The Malaysian Reserve

Islamic banks ready to support SMEs

According to the Association of Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM), local SMEs are not fully utilising various solutions provided by Islamic banks despite credit availability. AIBIM has 26 members comprising of 11 domestic banks, 5 development financial institutions and 10 locally incorporated foreign banks. A recent survey of its members shows that about 10,000 SMEs received more than RM10 billion in funding. AIBIM stated several Islamic financial institutions provide supply chain financing, also known as supplier finance. Supply chain financing is a set of solutions that improves cashflow by allowing businesses to lengthen their payment terms to their suppliers while providing the option for their large and SME suppliers to get paid early.

Is return to gold standard imminent?

The Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 called for a common cryptocurrency to be implemented among Muslim nations to avoid dependence on the US dollar. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad also called for the use of gold among Muslim nations particularly for trade settlement. The return to some form of gold standard globally is going to be among the greatest events that will take place in this century. The Movement for Monetary Justice Malaysia (MMJ) believes the best form of money for the modern world is gold-based cryptocurrency with a netting arrangement. Gold would bring about a fixed exchange-rate regime and eliminate speculation, manipulation and arbitrage in the foreign-exchange market and thereby would bring back stability and sustainability.

Islamic finance sector to benefit from rapid family takaful growth

According to Malaysian Reinsurance CEO Zainudin Ishak, the Islamic finance industry as a whole is poised to benefit from the rapid growth of family takaful into a dominant position. The company aims to attain a sustainable long-term growth through the capability to write both family and general retakaful businesses. Malaysian Re has just signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Pacific Life Re in Kuala Lumpur. The collaboration is expected to expand Malaysian Re’s access to international research and data through the usage of the underwriting technology powered by Pacific Life Re’s fully owned subsidiary, UnderwriteMe. Meanwhile, Pacific Life Re will provide support for MRRD’s family takaful business through its technical pricing, underwriting, product development, experienced analysis and global insights.

SC launches new roadmap to drive sustainable investments

The domestic capital market is expected to play a critical role in helping Malaysia meet the estimated RM45 billion required to finance its long-term sustainable development goals. Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) chairman Datuk Syed Zaid Syed Jaffar Albar said climate change poses physical and financial risks to companies. The change to more sustainable practices requires investments in new technologies and funding which carries risks with indeterminate outcomes. Malaysia alone is projected to require RM45 billion in the next five years. Therefore, the SC released the sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) roadmap to establish the country as a regional SRI centre. The roadmap identified 20 strategic recommendations based on the SC’s five i-Strategy: the widening of the range of SRI instruments, increasing the SRI investor base, building a strong SRI issuer base, instilling a strong internal government culture and designing information architecture.

Huge Shariah-compliant fintech potential in #Indonesia

For the first time in many years, Indonesia overtook Malaysia in an Islamic finance ranking. According to the Global Islamic Finance Report (GIFR) 2019, Indonesia ranked No 1 in IFCI 2019, overtaking Malaysia that has dominated the index since 2011. Malaysia may have had early mover advantages with a top-down approach in its positioning as a global hub for Islamic finance. Indonesia has shown a great penchant for creativity. Known for being creative and amplified by the market size, Indonesia has the potential to vault ahead in the near future. Indonesia has already unveiled its Islamic Economic Master Plan 2019-2024. Two out of four main strategies are directly benefitting Islamic finance and Islamic fintech. These strategies strengthen the Islamic financial sector and the digital economy.

#Malaysia remains key source of Islamic debt papers

According to Fitch Ratings, Malaysia remains the main sukuk issuer this year besides countries from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. The increase in Malaysia’s sukuk market is largely driven by Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and contributed by local currency corporate issuance. Notable corporate deals included energy service firm Serba Dinamik’s US$300 million (RM1.25 bilion) sukuk, the first dollar high-yield sukuk offering in the Asia-Pacific region. The Malaysian market shows how as the Shariah-compliant investor base grows, the cost of sukuk issuance becomes more competitive relative to conventional bonds. Fitch believes that global volumes normalised rather than declined last year after hitting record levels in 2017. Moving forward, Fitch believes macro-economic and geopolitical conditions will affect sukuk issuance. GCC debt markets are relatively developing but individual sovereign funding decisions can profoundly affect total supply.

Bank Islam top domestic #sukuk #broker in 1H19

Bank Islam Malaysia is the top domestic sukuk broker for the first half of the year (1H), after helping issue US$5.15 billion (RM21.21 billion) worth of sukuk in the market. Bank Islam’s market share of the sukuk issued accounted for 29.03% of the total ringgit-denominated sukuk issued in the 1H. The bank advised on 10 issues for the period. The second-largest issuer in the 1H is Maybank Investment Bank, which was ranked first last year for the same period after having helped issue US$4.1 billion of sukuk. Analysts expect the local sukuk market to remain active driven by capital raising by government and corporates for major construction works such as the East Coast Rail Link, Light Rail Transit Line 3 and Mass Rapid Transit Line 3 projects.

