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ACCA hosts Dr Amjad, founder of Islamic micro finance

Dr Muhammad Amjad Saqib, the founder of the Islamic micro finance company, Akhuwat, met with Alan Hatfield, executive director for strategy and development at ACCA London headquarters. In Pakistan, micro finance is proving popular amongst the growing SME sector. The country’s SME development authority calculates that nearly 90% of companies are SMEs, most of them operating in the informal sector, so the demand for micro finance is also growing. Akhuwat has opened over 850 branches in 486 cities/towns across Pakistan, enabling over 3.5 Million families to become self-reliant by extending interest-free loans worth more than £400 million. Dr Saqib's latest initiative is called Akhuwat University, which will provide higher education without any tuition fee to support the upward social mobility in the country.

Reflections on legal barriers to cross-border #philanthropy in Europe

The European Union has rules implementing a single market for for-profit activities while nonprofit, philanthropic activities lack any comparable system. There is increasingly a 'closing space' for civil society organizations engaged in cross-border activities. The legal barriers to cross-border philanthropy represent complex issues in Europe, especially since they reflect the larger division over the extent of European integration and union. Addressing them therefore requires diligence, creativity, and an appreciation of the larger political context. The European organizations have all of these characteristics.
It is their efforts that have led to growing support for philanthropy, as demonstrated most recently by the European Philanthropy Manifesto and the European Economic and Social Committee’s opinion on 'European philanthropy: an untapped potential'.

#Saudi Arabia's Arbah Capital buys Glasgow's Sauchiehall building

Saudi Arabia-based Arbah Capital has acquired the Sauchiehall building in Glasgow, UK, valued at $76m (SAR285m), through a sharia'a-compliant investment structure. Arbah Capital stated that the acquisition represented a core long term investment and would help attain value at a time of uncertainty in the UK. The investment firm added that the Sauchiehall building aligned with its main strategy to focus on acquisitions of distinctive assets. The mixed-use property is a 2.87ha LG+G+6F structure, and features a multi-storey car park as well. Arbah Capital's CEO Mahmood Al Kooheji says this purchase enhances Arbah’s strategic alliances and relationships which further supports its position as an international gateway into the investment market.

London VC Hambro Perks to invest in 'two to three' Islamic startups

The UK hosted its first halal startup pitch event in mid-June, when five prominent Islamic SMEs met with investors to showcase their wares. Prominent Islamic SMEs at the 'Smart Capital Startup Pitches' event included VIP halal travel firm Serendipity Tailormade, Muslim lifestyle platform Salam Planet and halal e-commerce site OneAgrix. The event was hosted by London-based venture capital firm Hambro Perks, who plans to invest this year in "two or three" of the start-ups that featured at the pitch event. Hambro Perks managing director Ali Qaiser said rapidly growing populations in emerging markets offer ripe regions for halal technology products and services. The company made its first investment when it funded British Muslim dating app MuzMatch. Qaiser expects halal tourism to take off. He also expects to see massive growth in the 'gamification' of Islamic lifestyles, such as apps to help prayer rituals and maps for Hajj pilgrimage.

College launches degrees in Islamic finance

Dundee’s Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education is collaborating with the University of Dundee to offer qualifications in MSc Islamic Finance, MSc Islamic Banking and Finance and MSc Islamic Banking, Finance and International Business. Dr Salah Alhammadi, assistant professor in Islamic economics at Al-Maktoum College, said Islamic finance has been adopted in Muslim majority countries as well as non-Muslim countries. The London Stock Exchange recently claimed that the UK is leading western countries in Islamic Finance. Designed for students who have completed an undergraduate degree and are now looking to specialise, the programmes are suitable for those with a background in finance and business but also anyone new to the subject.

The #UK can be a world leader in Islamic finance

According to Al Rayan Bank CFO Amir Firdaus, Islamic finance is reinforcing the UK’s position as a global financial hub. London is the leading centre for Islamic finance outside the Muslim world, with assets of UK-based institutions that offer Islamic finance services totalling more than $5bn. More than 20 banks in the UK offer Islamic services, and five of these banks are fully Sharia-compliant, including Al Rayan Bank. Al Rayan currently provides Islamic financial products to more than 85,000 customers in the UK. Last year, Al Rayan became the first bank in the world to issue a public sterling sukuk in a non-Muslim country. The London-listed £250m securitisation was rated AAA by Standard & Poor’s and Aaa by Moody’s Investors Service and was significantly oversubscribed. The appeal of Islamic finance is growing steadily, more than a third of Al Rayan Bank’s customers are currently believed to be non-Muslim.

