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Fintech and Islamic finance: Blockchain’s Proof of Work vs Proof of Stake

Finally, the long-awaited book on Fintech in Islamic Finance, which I am honored to have contributed is ready for delivery:

https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/e/9781351025584

In my contribution I looked at how the underlying economics of increasing returns and zero marginal costs impact business models, with then causing challenges on the legal and Islamic legal side for instance regarding smart contracts and artificial intelligence. Fintech opens to contribute to Islamic finance, as it allows to disrupt debt driven financing towards equity, if guided in the right direction. Jonathan Lawrence of KL Gates in charge for Fintech and Islamic finance at his law firm was my co-author.

BTW: If any reader knows about blockchain solutions for financial inclusion, especially for the Muslim world, please point me in the right direction. I would love to see this discussed on the next Global Donors Forum 2020 in Geneva, which is the biannual convention of Muslim Philanthropists.

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Call for Innovation via Transform Fund 2019

The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has established a special Fund, known as Science, Technology and Innovation Transform Fund (IsDB-STIF) to support its Member Countries in finding practical solutions to key development challenges related to 6 focused Sustainable Development Goals through the power of innovation. Transform is a multi-million-dollar fund that provides seed money for innovators, startups, SMEs and institutions that need initial funding and growth capital to develop their ideas and compose a strong business proposal. The second round for the Call for Innovation under Transform Fund is now open. Deadline for submission is 1st June 2019.

https://www.isdb-engage.org/en/challenge/call-for-innovation-via-transfo...

UNHCR's Refugee #Zakat Fund raises $38.1mln; assists 111,209 families

The UNHCR’s Refugee Zakat Fund has raised $38.1 million in six months and supported 111,209 families (648,476 individuals) across seven countries. The United Nations' refugee agency’s zakat fund is a Sharia-compliant structure that channels zakat funds to the most vulnerable refugees. It is a dedicated non-interest-bearing account in Switzerland. Due to generous contributions from donors across the globe, the fund surpassed the fundraising target of $26 million originally set for 2019. The largest three destination countries comprise Yemen ($13.5 million); Jordan ($0.7 million), and Lebanon ($0.6 million). The remainder of the funds are mostly assigned to help some 670,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and distribution is in progress.

ADIB UK provides Dh120m acquisition funding

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) UK has provided financing for The Bank of London and the Middle East (BLME) to acquire a Dh120 million (£26.95 million) Grade A office building in Edinburgh. The building is now leased to Centrica as their corporate headquarters in Scotland until 2035. The building has received several design awards including the Scottish Design Award for Commercial Interior and the British Council for Offices National and Regional Awards for Commercial Workplace. BLME is a UK Shari’ah compliant bank with a branch in the Dubai International Financial Centre, regulated by the DFSA. Boubyan Bank is BLME’s largest shareholder. BLME sources and co-invests in commercial real estate opportunities alongside professional investors from the Middle East.

Noor Bank collaborates with Unionpay international to launch EMVCo QR-based mobile payment solution

Noor Bank has partnered with UnionPay International to inaugurate the bank’s EMVCo QR-based mobile payment service that allows consumers in the UAE to make instant and secure payments on the go. Customers and merchants across the country can now leverage UnionPay QR code scanning for all their payments. The launch ceremony was attended by Han Wang, General Manager-Middle East of UnionPay International, and John Iossifidis, CEO of Noor Bank. In the UAE, UnionPay is accepted nationwide both on POS terminals and ATM machines, acceptance rate is 100% and more than 60% on POS terminals for the UnionPay card and QuickPass. The new solution is expected to create wider acceptance and increase the number of current QR-code-enabled merchants in the country by end-2019.

#Saudi Arabia warns against dealing in #cryptocurrencies

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Finance has warned against dealing or investing in digital currencies including cryptocurrencies as they are not recognised by legal entities in the Kingdom. The finance ministry stated that digital currencies are outside the scope of the regulatory framework and are not traded by financial institutions in Saudi Arabia, adding that such cryptocurrencies have been associated with fraudulent activities and attract suspicion. The use of Saudi Arabia’s name, national currency or emblem by any entity for digital currencies marketing will be subject to legal actions.

Beijing’s Belt and Road plans could boost the Islamic banking sector

China’s Belt and Road Initiative is expected to spur further development in Islamic finance around the world. Many of the countries along the infrastructure belt are home to predominantly Muslim populations, including Central Asian countries such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The China-headquartered Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank had already signed a memorandum of understanding with the Islamic Development Bank to collaborate on various areas including Islamic finance development. Sukuk issuance had grown strongly in 2017, but Chinese issuers have actually pulled away since then. That’s been attributed to the complexities involved, particularly as standards differ across regulatory regimes with varying interpretations of Sharia compliance. Still, financial links between China and the Middle East continue to grow. The relationships have increasingly moved from just trade partnerships to joint ventures.

