Tag Archives: Islam

Turkey: Islamic Banking In Turkey – Indonesia – Pakistan A Swift Comparison And Benchmarking Against Malaysia

Turkey: Islamic Banking In Turkey – Indonesia – Pakistan A Swift Comparison And Benchmarking Against Malaysia

Worldwide, the Islamic finance industry is developing fast. Whilst it makes sense for the Islamic financial institutions to foster growth and to regularly measure themselves against the financial market as a whole, sometimes it is also worthwhile to look around and see what happens in different countries.

It is easy to talk about “market shares” and “deposits”, but what do they really mean? And what can be expected in the near future?

Turkey and Indonesia both are secular republics with a large majority of Muslim population, but Islamic finance developed very different. With a population that approximately holds the middle between both countries; the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is used as an outside comparator. To put all into even more perspective, some data from Malaysia are also included as a benchmark.

Turkey

Worldwide, the Islamic finance industry is developing fast. Whilst it makes sense for the Islamic financial institutions to foster growth and to regularly measure themselves From the very start in 1985 with Albaraka Türk, the Turkish participation banks (before called Special Finance Houses) were poised to aim at the Turkish market as a whole. Therefore they did not really target the small niche of the “convinced” Muslim population in particular. This of course influenced marketing and product development. Part as a consequence of this strategy (and compared to Indonesia), the Turkish participation banks could have a faster growth and now cover roughly 3.5 % assets of the total Turkish banking industry. One may also note the strong growth of the sector that outperforms the conventional counterpart now for 8 consecutive years.

The loss of Ihlas Finance House (2001 – alleged fraudulent insolvency) meant the loss of 40 % of the deposits held by the sector at that time and the subsequent stampede on the other Special Finance Houses (now participation banks) meant another 35 % loss. Because of their ties to the “real economy”, the Special Finance Houses were not hit by the big financial crisis that hit Turkey in 2001 and they recovered fast. Their deposits now have been taken into the guarantee fund of the banks (to avoid other shock withdrawals) and the sector has acquired bank status.

There is no specific government aid to the sector and no (government or corporate) Islamic bond. There also is no access to the money markets, so we can hardly talk about a level playing field, as compared to conventional banking.

There are no Islamic windows and therefore foreign market players can only enter the market through shareholdings in the existing participation banks (or have to start their own participation bank from scratch).

A Government sukuk issuance could be in the make, so has been rumored for some time now. The talks on the projected Rent (Ijarah) Certificate however move slow, subject to rather inactive local financial markets, cheap conventional international funding and political factors.

A well thought off strategy of decentralization – for instance using techno / tax incentives and privatizations – created upcoming of several bigger conglomerates throughout the country.

Indonesia

With its’ first established Bank Muamalat Indonesia (together with Bank Syariah Mandiri still today front runner), the situation differs profoundly in Indonesia. As from the very start, products and marketing were directly aimed at precisely that group of clients of “convinced” Muslim (market share of roughly 1.5 %). Whilst the present impressive government initiatives aim to broaden that base (a potential “floating market” of approx. 75 % of the population would be within reach), Bank Muamalat confirms to adhere as before to their strict policies and client target. It might mean an extra strong growth potential for the other market players.

The need to mobilize internal capital and attract foreign investment, required special measures. Indonesia’s Central Bank announced in July 2007 that – subject to full implementation of the “blue print for development of the Indonesian Shari’ah Banking system” – total assets of the Islamic banks (and Islamic business units) are expected to triple by the end of 2008 (growth of approx. USD 6 billion) to reach an overall volume of 5 % on the total Indonesian banking assets. When deposits / loans follow same development, it will be clear that opportunities are at hand (growth potential of approx. USD 5 billion).

Foreign banks are not really visible yet on the Indonesian Islamic finance market. HSBC pioneered as first big international institution with a full dedicated Shari’ah head office in Jakarta – the projected growth potential is enormous: they calculated that roughly 50 % of their clients would be willing to use the products if priced competitive. Recently also Albaraka Group announced the prospect of opening of a branch there.

The first Government Sukuk (plans to raise up to USD 1 billion have been announced) is in the pipeline. Actual issuance could however be postponed till the fourth quarter of 2007 or even the first quarter of 2008, pending parliamentary approval. Indonesia at present already knows corporate Ijarah and Mudharabah Shari’ah Bonds. Access to the money markets has been opened.