Paper by Torkel Brekke: Halal Money: Financial #inclusion and demand for Islamic banking in #Norway

Financial inclusion is high on the agenda for governments as well as for organizations such as the World Bank.

Research has pointed out that Muslims worldwide are less included in the formal financial system than non-Muslims, but there is no knowledge about the extent to which religious norms (most importantly the ban on interest on money) lead to financial exclusion among Muslims in the West.

In this article I approach the issue of financial exclusion and inclusion through three interrelated questions that will be answered with data collected in Norway 2015 and 2016.

The questions are:
(a) To what extent do Muslims see conventional banking as a problem in their own lives?
(b) Do level of education, age, national background or level of religiosity predict demand for Islamic banking?
(c) Is demand for Islamic banking changing?

This article is a first step in what should be a broader research program to find out whether and how religious norms cause financial exclusion of Muslims in the West.

Bricklane receives Shariah accreditation for its residential property investment #funds

Bricklane’s funds have been certified as compliant by the Shariah Committee of Minarah Consulting chaired by Sheikh Faizal Manjoo. Through Bricklane’s online platform, individuals can invest flexibly in geographically focussed funds that buy and let residential properties, one focussed on London, and another on the Regional Capitals of Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham. Available through ISAs and SIPPs, and with Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) tax status, it is the most tax-efficient way to invest in UK residential property. Performance for the Bricklane funds has been strong in both absolute and relative terms, with the Regional Capitals fund returning 8.7% to investors in its first year, and its London fund returning 10% at its first anniversary in July 2018.

Sharia Compliant #Cryptocurrency Exchange Sets its Sights on #Malta

Malta continues to take the lead in attracting blockchain and cryptocurrency ventures and now also in the upcoming Islamic finance scene. The new Sharia compliant cryptocurrency exchange Huulk has applied for a digital exchange license in Malta and hopes to partner with several European exchanges in the coming weeks. According to Huulk CEO Ibrahim Mohammed, Malta’s Bianchi Holdings would be an equity partner in the exchange. Bianchi Holdings Chairman Michael Bianchi is also involved in other blockchain and cryptocurrency ventures. The Huulk exchange is aiming to list around 20 Islamic fintech firms, some of which operate in Muslim-majority countries like Turkey and Malaysia. OneGram also plans to list its own sharia-compliant cryptocurrency on the exchange by mid-September. OneGram has sold around $400 million in gold-backed tokens over the past year.

Wahed Invest launches #UK’s first easy access digital Halal investment platform

Wahed Invest has launched the UK’s first Halal online investment platform that is authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority. This way savers from all income brackets can easily invest in a globally diversified portfolio of ethically responsible stocks, Islamic bonds and gold. The platform, which is already available in the USA across all 50 states, allows users to open an account in minutes with a minimum investment of £100. For the first time, mainstream investors can gain access to products not traditionally available to retail investors, such as Sukuk. In order to ensure all returns are Halal, Wahed has a full-time Ethical Review Board. The Ethical Board is chaired by Sheikh Taha Abdul Basser alongside Sheikh Humza Maqbool Chaudhry and Sheikh Musa Furber.

Sadiq Khan backs #crowdfunding campaign for pro bono advice app

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has backed a campaign to raise money to boost free legal services to disadvantaged people. The money is being raised on a crowdfunding site for an application that could be made accessible through advice centres and even food banks. According to Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, the former president of the Law Society, £25,000 has been raised for the project so far and £2,000 more is needed to launch the six-month pilot this September.

Albaraka Türk launches mobile-only banking service for Europe's Muslim community

Turkey's Albaraka Türk is targeting Europe's Muslim community with the launch of an interest-free digital banking app. "Insha" is initially being rolled out in Germany ahead of a Europe-wide expansion. It features a document-free account opening process and comes complete with a debit card. In addition to financial products, the app offers a range of Islamic-friendly services including a Zakat Calculator and a "Nearest Mosque" locator. Meliksah Utku, general manager at Albaraka Türk, says that the insha project marks the first step in the bank’s strategic entry into the European market.