IIFM to wrap up #Sukuk Al Ijarah #standard suite this year

The International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM) expects to finalise capital market related “Sukuk Al Ijarah” standard suite of documentation later this year. The Perpetual Tier 1 and Senior Unsecured Sukuk Al Mudarabah standard suite of documentation is currently ongoing and is expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter of 2019. The standard-setting body also started translation work on its standards and is expected to come out with French versions by early 2020 to cater for French language jurisdictions. It is also looking to develop training material for its standards in collaboration with consultants and training institutes to offer technically oriented workshops to the users.

#Malaysia’s position in the #fintech race

According to the Fintech Malaysia Report 2018, Malaysia had 166 fintech companies operating in the country as at July last year. Payments and e-wallets made up the majority at 19% and 17% of the fintech players respectively, followed by cryptocurrency players (12%) and crowdfunding companies (6%). While Malaysia appears to be well ahead of Vietnam and the Philippines in the fintech race, it’s still nowhere near Indonesia. Mohammad Ridzuan Abdul Aziz, president of the Fintech Association of Malaysia (FAOM), believes that instead of viewing fintech as a race against other countries, the focus should be on collaboration between the key stakeholders. He added that the government also provides a variety of monetary incentives and support programmes for start-ups, and is now recalibrating various agencies to improve awareness and efficiency.

MIDF keeps mum on Al Rajhi #merger talks

Malaysian Industrial Development Finance (MIDF) remains tight-lipped about its negotiations with Al Rajhi Banking and Investment Corp (Al Rajhi Malaysia). Both banking groups announced on Jan 10 this year that Bank Negara Malaysia’s approval had been secured to commence talks on a potential merger. However, both parties failed to reach an agreement past the March deadline. The companies then requested for an extension and were given another three months, up to June 27 this year. A merger of the two banks would result in a combined banking group with RM13.17 billion in assets. The merger with Al Rajhi Malaysia will allow MIDF to become an Islamic financial institution as it currently does not have an Islamic banking licence. MIDF brought in RM76.86 million in revenue and RM12.11 million in net profit for 1Q19.

SC sees good year ahead for #sukuk

Malaysia could see more Islamic capital market funds raised this year as sukuk activity has picked up in the first quarter of 2019. According to Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) deputy CEO Datuk Zainal Izlan Zainal Abidin, sukuk issuances are picking up over last year’s level. The government recently announced the revival of the East Coast Rail Link and the Bandar Malaysia projects, brightening investor sentiment which has been dampened lately. According to SC data, Malaysia’s Islamic capital market was valued at RM1.88 trillion or 61% of the nation’s overall capital market as at end-2018, down from RM1.9 trillion the year prior. Malaysia is the world’s largest sukuk issuer, having accounted for 51.6% of global outstanding sukuk as at endJune 2018.

Bank Islam continues to focus on affordable housing segment

Bank Islam Malaysia expects its home financing business model will continue to help the bank to grow and boost its assets. Malaysia’s oldest Islamic lender has been growing organically over the years, despite the crowded market. Bank Islam CEO Mohd Muazzam Mohamed said the bank is already adopting the right model to support this affordable segment. He added that the Islamic bank will continue with its current business model which is in line with the governments’ directive. Bank Islam has already allocated RM300 million to be utilised until 2021 as part of its digitalisation directive. Mohd Muazzam said the bank aims to increase its financing for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) by RM200 million in 2019. The bank also plans to increase its investment fund to RM800 million under its Al-Awfar product, which has been refreshed since its establishment in 2009.

BNM introduces Rahn policy document

Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) has issued the Rahn policy document which is aimed at strengthening the practice among Islamic financial institutions to offer services that are end-to-end Shariah-compliant. BNM stated that the subject matter of the Rahn contract shall be collateral that is recognised by Shariah and Shariah-compliant liability or obligation owing to the pledgee. It added that the collateral must be owned either by the obligor, a third party, or the obligor and a third party. BNM said the collateral shall be immediately possessed by the pledgee upon entering into the Rahn contract unless a pledgee approves a delay in possession. A Rahn contract is applicable with contracts including qard, murabahah, tawarruq, baiinah, istisna, ijarah, kafalah, mudarabah, musyarakah, wakalah bi al-istithmar, and wad as well as takaful coverage.

BIMB Invest eyes RM100m for Shariah-ESG #fund within 1 year

BIMB Invest is expected to achieve a subscription of RM100 million of its BIMB-Arabesque ValueCAP Malaysia Shariah-ESG Equity Fund within a year. The fund was launched together with Arabesque Asset Management and ValueCAP and approved by the Securities Commission Malaysia. As the fund is mainly targeted at corporate and institutional investors, BIMB Invest is hoping to get the likes of pension funds, insurance and takaful firms on board. The fund will invest in about 100 local listed companies that are Shariah-compliant as well as in line with ESG practices. It will analyse the ESG factors of each company using Arabesque’s proprietary methodology, the Arabesque S-Ray, which daily assesses the performance of companies.

