Category Archives: Shariah standards and regulation

IFSB issues draft capital guidelines for Islamic banks

IFSB issues draft capital guidelines for Islamic banks 

Source: http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=340953

DUBAI: The Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) released new draft guidelines on capital adequacy for Islamic banks and the risk management of takaful (Islamic insurance) companies, the industry body said yesterday.

The Kuala Lumpur-based IFSB sets global guidelines for Islamic finance, although national financial regulators have the final say on how they apply these.

The IFSB released its original guidelines on capital adequacy in December 2005, based on Basel II standards which regulators were then applying around the world. Since then, global regulators have agreed on stricter Basel III standards which will be phased in over the next several years.

Sukuk issued against assets owned by an Islamic bank, may be used by that bank as additional capital to meet regulatory minimums, the draft guidelines state.

The minimum maturity of the sukuk should be five years, and it should not have step-up features, such as periodic increases in the rate of return, giving an incentive to the issuer to redeem it. These provisions align the IFSB with Basel III. Any capital raised through sukuk issues cannot be counted as part of the capital buffers mandated by Basel III, since sukuk are not common equity.

Because Islamic finance is more closely linked to real assets than conventional finance, it is less prone to credit bubbles, and Islamic banks do not engage in highly speculative trading, the IFSB said.

But it also noted that Islamic finance was in some ways vulnerable to cyclical swings in economies – for example, many Islamic instruments are based on commodity prices. So it makes sense for Islamic banks to build up countercyclical capital buffers in good times, the IFSB concluded; these buffers are one of the major provisions of Basel III.

The draft guidelines state how capital requirements should apply to banks’ Islamic windows, and assign risk weightings to Islamic transactions such as musharaka and mudaraba.

Unity in diversity? Shariah scholars and Islamic finance

Unity in diversity? Shariah scholars and Islamic finance
Source: http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/business/article/rock-star-scholars-a-risk-for-islamic-finance/

Islamicfinance1

Decades of parsing turgid legal documents have not dampened the enthusiasm of octogenarian Islamic scholar Sheikh Hussein Hamed Hassan. He gets agitated as he searches for a paper among piles of documents strewn across his posh Dubai office.

Wearing a dark grey suit with no tie, the Egyptian-born academic talks to a visitor for almost two hours about Islamic banking, which he has been instrumental in developing over half a century of writing and lecturing.

“Listen to me. You have to understand the basics of sharia, what’s allowed and not allowed in Islam. If you get it, then you’ll write it. And the whole world will understand,” he says.

Sheikh Hussein is one of the world’s most sought-after scholars in applying sharia or Islamic law to finance, chairing no fewer than 22 of the boards which rule on whether products and practices in the industry obey religious principles.

One position in particular stands out. As chairman of the sharia advisory board of London- and Dubai-based consultants Dar Al Istithmar, he is having to answer some searching questions on behalf of one of its most high-profile clients, US investment bank Goldman Sachs.

Last October Goldman announced it would issue as much as US$2 billion (RM6 billion) in sukuk or Islamic bonds, making it one of the first top Western banks to raise money in that way. But the plan has run into controversy among potential investors over whether it follows Islamic principles, as Dar Al Istithmar insists it does. There is also controversy over the fact that Goldman publicly named at least three Islamic scholars as potential advisers on the sukuk even though they had not even seen the prospectus.

“A copy of the Goldman Sachs sukuk prospectus was sent to these scholars for consultation but they never responded back,” Sheikh Hussein told Reuters. “They could be busy or did not approve the structure, but we didn’t hear from them. Their approval is not necessary anyway.”

The controversy over the Goldman sukuk illustrates some of the weaknesses of the Islamic finance industry. These are leading to growing pressure for reform of the scholar system, though the power of entrenched interests, and the difficulty of coordinating policy in an industry where authority is spread across the Middle East and Southeast Asia, may slow any change.

Scholars such as Sheikh Hussein command great influence but their opinions, lacking definitive legal sanction, are often challenged, creating an uncertain regulatory environment. And some scholars sit on scores of boards, leaving them open to charges of conflict of interest and making it hard for them to keep up with all areas of their work.

“The big problem is that there just aren’t enough of them,” said one Dubai-based banker in the industry, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue. “It’s a bit like being a rock star. They are disproportionately recognised, with people saying: ‘I want that name in Malaysia, I want that name in Bahrain.’“

Capacity

Islamic finance, based on principles such as bans on interest and pure monetary speculation, has grown rapidly over the last several years because it draws on pools of investment money in the oil-rich Gulf and Asia that have been relatively untouched by the global financial crisis.