#Indonesia raises 8 trln rupiah from Islamic bonds auction, matches target

Indonesia raised 8 trillion rupiah ($561.01 million) in a biweekly Islamic bond auction on Tuesday. According to the financing and risk management office at the finance ministry, the sukuk issuance matched the indicative target. The weighted average yields of project-based sukuk sold on Tuesday were lower compared with yields of comparable sukuk at the previous auction on Aug. 6. Total incoming bids were 21.4 trillion rupiah. ($1 = 14,260.0000 rupiah)

McKinsey Issues Warning Shot Over ‘Ominous’ Signs of an Asian Debt Crisis

Global consulting firm McKinsey is warning that signs of an Asian debt crisis are "ominous". Increased indebtedness, stresses in repaying borrowing, lender vulnerabilities and shadow banking practices are some of the concerns. McKinsey examined the balance sheets of more than 23,000 companies across eleven Asia-Pacific countries, and found firms in most of Asia face "significant stress" in servicing debt obligations. In countries such as China and India, those pressures have risen since 2007, while falling sharply in the U.S. and U.K. during the same period. Since 1997, financial regulators have put in place safeguards to prohibit a repeat of the crisis that engulfed Asian nations. Potential triggers of a crisis that need to be monitored include defaults in repayment of debt, liquidity mismatches, and large fluctuations in exchange rates, according to McKinsey.

Kuwait Finance House launches open banking

Kuwait Finance House-Bahrain (KFH-Bahrain) has announced going live with advanced open banking infrastructure, which will allow it to partner with innovative fintech firms. The kingdom is one of the earliest global adopters of mandatory open banking, putting it at the vanguard of customer-driven change in financial services. KFH-Bahrain is one of the first banks to integrate a fintech through the launch of its KFH Jazeel banking platform in partnership with Tarabut Gateway, a subsidiary of Almoayed Technologies. According to KFH-Bahrain executive manager Mohammed Fahmi Hamad, open banking will allow bank account holders to consent to sharing details of their accounts and payments history to licensed third-party providers to make more aware financial decisions. In addition to that, customers will soon be able to link their accounts to independent licensed applications.

Islamic finance taking shape

In #Ethiopia, Muslim members of the business community are and had been severely underserved by the nation’s financial industry. This seemed to be changing in 2011 with the enactment of the nation’s first interest-free banking directive by the National Bank of Ethiopia. However, the directive only authorized interest-free banking window in the setup of a conventional banking system and not a full-fledged Islamic bank. Exactly six years later, three potential full-fledged Islamic banks have been established. The three have officially started selling shares while unofficially at least two more banks are said to be in the pipeline to take part in the interest-free banking game. This will bring the total number of new entrants to five.

#Saudi peer-to-peer funding platform signs with SRB

Saudi peer-to-peer funding platform Raqamyah has assigned the Shariyah Review Bureau (SRB) to manage the Sharia compliance affairs of its crowd-funding technology. Raqamyah founder Ammar Bakheet said the company was developing faster ways of connecting funders with SME’s and also enact the spectrum of SAMA’s regulations in the Kingdom. Shariyah Review Bureau, founded in 2004 in Saudi Arabia and licensed by Central Bank of Bahrain in 2007 provides Sharia advisory services from setting up Sharia Boards to Sharia certification and Sharia audits. SRB founder Yasser S Dahlawi said the collaboration with Raqamyah makes SRB the preeminent choice of Sharia Advisor for P2P firms seeking to offer crowd-funding opportunities in the Kingdom.

Why is #Singapore so far behind #Malaysia on responsible investing?

On numerous fronts, Singapore outcompetes its regional rival Malaysia. But in terms of the sustainability of their capital markets, Malaysia trumps Singapore in responsible investing. Malaysian asset managers are more confident than their Singaporean counterparts that responsible investments will outperform regular investments. A recent Bloomberg study shows that 67% of Malaysia’s investment community believes that portfolios underpinned by environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors will perform as well as or better than regular investments. In Singapore it is 58%. The survey also found that a quarter of asset managers in Malaysia had developed their own internal ESG scoring models, compared with just 13% in Singapore. Large Malaysian asset owners are signatories to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment, whereas Singapore’s big investors are not.