Green #sukuk creates ripples on prominent environmental concerns

According to Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) deputy CEO Datuk Zainal Izlan Zainal Abidin, the world will need up to US$90 trillion (RM360 trillion) worth of investments for infrastructure by 2030. This presents a significant opportunity for green finance and green sukuk to be part of the mainstream investment for the financing solutions. In July 2017, SC, Bank Negara Malaysia and the World Bank Group established the country’s first green sukuk. Green sukuk has become the trend that has received support from investors and regulators on a global scale. NewParadigm Capital Markets Managing Director Charanjeev Singh says more green sukuk issuances are expected to take up the Islamic finance space as Malaysia continues to be the catalyst for Islamic bonds. So far, the focus has been big government-owned companies. The next level of development would be to facilitate the middle- market or the mid-sized companies, and not necessarily the government- owned or government-linked, but the A or AA ratings.

Lack of scale, lower returns in Islamic finance need addressing

According to Sultan Nazrin, Islamic finance needs to address the lack of scale, volatility in Islamic equity markets and lower returns for Islamic investing. In his keynote speech at the Franklin Templeton 2018 Islamic Forum in Kuala Lumpur, he highlighted four key areas that need to be addressed. While the overall sukuk market has posted growth in recent years, the resilience of Islamic equities and funds cannot be taken for granted as most of them lack scale. Another issue to be addressed is the greater volatility seen lately in global Islamic-listed equity markets. Sultan Nazrin said that an unparalleled benchmark for governance must be established that balances financial and ethical considerations. He added that innovation represents a challenge and an opportunity for the industry, thus Islamic finance must embrace the modern era of disruption, with a continued strong focus on product innovation.

Islamic finance — focus on capital market development

The Islamic finance sector is a subset of the overall domestic financial sector. Governments face pretty much the same contingent liabilities with Islamic banks as they do with conventional ones. Some 73% of total Islamic finance assets are within Islamic banks. Takaful accounts for a mere 2%, while the remainder 25% constitute assets within capital market instruments such as sukuk, mutual funds and others. Thus, within the Islamic finance space, banking is at least three times the size of capital markets. Policymakers would be well advised to seek not just to grow Islamic finance, but focus on the capital markets component. This is not just good from a macroeconomic vulnerability viewpoint, but is also more in keeping with the Shariah philosophy of risk sharing.

#Malaysia remains lead in Islamic finance

Malaysia has great potential to broaden its market share and strengthen its leadership in Islamic finance. According to the latest report by the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre, Asia’s Islamic financial assets amounted to US$528.7 billion (RM2.05 trillion), or 26% of the world’s Shariah-compliant financial assets as at end-2017. Malaysia continued to be the main driver for both sukuk outstanding and issuance for the year, with a market share of 51% and 36.2% respectively as at end-2017. The country also led in the Islamic wealth management industry with US$28.3 billion (36.5% global share). It also ranked first in terms of number of funds with a total of 394 funds and 27.9% global share, followed by Pakistan with 147 funds and Indonesia with 143. In the banking sector, Malaysia ranked third globally after Iran and Saudi Arabia with a total Islamic banking assets of US$204.4 billion as at end-2017.

Syed Alwi is Agrobank’s new CEO

Agrobank has appointed Syed Alwi Mohamed Sultan as its new president and CEO. The appointment has received approval from Bank Negara Malaysia and the Ministry of Finance. Previously, he had held several senior management positions with various banks such as Bank Muamalat Malaysia, BNP Paribas, Standard Chartered Saadiq, The Islamic Bank of Asia and HL Bank Singapore. Syed Alwi has a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and a first-class master of business administration in Islamic finance from the International Islamic University of Malaysia. Agrobank became a full-fledged Islamic bank in 2015. It provides Shariah-compliant banking products and funding to cater for the halal food industry and agriculture-related activities.

MBSB rebrands AFB as MBSB Bank

Malaysia Building Society Bhd (MBSB) has rebranded its recently acquired Asian Finance Bank Bhd (AFB) as MBSB Bank. MBSB Bank's CEO Datuk Seri Ahmad Zaini Othman said the bank would provide Shariah-compliant products and services, such as consumer banking, business banking and trade financing. He added that the bank would also focus on developing its financial technology capabilities to attract more customers. The lender has already embarked on several digitisation initiatives, including big data projects started in June 2017. MBSB Bank plans to launch its fintech capabilities for wealth management and trade facilities by the third quarter of this year, and to have Internet banking facilities ready by end-2018. MBSB finalised its acquisition of AFB in February for RM644.95 million with the latter becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of MBSB. With the transfer of all MBSB’s Shariah-compliant assets and liabilities to AFB, MBSB Bank is the second-largest full-fledged Islamic bank in the country.

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