Dr M To Deliver Teleconference Address At Sarajevo Halal #Fair

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has agreed to deliver a keynote address, via teleconferencing, at the three-day Sarajevo Halal Fair. Bosna Bank International's CEO Amer Bukvic announced that the fair would begin on the 27. of September and he invited more Malaysian companies to set up business in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bukvic added that the country aims to become Europe’s halal hub and they need help from Malaysia. The Sarajevo Halal Fair is jointly organised by Bosna Bank International, Saudi-based Islamic Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank Group Business Forum and supported by Malaysia’s Halal Industry Development Corporation.

Savings Status Quo Challenged As 79% Of Shariah-Compliant Accounts Now Beat The Market

Gatehouse Bank surveyed eight different types of account: easy access, 1, 2, 3 and 5 Year Fixed Term and 30, 60 and 90 Day Notice accounts. It found average returns on Shariah-compliant savings products trumped their mainstream counterparts on all account types bar one, easy access. Overall, the average rate on Shariah-compliant products was 1.54% while the average for mainstream accounts was 1.29%, a difference of 0.25%. All but three of the 14 Shariah-compliant accounts surveyed beat the market average. Shariah-compliant savings accounts in the UK are growing in popularity, amongst both Muslim and non-Muslim savers. According to Gatehouse Bank CEO Charles Haresnape, what we’re seeing is the emergence of a genuine challenge to the UK savings establishment.

MOVES-#Britain's largest Islamic bank Al Rayan appoints new COO

Birmingham-based Al Rayan Bank appointed Paul McMillan as chief operating officer as part of the bank’s expansion efforts. McMillan, a former chief executive of mortgage servicing firm Acenden, takes over the role from the bank’s previous COO Venkat Chandrasekar. Al Rayan is one of the five standalone Islamic banks in Britain and is owned by Qatar’s Masraf Al Rayan.

Launch of #Malta Islamic Finance Association

Malta Islamic Finance Association (MIFA) was officially launched on 26th June 2018 by Parliamentary Secretary for Financial Services, Digital Economy and Innovation Silvio Schembri. The present government headed by Prime Minister Joseph Muscat fully supports and endorses all efforts for establishing Islamic Finance in Malta. Malta Islamic Finance Association aims to liaise with governments, quasi-governmental institutions, multilateral organizations, standard setting bodies, agencies and regulatory authorities. The Governing Council of MIFA has appointed Mr. Reuben Buttigieg as President of MIFA and Sheikh Bilal Khan as Secretary General of MIFA for the first term.

Growing Islamic finance firms lobby British government for #tax relief

Islamic finance firms are lobbying the British government for tax reforms, arguing that the treatment of some shariah-compliant structures is hindering their growth. Islamic financial transactions often require multiple title transfers of underlying assets, which can trigger double or even triple tax charges. More than 20 firms offer Islamic financial products in Britain. According to Samir Alamad, head of product development at Al Rayan Bank, capital gains taxes are affecting Islamic banks and their customers. He added that taxes on investment property and commercial finance also need clarification. Islamic banks are expanding, but there are concerns that future changes could also have an impact on the sector. The government’s 2017 budget has proposed changes starting from 2019 to the tax status of nonresident investors and the way they are taxed on real estate disposals.

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank Funds $32.2 Million Deal Of A #UK Property

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) UK, has arranged a Sharia’a-compliant transaction to finance the acquisition of Lateral House, located in Leeds, UK. The deal involves a sum of $32.2 million on behalf of an Abu Dhabi-based private banking client. Earlier this year the bank arranged the acquisition of The Hub, located at the Aztec West Business Park, Bristol, for $43.4 million on behalf of a private Saudi based client. Lateral House is a modern Grade A office building providing 95,317 square feet of net lettable commercial office space. ADIB was the first UAE-based bank providing Islamic financial services to be licensed to operate in the UK. Today, it is just one of six banks in the UK providing Sharia-compliant services.

Lombard Odier launches Shari'ah-compliant #investment offering

Lombard Odier has launched a full suite of Shari'ah-compliant investment solutions. Arnaud Leclercq, Limited Partner at Lombard Odier Group said that since the offering began as a bespoke creation for one client, it has grown from a $10 million to in the hundreds of millions, primarily for investors in the Middle East. Lombard Odier's Islamic investments have averaged 4-5% returns since 2012. The goal is to reach $1 billion in total Islamic investment the next 3-5 years. The investments are a mix between Sukuk and equities. Equities are chosen using a combination of MSCI's Islamic Index and Lombard Odier's in-house experts. The clients serviced with these solutions are primarily from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Lombard Odier plans to increase its presence in the Middle East with an office in Abu Dhabi.

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