Conventional banks that want to participate in the “Islamic pie” need to dedicate 5 % of their assets to such venture. This commitment, together with other incentives, will be responsible for the expected fast growth over the next two years.

Pakistan

From the late 70s onwards, Pakistan has a protracted history of Islamic banking. As from July 1st, 1985 all commercial banking in Pak Rupees was made interest free. The sudden conversion (and lack of preparedness) posed difficulties on implementation however. As from 2001 an evolutionary process was then chosen for, in order to nurture acceptability and development in a more structural approach. The first “Islamic bank license” was awarded to Meezan Bank back in 2002 (founded 1997). But as said, Islamic banking has been introduced since the mid 80’s.

Most note worthy is the present Islamic Banking Policy (December 2001), under which Islamic banking is promoted parallel to conventional banking. Implementation of AAOIFI and IFSB standards is on the way. Besides a Draft for the new Government Securities Bill, Draft Risk Management and Draft Shari’ah Compliance guidelines have been published.

A growth of % 40 per annum is being expected and a % 15 market share is targeted.

Next to the fully fledged Islamic banks, the conventional banks can opt to open up Islamic banks subsidiaries or even dedicated “stand alone Islamic banking branches”. A vast concentration of the Islamic banking to the big cities (Karachi and Lahore) can be noticed. There is government and corporate sukuk in the market.

In 2007 ABN AMRO opened an Islamic branch, Emirates Global Islamic Bank has started a dedicated Islamic commercial bank and QATAR Islamic bank has confirmed plans to setup a Shari’ah compliant banking unit soon. Citibank was another big foreign entry.

Malaysia

Starting off in 1983 with Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad, separate Islamic legislation and banking regulations exist side-by-side with those for the conventional banking system.

In order to create an efficient, progressive and comprehensive Islamic financial system, Bank Negara Malaysia recognized the need to, i.e.:

  • Attract a large number of global players;
  • Develop a broad variety of instruments; and
  • Install a comprehensive financial infrastructure.

A large variety of Islamic financial products and services (more then 100) are at present offered by the banks using various Islamic concepts such as Mudharabah, Musharakah, Murabahah, Bai’ Bithaman Ajil (Bai’ Muajjal), Ijarah, Qard, Istisna’ and Ijarah Thumma Bai’.. next to the existence of the Islamic Interbank Money Market.

Probably subject to pressure from the Dubai DIFC, Malaysia recently opened up regulations to allow sukuk issuance in foreign currency and competes with Singapore (and recently also Hong Kong decided to enter the race) to be the prime Islamic finance hub in the Asian region.

Observations

First of all, it has to be noted that real entrance of foreign investment in Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan still bounces on inadequate tax regimes.

Though it is difficult to distract far going conclusions from the table hereunder, at first sight, it is clear that both Malaysia and Turkey share the following characteristics: relative big concentration of the population in bigger cities, lower portion of population working in agriculture and a lower weight of that sector in the overall economy. The GDP per capita (calculated in relative purchase power – not in hard dollars) in those countries also is 2 upto 4 times higher then in the other two countries.

Also in Indonesia and Pakistan there is a remarkable concentration of the Islamic banking sector around the big cities.

In Indonesia and Pakistan, the agriculture sector appear to attract socially very important, but statistically for the total economy less important “rural Islamic banks” (targeting micro finance). There is no such sector in Turkey.

Neither the percentage of Muslim population (Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan), nor the zeal of the Government to promote Islamic banking (Indonesia, Pakistan) appears to be a determinant for success so far.

The marketing strategy of the Indonesian Islamic banks proved to be successful for the loyal but small niche of the “convinced” Muslim population, but did not succeed to appeal to the “public at large.

The Turkish participation banks on their side are severely handicapped (no sukuk, no money markets, relative few products, no government incentives and no Islamic windows) but expanded thanks to a more neutral banking approach (more focused upon the financial advantages and with slight emphasis to ethical merits).