The industry’s global assets are expected to rise 33 per cent from 2010 levels to US$1.1 trillion by the end of 2012, according to consultants Ernst & Young. Islamic finance will remain far smaller than conventional finance, with its tens of trillions of dollars, but the gap may continue narrowing; Ernst & Young expects Islamic banking in the Middle East and North Africa to expand over the next five years at a compound annual rate of 20 per cent, versus less than nine per cent for conventional banks.

Sharia scholars, with expertise in both religious and conventional law, are key to this growth. Investors will not buy instruments without believing they are religiously acceptable, so most wholly Islamic financial firms have their own board of sharia scholars which certifies products and monitors the firm’s business. “Independent” sharia boards also exist, offering their services to financial firms for a price.

There are over 400 sharia scholars worldwide but only around 15 to 20 prominent and experienced ones, which creates demand for scholars to sit on multiple boards. The top 20 scholars hold 14 to 85 positions each, occupying a total of around 620 board positions or 55 per cent of the industry, data compiled by investment research firm Funds@Work show.

The shortage of scholars is a capacity constraint for the industry, said Sheikh Muddassir Siddiqui, a sharia scholar and Harvard-trained attorney at law firm SNR Denton. He is a member of the sharia standards committee of the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), a Bahrain-based body setting standards for the industry.

“If you engage a lawyer or a doctor you would naturally want someone with a big name and reputable,” said Siddiqui.

“But unlike a rock star who can entertain thousands of people at once, a sharia scholar’s role should be viewed more like a doctor’s — it is natural to ask how many surgeries a doctor can perform in one day. It is a question of capacity.”

The capacity problem is worsened by the fact there is no single, universally accepted interpretation of religious principles. So firms seek out the scholars who they think will carry the most weight with investors; in effect, a scholar’s reputation becomes a currency used in completing a deal.

“The reason the Islamic finance industry is still emerging is that governance standards are not as well established as in other industries,” said Murat Ünal, CEO of Funds@Work.

“It’s like a social network. People and their relationships play a very important role. If you have a prominent scholar on board, this increases trust and makes up for the lack of governance standards. Institutions sell their products via the reputation of the scholars, so you better make sure you have accepted scholars on board.”

And this leads to sky-high fees paid to the top scholars. A senior banker at an Islamic lender said some scholars could be paid US$1,000 to US$1,500 per hour of consultation — in addition to an annual bonus of between US$10,000 and US$20,000 per board seat.

Sheikh Hussein and other scholars strongly reject the idea that there is anything improper in the fee system.

“What’s wrong with getting paid for issuing a fatwa or reviewing the sharia compliancy of a financial instrument?” Sheikh Hussein said. “We’re just like auditors, lawyers. Each one of us has years and years of experience in sharia law. We do our job and get paid for it. Nobody is allowed to question our honour, integrity and truthfulness.”

Frustrations

Nevertheless, the system is open to accusations of conflict of interest because scholars head or sit on the boards of the industry’s standard-setting bodies, such as AAOIFI, at the same time as they are being paid handsomely by the firms which are being regulated.

In some ways the situation is similar to that of credit rating agencies in conventional financial markets. The agencies are paid by the companies they rate, which may have made them slow to downgrade debt before the global financial crisis, allowing imbalances to build up that triggered the crisis.

“Certainly there is a need for improvement in the way sharia supervisory boards play their role,” said Sheikh Siddiqui.

“There needs to be some sort of enforcement body that stipulates who is qualified, how to protect against the conflict of interest, and other reasonable conditions for the conduct of a sharia board.”

Sheikh Siddiqui also advocates separating some of the duties of sharia boards so that scholars, who may now effectively act simultaneously as lawyers, product developers and auditors for instruments, do not end up “judging their own work.”

The impact of individual scholars on the Islamic finance industry can be huge. In late 2007 and early 2008, sukuk issuance slowed after Sheikh Muhammad Taqi Usmani, chairman of the board of scholars at AAOIFI, suggested that about 85 per cent of sukuk might not comply with Islamic law.

Haissam Arabi, chief executive of Gulfmena Investments, a Dubai-based asset management firm, says he has personally experienced the pitfalls of the scholar system: products have been approved for investment by his firm’s sharia board, only for their sale to be delayed by the boards of other firms.

