The United Kingdom is at the forefront of developments in Islamic finance and the British capital continues to seize new opportunities to continue its growth.
Speaking after chairing a meeting of the Islamic Finance Experts Group which focussed on how to improve access to and awareness of retail Islamic finance products, Economic Secretary and City Minister Kitty Ussher said:
“We have made tremendous inroads in the wholesale markets, where it is estimated that the market is worth more than 250 billion pounds worldwide and growing at 15 percent a year.”
She noted there are nearly two million Muslims living in the UK and due to legislative introduced by the Labour Government, the Islamic mortgage market is now worth over 500 million pounds.
“Going forward, the Government and industry want to continue to do all we can to see the retail market flourish and ensure that everyone – regardless of faith – has equal access to competitive financial products.”
The Islamic Finance Experts Group (IFEG) acts as an industry sounding board for HM Treasury and the Financial Services Authority (FSA) on Islamic finance.
Spelling out the Government’s aims for Islamic finance, she said these are to continue the growth of the global wholesale Islamic finance market in the UK, as part of the city competitiveness agenda being pursued by the Chancellor’s High-Level Group on City Competitiveness and to create a level playing field in alternative finance and investments, such as Islamic finance, in the retail market.
Presentations on the takaful (Islamic insurance) market were followed by a detailed discussion on the issues which seem to be preventing further growth in the Islamic finance retail market.
This covered better marketing of products, the need to ensure that Islamic Finance products are competitively priced, and the role of Sharia’a standardisation in building consumer confidence in the Islamic retail market.
The UK’s Muslim population is in the region of two million people and fully sharia’a compliant banks have more than 30,000 customers across the UK. Across the UK as a whole the industry is beginning to see more innovation in retail Islamic products as diverse as Child Trust Funds, sharia’a compliant business loans, and takaful insurance.