Looking at the mix of relevant measures that are applicable to the different countries, he following guidelines appear to be clear:

  • dedicate sufficient means to Islamic rural banking / micro finance for the agricultural areas
  • create a good level playing field for the Islamic banks to compete with the conventional banks (for instance access to the sukuk and the money markets), without however any specific need to give them prime conditions (challenge makes competitive, superfluous benefits make lazy and distort the market)
  • open up the markets for international institutions (it attracts financial power and innovation)
  • install possibilities for all financial institutions to create Islamic windows and / or branches (better product awareness and overall acceptance of the Islamic banking also benefits to the dedicated Islamic banks)
  • have the conventional banks that want access to the market commit right from the start sufficient means (the need to dedicate assets to the activity enhances growth in the market)
  • promote diversification of products offered to the public (diversity is one of the handicaps of Islamic finance vis-à-vis the very mature conventional counterpart)
  • try to spread wealth out of the existing bigger cities to smaller cities and do not focus on the existing metro poles
  • try create sufficient liquid financial markets and stock exchanges, if needed through strategic alliances
  • give sufficient attention to international accounting standards, (corporate) governance, transparency and accountability
  • build strong prudential controls
  • give bank status and deposit protection without loosing sight on the underlying principals, focus on market competition, quality of products and pricing thereof.

Oasis innovates to offer a low risk, high yield Islamic income fund

Oasis innovates to offer a low risk, high yield Islamic income fund

Shari’ah compliant investors in the Middle East can look forward to an innovative financial instrument that offers very attractive returns at minimum risk. Launched by Oasis Crescent Capital (DIFC), the award-winning Islamic finance experts, the Oasis Crescent Global Income Fund offers a competitive income yield to investors wanting to minimise their risk, yet at the same time take advantage of investments in high quality and rated short- and long-term Shari’ah- compliant income securities available in global markets.
“The Fund will invest in a global universe of Middle Eastern, European, US and Asian, short-term and long-term income generating instruments and securities listed on international exchanges and with highly rated financial institutions. Our focus will be on high quality, rated instruments and securities that will include sovereign and corporate issues,” said Hassan Motala, Senior Executive Officer of Oasis Crescent Capital (DIFC) Limited.

In the context of a dearth of savings and retirement schemes that can offset the impact of high inflation on professionals living and working in the Middle East, the Oasis Crescent Global Income Fund is aimed at offering them an attractive and low risk new investment opportunity. Oasis offers a low-volatility product range across asset classes, incorporating equities, property and now income funds,” Motala explained.

Oasis’s strategy is to rely on innovation as this will help boost growth and competitiveness in the Islamic finance industry. Traditionally, Shari’ah compliant investors have been offered products that may not have met all their needs and requirements. “The Oasis Group’s low volatility investment style focuses on providing real returns to clients over the long term,” he added.

With Oasis’ global reach, and its track record of experience and expertise, Motala assured investors that they can expect award-winning and innovative Islamic products and services. As an example, the Shari’ah-compliant Oasis Crescent Global Equity Fund continues to offer investors industry-leading returns and has been the top performing Islamic global equity fund since inception.

In recognition of its ability to provide consistent returns that are not susceptible to significant market volatility and its emphasis on managing the downside risk in line with its investment philosophy of generating superior returns at lower than market risk, the Oasis has been presented with an award for Best Islamic (Equity) Global Fund 2006 at the first Master of Islamic Funds Awards at the Islamic Funds World 2007 conference held in Dubai.

As Islamic banks boom, scholars are hard to find

As Islamic banks boom, scholars are hard to find

The green-fronted Kuwait Finance House Auto mall on Bahrain’s main showroom highway is a bank that sells cars.