“Here is a crack in the system which needs to be remedied,” he said. “When you can’t sell or distribute because your board is different from my board, you end up not being able to achieve scale and you’re left with a very expensive product. That’s what’s hindered the development of sharia asset management.”

Another area of frustration in the industry is the lack of transparency in the way that sharia boards reach their findings and communicate them, industry participants say.

“Sharia scholars’ opinions are not published and in some cases not even circulated,” said Oliver Agha, partner of Agha & Co, a sharia-compliant law firm in Dubai.

Mohammed Akram Laldin, executive director of Malaysia’s International Sharia Research Academy for Islamic Finance, said few boards disclosed their methodology. This is dangerous, he said, since as the industry grows and products become complex, investors need to be sure scholars understand the markets.

“Scholars are no doubt well-versed in Islamic law,” he said. “But sometimes they might not be as well-versed on the market side.” In other cases, he added, scholars may not even be fully informed of the ultimate purpose of a product — an important issue for them to consider when forming a judgment.

“They only see a half-cooked structure… Something is not being disclosed to the scholar, and some who have more disclosure might ask more questions.”

Reforms

There are signs that the industry is moving towards reform of the scholar system. The Goldman case is one impetus for reform, because it underlines the large amounts of new business that could be generated in the industry if Western financial institutions become heavily involved; they are likely to demand a more transparent and predictable environment.

The shortage of experienced scholars is unlikely to be remedied quickly, but proposals within the industry include setting minimum quotas for the number of young scholars on sharia boards, and introducing apprenticeships to give young scholars more experience. Some companies may begin adopting these measures even if the industry’s standards-setting bodies do not decide to recommend them universally.

“We do need more trained sharia scholars, but it’s beginning to happen because of demand pressures,” said Jasseem Ahmed, secretary-general of the Malaysia-based Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), another industry body.

Scholars are likely to face stricter guidelines for their behaviour from bodies such as AAOIFI. The organisation’s assistant secretary-general Khairul Nizam said it was discussing internally proposed new standards for scholars; they are expected to be issued by the end of this year as part of a strategic review of AAOIFI standards, he said. A draft is likely to be distributed to the industry at mid-year for consultation.

The new standards will try to give more guidance on scholars’ responsibilities, their relationship with banks, the issue of confidentiality, and the terms of reference of sharia boards, which should be similar to those that govern bank boards in conventional finance, Nizam said.

Regulations imposed by Malaysia’s central bank could provide one model for the AAOIFI reforms. Among other rules, scholars in Malaysia cannot sit on the board of more than one bank; sharia board members must attend at least three-quarters of the board’s meetings each year, and two-thirds of a board’s members must be present for the board to meet.

Pressure is also growing for action to reduce the differences of opinion and conflicting judgments between the sharia boards at individual companies.

The central bank governor of the United Arab Emirates, Sultan Nasser al-Suweidi, is among those who have suggested the creation of a global body that would provide legal guidance to boards around the world.

“The solution here may lie in the establishment of a supervisory or a control body that would issue fatwas or rulings on the general policy of Islamic banking,” he told Reuters.

Once again, Malaysia could be a model; a Shariah Advisory Council (SAC) established by that country’s central bank acts as “the apex authority for the determination of Islamic law,” helping to resolve differences of interpretation between scholars or companies.

Obstacles

Globally, however, the Islamic finance industry is unlikely to achieve the strictness and consistency of regulation seen in Malaysia any time soon.

A source familiar with AAOIFI’s review of standards, who declined to be named, told Reuters that the review would probably not look at restricting the number of board positions that scholars could hold, or at setting up a global version of Malaysia’s SAC to iron out legal disputes.

“Such steps are years away,” the source said.

The industry is so diverse that without the intervention of central banks and governments, it may be unable to agree on strict regulation of itself. And outside Malaysia, most central banks and governments have hesitated to take on the responsibility of setting standards for the industry.

Many in the industry are wary of inviting official intervention, arguing that it could curb their freedom to innovate and slow the market’s growth.

“If you have a central sharia board the government will be more involved, and as we know bureaucracy kills growth,” said Mohamed Elgari, a prominent scholar. “Centralised government entities should be concerned about risks but should refrain from sharia issues.”