Use arbitration to solve Islamic finance disputes

With the growing number of the Islamic financial service providers in Kenya, a proportionate increase in Shariah-related commercial and financial disputes is also expected. In Kenya there is no comprehensive legal and regulatory framework that governs the application of Shariah principles. Arbitration as a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism is gaining in popularity owing to the time and cost it takes to resolve disputes. The disputing parties can select the arbiters and the proceedings can be held in private away from the media glare and therefore does not damage reputations and destroy brands. Islamic financial providers need to ensure that arbitration clauses are factored in their contractual documentations to take care of the need to seek sound Shariah determination of commercial disputes.

The Surprising Leader In The Impact Investing Boom: Debt

Impact investing was once the domain of nuns and other faith-based investors, who wanted their portfolios to reflect their values. Then billionaire capitalists started to build a range of impact products and propelling the impact investing market to over $500 billion. As impact investing has grown over the past decade, impact loan agreements have become increasingly focused on protecting and enhancing impact performance. At a minimum, this has meant including reporting covenants focused on borrower impact performance. Many impact investors go further by modifying common contractual provisions to embed impact considerations. Some impact lenders include covenants that limit borrower expenditures that are excessive or inconsistent with impact goals. Meanwhile, other impact lenders are using "do no harm" covenants to mitigate the heightened reputational risk.

#Takaful Ikhlas, CIMB Islamic target RM168m contribution from tie-up

Takaful Ikhlas and CIMB Islamic Bank are targeting to achieve RM168 million in gross contribution from their newly forged strategic bancatakaful partnership. The two groups expect the partnership to grow by 11% every year for the next five years. The partnership is aimed at providing general takaful solutions to the bank’s customers across retail, small and medium enterprises, as well as commercial segments. CIMB Islamic will leverage on Takaful Ikhlas' offerings, which, in turn, will leverage on CIMB Islamic’s distribution channels comprising the bank’s 250 branches nationwide, online platforms and call centres. Takaful Ikhlas CEO Eddy Azly Abidin said the demand for takaful products was growing and both organisations should work closer together to capitalise on this market’s potential.

Dubai Islamic Bank partners with Arada to provide home financing solutions

Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) has partnered with Sharjah-based Arada to streamline the home ownership process for buyers of Arada properties. The home financing partnership will allow property buyers to access highly competitive mortgage rates and exclusive flexible payment plans as well as rapid and easy processing without the need for a salary transfer. In the past two years Arada sold over 4,000 units in its two projects, Aljada and Nasma Residences. Construction on Aljada is well under way, with the first homes scheduled to be handed over in the first quarter of 2020. The lender is also opening a kiosk at the Arada sales centre in Sharjah.

Jaiz bank grows half-year profits by 295%

#Nigeria's Jaiz Bank has recorded an impressive performance in the first half of this year. Gross earnings rose by 41% while pre and post-tax profits increased by 292% and 295% respectively. The half year report indicated that Profit Before Tax increased to N907 million from N231 million, while Net Profit after tax rose to N816 million from N207 million. The bank also grew its total income by 41% from N4.47 billion as at June 2018 to N6.31 billion at June 30th 2019. The balance sheet was further strengthened during the period with Total Assets rising by 33% from previous year end position of N108.46 billion to N144 billion. The above results further consolidated the growth trajectory of Jaiz Bank with a promise to end the year positively.

Dubai’s Noor Bank launches 3.2 mln dirham #waqf #fund with Ajman Uni to benefit Islamic banking and finance

Noor Bank has launched a 3.2 million dirhams ($871,000) waqf fund with Ajman University to benefit Islamic banking and finance studies. The current pledge of 3.2 million dirhams will benefit one professorship and four scholarships. Noor Bank’s head of Shariah Dr Adnan Aziz said that four scholarships will remain on offer every year, as long as the fund remains intact and continues to generate returns. The waqf amount will be held in perpetuity but the returns on investment will be used to benefit the scholarships. The basic criteria of the scholarships is a combination of academic excellence and financial needs of students registered on a course at the College of Business Administration at Ajman University. The scholarships are available for both undergraduate and postgraduate students.

Noor Bank launches online #art gallery

Noor Bank has launched Noor Art Online Gallery, a new digital portal showcasing artworks from a range of galleries and artists in the region and around the world. Designed to display diverse genres of art, specially curated for Noor Wealth clients, the Noor Art Online Gallery aims to serve as a bridge to connect artists and high-net-worth individuals. The bank stated that the works are available for online credit card purchase by clients around the world and will be delivered to their doorstep. Noor Bank's Head of Retail Banking Mufazzal Kajiji said that art acquisition was a key area of interest and this platform would add value to the customer journey, as well as promote art and culture in the UAE.

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