Here, the motorist can pick the model that takes his fancy and, at the same time, fix up the Islamic financing and Islamic insurance to buy it — a sign of the rate at which Islamic banking is growing.
Opened in June last year to meet rising demand in the oil-rich Gulf archipelago, the bank offers murabaha-based purchase plans, a method of Islamic financing that lets customers buy automobiles without taking an interest-based loan.
As traditional Western bankers count the cost of a reckless lending spree, Islamic banking — which complies with Islam’s law banning the receipt of interest — is surging. Estimated by some experts to be growing by about 15 percent a year, the sector has been forecast by management consultants McKinsey & Co to reach $1 trillion in assets by 2010.
Even as new bank branches pop up almost daily in Bahrain — a hub for banking in the Gulf and home to one of the sector’s most influential standards bodies — some bankers are worried.
Their concern is that the training of scholars essential for the Islamic banks’ supervision may not be able to keep pace.
A small group of usually robed and bearded Islamic scholars — experts in Islamic law, known as sharia — holds sway over the booming bank sector, and some in the industry wonder whether their expertise is being stretched too thin.
“There is lots of growing interest and we have many more sophisticated sharia scholars who are graduating now, (but) it’s not growing fast enough to meet demand,” Sheikh Nizam Yaquby, one of the world’s most respected sharia scholars, told Reuters. “This industry is growing phenomenally.”
Some sharia experts say it may take more than a decade to train more scholars and even the optimistic ones do not expect a new generation of scholars for at least five years.
“The industry can’t wait that long,” said David Pace, chief finance officer at Bahrain’s Unicorn Investment Bank. “Two to three years is about enough …
The lack of scholars does not mean the industry is paralysed but it slows down development.”
Established in 2004, his bank is one of several Islamic lenders set up to tap rising demand from the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims for financial services that comply with their beliefs.
Instead of interest, Islamic banks operate on the principle of sharing risk and reward among all parties in a business venture. Murabaha, for instance — the instrument on offer at the Auto mall — involves the bank buying a car and selling it to the customer for a stated profit, with payment deferred. Investment in sectors such as alcohol, pornography and gambling is prohibited.
Scholars are essential for the supervision of the industry, but a handful currently dominate the Islamic review boards at the world’s top banks and financial institutions.
There is a lack of consensus on what qualifications and experience are needed for the role, and some experts ask whether the shortage could lead to conflicts of interest and inadequate supervision.
“These bankers think the wombs of mothers are going to deliver graduated sharia scholars. I tell them you have to take steps,” Yaquby said.
Yaquby, who has been involved in Islamic teaching since 1976, estimated there were roughly 50 to 60 scholars in the world qualified to advise banks operating internationally on Islamic law. Ten times as many are required for the Middle East alone, he said.
SCHOLARSHIP NOT EASY
Like most scholars, Yaquby divides his time among several banks. One of them, HSBC, lists advisory roles for him at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, BNP Paribas, Dow Jones, Lloyds TSB, Citi Bank, Standard Chartered and others.
He is also a board member of the Bahrain-based Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions, one of the world’s top Islamic finance standards bodies.
In Britain — the most active European market in the Islamic banking scene — the Financial Services Authority watchdog in November highlighted possible “significant” conflicts of interest in that concentration of expertise.
“The shortage of appropriately qualified scholars … raises concerns over the ability of sharia supervisory boards to provide enough rigorous challenge and oversight,” the FSA said in a report on the industry.
Last month the London-based Chartered Institute of
Management Accountants said the rapid growth of Islamic banking had fuelled a need for both Muslim and non-Muslim financial experts, and it hoped to set up both a diploma and perhaps a master’s degree in conjunction with a university.
However, being considered a scholar skilled enough to advise on deals sometimes worth billions of dollars is not easy.
Scholars must be expert in Islamic law and Islamic banking, but also have a thorough knowledge of conventional laws and banking systems, which requires a high standard of English.
Even then, a scholar will only be taken seriously after years of experience, according to many of the delegates at a Bahrain conference on Islamic banking in December.
“You can learn the technical aspects relatively quickly,” said Mansoor Ahmed, a sharia student. “But it’s not as easy as that. It does take 15 or 20 years. It requires a lot of experience … mere knowledge will mislead.”
Yasser Dahlawi of consulting firm the Shariyah Review Bureau, which advises companies on sharia compliance, said scholars need at least a doctorate and a decade’s experience.
YOU SAY YOU’RE A SCHOLAR?
Complicating matters is the lack of a globally accepted qualification as a sharia scholar, just as there are no globally accepted standards for sharia rules, which are to some extent open to interpretation.
Illustrating this, the head of sharia structuring at one of the world’s largest banks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disagreed with Dahlawi on what it takes to be a scholar.
He said it was better for students to learn through apprenticeships with scholars who can trace their learning to Islam’s roots.

“I don’t care whether they have a PhD or not,” he said. “The way traditional Islamic teaching has been handed down is not through certificates or degrees. You need to trace your teaching back to the Prophet. It’s a lineage of understanding.”

