by the Khalifa Fund shows that approximately 50-70% of SMEs have had their applications for funding from conventional banks rejected. Crowdfunding is expected to grow further in importance in the UAE as entrepreneurs seek alternative sources of funding.

ADGM and KPMG launch #FinTech Abu Dhabi Innovation Challenge

Abu Dhabi Global Market (ADGM) and KPMG have come together to launch the first FinTech Abu Dhabi Innovation Challenge on Oct. 22. The Innovation Challenge includes an intensive five-week program for innovative and mature start-ups to conceptualize and present market-ready solutions that address real business challenges in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region. During the program, 10 finalist teams will work divided into six focus areas: Financial and Investment Management, Financial Inclusion, RegTech, Trade Finance, InsurTech and Private Capital Markets.The finalists will showcase their solutions at the FinTech Demo Day in Abu Dhabi to a panel of industry experts. Each finalist will benefit from mentoring sessions and fast-tracked consideration for admission to ADGM’s Regulatory Laboratory (RegLab) program. They will also win a $15,000 cash stipend to cover any costs associated with travel matters and accommodation.

Shariah-compliant 1% interest on #studyloans ‘can’t be abolished’

Shamsul Anuar Nasarah, chairman of the National Higher Education Fund (PTPTN), says the 1% interest charged on study loans is not to make a profit, therefore it is not right to abolish it. In his view, the cost is minimum and is used to cover the staffing and administrative costs of those who are managing the accounts. Borrowers are charged between 1% and 3% interest, and additionally, their loan amount will increase if they fail to pay their instalments. After the agency's establishment, administrative costs had amounted to 4% a year. It was gradually reduced to 3% a year since January 1, 2004. Now, the interest is only 1% a year, beginning June 1, 2008. In 2017 PTPTN is expected to collect RM4 billion by the end of the year. Higher Education Minister Idris Jusoh said the target was achievable as the agency had collected RM3.4 billion last year, when its target was only RM2 billion.

#UAE Authorities Plan SMB #Crowdfunding Framework

United Arab Emirates (UAE) regulators are setting out to establish a framework to guide the small business (SMB) crowdfunding market. Reports noted that regulators are aiming to promote innovation and a broadening of small business activity. Equity crowdfunding is expected to provide $93 billion to small- and medium-sized enterprises by 2020, reports added. In the UAE, SMBs stand to gain significantly from that trend, as these businesses make up an estimated 85% of all UAE companies. In Dubai, that number is even higher, at nearly 95% of all businesses. Meanwhile, research from the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development found that as many as 70% of small business loan applications in the UAE are rejected by traditional banks. Ian Johnston, Chief Executive of the Dubai International Financial Services Authority (DFSA), said the DFSA was the first in the GCC region to formalize a tailored regime for loan and investment crowdfunding platforms, which represent an important source of financing for the SME sector.

New #cryptocurrency launches in Dubai, backed by real economic activity

The Malaysian company Farad launched its Farad cryptoken at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) on Monday. The CEO of Farad, Wan Hasni, said this was the first cryptocurrency backed by real-economy activity. The Farad cryptoken (FRD) is a digital currency, with each token representing the rights to the forward purchase contract of 80,000,000 ultra-capacitor cells produced by a Chinese company over a period of 36 months. According to company documents, at the time of initial coin offering (ICO), 1 FRD will be equivalent to $12.50. The pre-sale ICO will happen on August 25, and then on September 15 the full sale will begin. Around 1.2 billion FRD will be issued in the ICO, half during the pre-sale and half at the full sale, for a 10% premium. The ICO will be followed by roadshows in Asia and Europe to promote the business.

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