Others believe that an industry based on the interpretation of religious principles is never going to achieve the same consistency and predictability as conventional finance.

“On the whole there is some convergence that has taken place, but we can never aim at 100 per cent. It is just the nature of Islam — people have different approaches,” said the IFSB’s Ahmed.

Dr. Hussein Hamid Hassan calls for supreme Shari’ah board

Dr. Hussein Hamid Hassan calls for supreme Shari’ah board

 

The call to institute a supreme Shari’ah board in the GCC has been taken up Dr. Hussein Hamid Hassan, a leading Shari’ah scholar.

Hassan made the call at a briefing session organized by Dubai’s Hawkamah Institute for Corporate Governance to publicize its launch of a policy brief on the corporate governance of Islamic financial institutions operating in Dubai.

Hassan said that he believed the industry needed a collaborative body encompassing the leading Shari’ah scholars from across the GCC, in order to streamline the process of issuing Fatwas and help speed up the development of products.

When Hassan was asked by The Islamic Globe, how he judges the Qatar Central Bank’s move to separate Islamic and conventional banking, he answered that this was: “A step in the right direction for more transparency,” as regulators should not be treating Islamic banks like conventional banks. Hassan also telegraphed that an Islamic Banking Academy was on the verge of being set up “in the near future” in Dubai.

Source: http://www.theislamicglobe.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=484:leading-scholar-calls-for-supreme-shariah-board&catid=16:article&Itemid=38

US legal win to boost Islamic finance: Case against insurer AIG’s Islamic investments dismissed

US legal win to boost Islamic finance: Case against insurer AIG’s Islamic investments dismissed

Lawyers said a U.S. court decision to dismiss a case alleging AIG’s <AIG.N> sharia-compliant businesses promoted religious doctrine, will boost confidence in the industry and lift sales of Islamic products in the longer term.

A Michigan district court rejected on Friday a claim filed by Marine veteran Kevin Murray in 2009 that the U.S. government violated the constitution by allowing funds from insurer American International Group’s $40 billion bailout to be used to fund its Islamic insurance businesses.

Lawyers say the case is significant for the industry in the United States, which has struggled with a backlash against Islam, and is looking for support from the courts and government to promote Islamic finance as a legitimate business.

“The decision … debunks the myth that Islamic finance is unacceptable and unlikely to withstand legal challenges to its validity in court,” said Megat Hizaini Hassan, head of Islamic finance at Malaysian law firm Lee Hishammuddin Allen & Gledhill.

“Once the financial services industry in the US realises that there should be no major legal issues, then hopefully this may help to make Islamic finance more acceptable in the mainstream.”

Islamic finance has been plagued by criticism in the U.S. that it is a means of funneling funds to terrorists or a plot by Muslims to spread a system of Islamic principles known as sharia has plagued the industry in the U.S.[ID: nLDE6971BO]

In his opinion, District Judge Lawrence Zatkoff, said the plaintiff did not prove that AIG’s sharia-compliant businesses engaged in religious indoctrination.

The distinction between sharia-compliant business as a financial model and overall Islamic law, is a positive step for Islamic finance growth in the U.S., lawyers said, but is just one battle won as the industry seeks to grow.

“The case helps the industry by putting the fringe element that is fearful of sharia in its place,” said Isam Salah, partner at King & Spalding in New York. “But I expect we’ll see more of these kinds of cases as we see a multi-pronged effort to combat all things Islamic in the U.S.”

An appeal of the ruling has already been filed to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, said David Yerushalmi, Murray’s attorney and general counsel for the Center for Security Policy.

“Sharia compliant finance is a religious endeavour, there is no way you can separate it from political Islam,” Yerushalmi said. “Sharia can’t be cut up and diced, it’s an integral whole.”

Source: http://ph.news.yahoo.com/rtrs/20110118/tbs-lawsuit-islamic-7318940.html

Malaysian Shariah Governance Framework can be blueprint for industry: Arabnews interview with Dr. M. Elgari

Malaysian Shariah Governance Framework can be blueprint for industry: Arabnews interview with Dr. M. Elgari
by Mushtak Parker| Arab News

At a time when the global Islamic finance industry is debating whether Shariah advisory should be regulated and scholars restricted to advising only a small number of institutions, Malaysia almost in passing adopted on Jan. 1 a new Shariah Governance Framework (SGF) for Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) that supersedes the Guidelines on the Governance of Shariah Committees of IFIs introduced by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), the central bank, in 2004.

