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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.

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.

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