Noor Islamic Bank To Offer Financial Services At Dubai Airport Free Zone

Noor Islamic Bank To Offer Financial Services At Dubai Airport Free Zone

Noor Islamic Bank PJSC (“Noor”) has signed an agreement with the Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority (DAFZA) to establish a financial services centre in the free zone.

The bank will provide tailored products and services to meet the specific needs of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) located in the free zone. Identified and designed by Noor Islamic Bank in association with DAFZA, the products will offer complete financial solutions for all industry sectors.

Hussain Al Qemzi, Group CEO, Noor Islamic Bank, said: “The needs of small and medium businesses are often ignored by major financial service providers. This initiative with DAFZA is aimed at giving SMEs the leverage they need to compete effectively in today’s markets.”

Dr Mohammed Al Zarouni, Director General, DAFZA said: “The new innovative financial products to be offered to small and medium enterprises operating in the Free Zone is a value–added service that complements the services we provide to our customers.”

“In a globally dynamic economy, international investors and companies of different sizes look at financing opportunities to expand their business,” said Al Zarouni.

“We are quite pleased to be associated with Noor Islamic Bank and we are optimistic that the new banking and financial services on offer will benefit our potential customers and help us to attract many more looking for financial solutions,” he added.
“The ultimate goal of the deal is to provide the best financial facilities, the matter the new NIB will generously be prepared to do,” concluded Dr Zarouni.

DAFZA focuses on trade, industry and value added service activities. It provides one-stop-shop services and facilities for investors keen on setting up a base in this region. The free zone primarily accommodates all companies in freight forwarding and logistics, aviation, telecommunication, jewellery, as well as pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.

As part of its services to DAFZA tenants, Noor Islamic Bank and DAFZA would set-up a commercial centre within the free zone. The objective of these centers would be to offer commercial banking services to the tenants inclusive of;
Access to RMs who would provide consultancy services to the customers in relations to their business related queries.
An executive lobby designed to facilitate personal and Business banking requirement.
Availability of service personnel required to execute the documentation and transactions.
One window operations for the DAFZA tenants to conduct their banking & DAFZA related transactions & payments.

Banking Products and services that Noor Islamic Bank would be offering under this partnership would include: cash management services, asset financing, working capital finances, Islamic covered drawing, business finance, commercial mortgage finance, commercial vehicle financing, supply chain financing, trade services and treasury related products at competitive profit rates.

The small and medium enterprises segment is an important component of the UAE economy, fuelling the national GDP and representing more than 60 per cent of total businesses in the country. Small and medium sized enterprises are active in key sectors such as trade, construction, tourism, facility management, manufacturing, and professional services.

The bank’s SME unit has been working to create alliances with a number of government and semi-government agencies, targeted towards the development of an entrepreneurial culture in the country.

Headquartered in Dubai, Noor Islamic Bank aims to provide progressive, state-of-the-art, visionary banking services and the experience of Islamic banking to meet the needs of the discerning consumer.

Al Salam Bank eyes expansion

Al Salam Bank eyes expansion

Al Salam Bank is looking for further expansion at a time when Islamic banking is booming, it was announced yesterday.

Speaking at the Algeria Economic Forum, the bank’s managing director Hussain Mohammed Al Meeza said it was estimated that Islamic banks’ total assets were hovering around $450 billion and expected to increase to $1 trillion by 2010.

“The golden age of Islamic banking and high patronage they enjoy encouraged us to launch the Salam Bank Group which continues to witness rapid growth and prosperity day by day,” he said.

“We started with Salam Bank of Sudan, then with Salam Bank of Bahrain and now with Salam Bank of Algeria. We will soon open more in other Arab countries.

“All financial institutions’ reports point to significant growth of assets and liabilities of Islamic banks in all Islamic countries, except Iran,” he said.

“Islamic banks are growing at higher rates than other banks and this is helping in creating a conducive climate in the banking sector.”

He said profit margins being achieved by Islamic banks and financial institutions are better than those being achieved by their traditional counterparts in many Arab countries.

“There are about 270 Islamic banking and financial institutions in various parts of the world, including 34 in Bahrain, which is the main hub of these banking institutions in the Middle East region,” he said.