According to the Malaysian central bank, the primary objective of the SGF is to enhance “the role of the board, the Shariah committee and the management in relation to Shariah matters, including enhancing the relevant key organs having the responsibility to execute the Shariah compliance and research functions aimed at the attainment of a Shariah-based operating environment.”

One prominent international Shariah advisory to the Islamic finance industry, Muhammed Elgari of Saudi Arabia, who sits on several Shariah committees of such organizations as the Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), the Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes, and a number of banks, agrees that Malaysia’s Shariah Governance Framework for IFIs could become a blueprint for other countries to follow.

In an exclusive interview with the author, Elgari stressed that he can see the need for such a framework, which “most certainly” can be developed into a blueprint, even though he has yet to study the full details of the SGF.

Shariah advisory has been in the news in recent weeks following reports that the AAOIFI is in the process of drafting rules to regulate the shareholdings and the number of supervisory boards individual Shariah advisories can sit on. Market players have long been concerned by the small pool of experienced Shariah advisers serving the Islamic finance industry and that an elite few sit on multiple Shariah advisory boards, a practice which they claim could lead to conflicts of interest and is not consistent with best practice in terms of advisory.

Research by entities such as Funds@Work have added fuel to the fire, although the methodology of the research is not very detailed and transparent. According to Funds@Work, there are 1,141 overall Shariah advisory board positions available in 28 countries. The average board size is 3.33 scholars per board, across the entire universe. Perhaps more importantly, the Top 10 scholars hold 450 out of 1,141 board positions that are available and represent 39.44 percent of the universe. Two Shariah advisories sit on a staggering 85 boards while another on 79 boards.

Some of the top Shariah advisers, not surprisingly, have reportedly spoken out against any efforts to restrict their trade by restricting the number of boards on which they can sit.

“There is no justification in my mind to single out a profession to set rules that are not applied to any other. There is no dispute about the fact that a human being does have a limited capacity or let us say a finite one. But this can’t be measured by the number of boards. The real test is quality of work and ability to meet the expectations of the other party. It should be self evident that if one lacks both, it will not help him to have a limited number of boards,” said Elgari.

Elgari, who also has a doctorate in economics from the prestigious University of California in Berkeley, dismisses any suggestions that Shariah advisories “make too much money” and “they are monopolizing the trade” which he maintains are both lies and naive.

In his experience, none of the banks and organizations he serves as an advisory have expressed any concerns to him about the above issues. In fact, his relationship with his clients remains cordial and commands the utmost professionalism. As such, these supposed concerns are a smokescreen and are really serving the agenda of certain groups who are keen to get a slice of the Shariah advisory business in Islamic finance.

“What is being observed lately is that certain groups want to intermediate between banks and Shariah scholars. In other words they would like to ‘broker’ the Shariah advisory and they believe, correctly, that their negotiating power with the banks is much stronger than individual scholars. Hence they can extract much more from banks. They tell us why should you be concerned, you will not suffer any reduced income (negating the very argument that we make too much). But in principle we do not see it fitting to create an exchange where we sell our services to someone to sell them to a third party at a higher price,” he said.

Elgari, who is one of a very few number of foreign Shariah advisories registered with the Securities Commission Malaysia to give Shariah advisory to the Islamic finance industry in the south east Asian country, maintains that nobody is more concerned about bringing up the second generation of Shariah scholars in the global Islamic finance industry than the current scholars. As such, it is wrong to think that they are threatened by the thought of restrictions and regulation.

“On the contrary our nightmare is for Shariah boards to disappear when we cease to exist. We always request institutions to include in their Shariah board a younger scholar so that the next generation is brought up by the current generation. Recently, we met with the officials from the Waqf Fund (set up by Central Bank of Bahrain) to try to design a program that can be adopted by an academic institution for this purpose,” he said.

Some observers, including regulators, invoke the “conflict of interest” argument to support their desire to restrict the number of boards Shariah scholars can sit on. Elgari in fact believes this is a fair concern and in several instances he has emphasized that Shariah board members should be conscious of it and try to avoid it. He confirms that in several instances he was offered shares in companies he was giving Shariah advisory but he has always declined because he was always aware of a potential conflict of interest. He suggests greater transparency by fellow Shariah advisories, especially in showing their awareness of the issue of potential conflict of interest.

For Elgari, who has also been an economics don at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah for many years, the contemporary Islamic finance industry has witnessed over the last three decades the emergence the birth of a new discipline, which combines Shariah, economics and law. “Unless universities recognize this as a new discipline, not much will be done by them. If these professors themselves can’t do it, how can they teach it? The most effective way is apprenticeship, or a program for study designed by the current Shariah scholars,” he said.

The fact remains that the Shariah governance process in Islamic finance has been steadily evolving and gaining maturity. Last year, for instance, Elgari was the first prominent scholar to emphatically call for a scientific approach to Shariah compliance. This follows a similar call by another prominent Shariah scholar, Sheikh Esam Ishaq of Bahrain, that Shariah advisories serving the Islamic finance industry should be regulated.

Elgari then called on fellow Shariah advisories to adopt a scientific methodology in reaching their deliberations on Islamic finance. “To be respected,” said Elgari, “Shariah scholars should follow scientific methods to reach their conclusions. We have seen many mistakes where declarations have been issued. Only the correct resolutions will prevail. Shariah is not a group of infallible people. It is a science. It requires methodology, and resolutions require peer review and market consultation.”

He is also a big supporter of the codification of Fiqh Al-Muamalat, which could contribute immensely to clarifying the rubrics and the contentious issues relating to products and services in the nascent Islamic finance industry. Similarly, he believes that greater transparency in the Shariah governance process; more professional articulation of the resolutions and statements; and prior debate and consultation between scholars and other stakeholders in the industry, could go a long way in mitigating the misconceptions and confusion that has arisen as a result of some recent Shariah rulings.

Source: http://arabnews.com/economy/islamicfinance/article236465.ece

Basel III in support of the Islamic banking principal

Basel III in support of the Islamic banking principal

By Dr. Aly Khorshid

basel iii

The Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision, the oversight body of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision, announced a substantial strengthening of existing capital requirements and fully endorsed the agreements it reached on 26 July 2010. These capital reforms, together with the introduction of a global liquidity standard, deliver on the core of the global financial reform agenda and will be presented to the Seoul G20 Leaders summit in November.

The Committee’s package of reforms will increase the minimum common equity requirement from 2% to 4.5%. In addition, banks will be required to hold a capital conservation buffer of 2.5% to withstand future periods of stress bringing the total common equity requirements to 7%. This reinforces the stronger definition of capital agreed by Governors and Heads of Supervision in July and the higher capital requirements for trading, derivative, and securitization activities to be introduced at the end of 2011.

Islamic banks are among the best capitalized banks in the world, and historically comply with inflexible standards of capitalization, Islamic Bank for capital requirements means that local banks already exceed norms set by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) as part of the Basel III accord.

Islamic banks already have stricter capital requirements than what are proposed in Basel III. With the Islamic banks being amongst the best capitalized on a global scale, they are on the safe side compared to their European or US counterparts, Tier 1 and total capital requirements currently stand at 8 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, which are already higher than the target 2019 ratios set by Basel III.

The BIS reported this week that it has reached an agreement to increase key capital ratios for banks. The minimum requirement for common equity, the highest form of loss absorbing capital, will be raised from the current 2 to 4.5 per cent after the application of stricter adjustments. This will be phased in by January 1, 2015. The total Tier 1 capital requirement, which includes common equity and other qualifying financial instruments based on stricter criteria, will increase from 4 to 6 per cent over the same period. There will also be a ‘buffer requirement’ of 2.5 per cent that can be drawn down to the 4.5 per cent minimum requirement during times of stress. This effectively will raise common equity requirements to 7 per cent.

If a bank draws below the 7 per cent common equity requirement, including the buffer, distribution of earnings must be curtailed until the 7 per cent level is recovered. These restrictions would apply to dividends and executive compensation, including bonuses.

These changes are intended to reinforce banks’ capacity to absorb future potential losses. The transition period for the world’s banks to comply with these rules has been extended to January 2019 vs. the end-2012 deadline set by the regulators last year. This news was positively welcomed by the investor community as evident through the climb in banks share prices in Europe and Asia.

President of the European Central Bank and Chairman of the Group of Governors and Heads of Supervision, said that "the agreements reached today are a fundamental strengthening of global capital standards." He added that "their contribution to long term financial stability and growth will be substantial.
The transition arrangements will enable banks to meet the new standards while supporting the economic recovery. The Chairman of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and President of the Netherlands Bank, added that "the combination of a much stronger definition of capital, higher minimum requirements and the introduction of new capital buffers will ensure that banks are better able to withstand periods of economic and financial stress, therefore supporting economic growth."

Islamic Banks comply with Basel III
Islamic banks are among the best capitalized in the world, and historically stringent standards set , Islamic Bank for capital requirements means that local banks already surpass norms set by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) as part of the Basel III accord, which has a 2019 deadline.

Islamic Bank already has stricter capital requirements than what is proposed in Basel III.

With the Islamic banks being amongst the best capitalized on a global scale, they are on the safe side compared to their European or US counterparts, Tier 1 and total capital requirements currently stand at 8 per cent and 12 per cent, respectively, which are already higher than the target 2019 ratios set by Basel III (of 6 per cent and 8 per cent, respectively)."

The BIS reported this week that it has reached an agreement to increase key capital ratios for banks. The minimum requirement for common equity, the highest form of loss absorbing capital, will be raised from the current 2 to 4.5 per cent after the application of stricter adjustments.

This will be phased in by January 1, 2015. The total Tier 1 capital requirement, which includes common equity and other qualifying financial instruments based on stricter criteria, will increase from 4 to 6 per cent over the same period. There will also be a ‘buffer requirement’ of 2.5 per cent that can be drawn down to the 4.5 per cent minimum requirement during times of stress. This effectively will raise common equity requirements to 7 per cent.

If a bank draws below the 7 per cent common equity requirement, including the buffer, distribution of earnings must be curtailed until the 7 per cent level is recovered. These restrictions would apply to dividends and executive compensation, including bonuses.

These changes are intended to reinforce banks’ capacity to absorb future potential losses. The transition period for the world’s banks to comply with these rules has been extended to January 2019 vs. the end-2012 deadline set by the regulators last year. This news was positively welcomed by the investor community as evident through the climb in banks share prices in Europe and Asia.

It appears that while actual implementation won’t start until 2013, the accords will not be fully implemented until 2018.

At this point we believe it is too early to assess the full consequences of these new regulation changes especially that Islamic banks have been complying with Basel II.

"However, until further analysis is made, we believe local banks could elect to conserve capital through constrained dividend payout," they said.

Source: http://www.english.globalarabnetwork.com/201012228432/Finance/basel-iii-in-support-of-the-islamic-banking-principal.html

Standardisation of Islamic finance industry: Expert calls for setting up watchdog

Standardisation of Islamic finance industry: Expert calls for setting up watchdog

regulation

Standardisation of the Islamic banking policies, procedures and regulatory framework on a global level is important to propel the growth of the industry.

That is the view of BBK investment banking arm Capinnova Investment Bank chief executive officer Jamal Hijres.

"An important effort towards achieving international consistency was the creation of two multilateral institutions, the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions and the Islamic Financial Services Board.

"The growth of such institutions will definitely improve and propel the industry at a faster pace.

"The Islamic banking industry is a fast growing sector that offers an array of opportunities yet to be exploited," he said.

"Although the Middle East still represents the biggest share of the total Islamic banking sector, Western countries are gearing towards this new trend that presents a unique opportunity to diversify.

"With a growing market share and a considerable growth rate recorded over the past decade, it is essential for a unified global Islamic banking authority to be established.

"This authority can be entrusted with standardising Islamic banking operations and facilitating communication between the different entities, leading to the full exploitation of the sector’s potential.

"One of the most important challenges faced by the Islamic banking sector is the unavailability of experts in both banking and Islamic issues.

"An Islamic banker must possess a profound knowledge of Sharia rules and principles, in addition to finance.

"The shortage in experienced and qualified scholars is forcing them to field positions on multiple Sharia boards, which in turn increases the risk of a conflict of interest."

"Even though the financial crisis did not affect the Islamic banking industry in particular, the drop in Gulf real estate and oil prices had repercussions on the industry," he said.

"However, now with oil prices back in the normal range it has definitely brought confidence back to the industry.

"While Islamic finance is one of the big success stories in finance today, it is worth looking at the current credit crunch in conventional finance to see how easily one problem can spiral out of control.

"This is something that Islamic finance practitioners need to take on board and make sure they are prepared to expect the unexpected.

"Rigid corporate governance programmes, transparency on compliance, learning from conventional banking successes and failures and achieving greater market penetration are all goals that will help sustain this area of Islamic finance."

Source: http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=294232