Time for rebranding Islamic finance

islamic finance brandingTurkey’s ‘participation banking’ holds appeal to spread Islamic finance globally.

Dubai: Discussants on Islamic finance at the ongoing SIBOS 2013 agreed that to be a truly global alternative, there is a need for it to be rebranded to appeal to a wider section of banking and financial customers worldwide.
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source : Gulf news

Ogilvy Noor spearheads Islamic branding drive

Ogilvy Noor has become the world’s first Islamic branding consultancy after WPP, the advertising group led by Sir Martin Sorrell, launched the unit in a bid to unravel the motivation behind 1.8bn Muslim consumers.

The launch culminates a two year study by WPP into Muslim consumer habits and attitudes, the largest ever undertaken and attempts to “illiminate” (Noor being Arabic for light), the spending habits of the faithful.

This showed that Muslims consume differently from those of other religions and none with particular concepts such as “ummah”, the notion of a wider global Islamic religious community, holding great sway through its promotion of community over individualism.

A surprising Islamic champion which has cottoned on to this concept is Milo, a malt based chocolate drink manufactured by Nestle. A clever marketing campaign aimed at promoting nutritional benefits for children sees the brand sponsor school events in Malaysia, thus feeding into into a notion of the greater good.

Not all brands have succeeded in making inroads into the Islamic market however, financial firms in particular have come unstuck as sceptical consumers look beyond the Sharia compliant banking arms and ask probing questions of the head office functions.

This sees politically aware consumers not afraid to walk away from companies seen to support Israel or who invest profits in controversial sectors.

Irfan Younis, Founding Director of Oceanic Consulting, the UK’s leading Ethnic consulting and promotions company, is currently working on Be Halal, Scotland’s first Islamic exhibition. He told The Drum: “There is increasing commercial awareness of the Islamic market in Britain. Firstly, Islamic countries are increasing their global exposure and a number of the World’s leading agencies have opened up in Islamic countries.

“Secondly, in the UK Islamic finance and banking have been around for a number of years and now other industries and service sectors are starting to catch on, and catch up, to what is proving to be a lucrative market for those who are knowledgeable and those willing to educate themselves in regards to the needs of the Islamic community.”

source : the drum

Islamic branding: Is Bangladesh ready to cash in?

Mishu Rahman

THE world is slowly but surely realising the importance of the “halal” branding as major companies around the world move in to capture a global Muslim community, where the “ummah” brings together nearly 1.8 billion people around the world.

The majority of those people are in Asia, particularly South and East Asia. It’s also a very young demographic — 52% are under 24. This means a trend-setting, ambitious, and internationally connected market is at hand here.

“The third one billion market” after China and India has attracted a lot of attention given its economic potential. The gathering momentum is obvious with leading international banking giants creating HSBC Amanah and Standard Chartered’s first “saadiq” Visa gold card to Ogilvy and Mather’s May 2010 launching of Ogilvy Noor, “offering expert, practical advice on how to build brands that appeal to Muslim consumers, globally.”

This all shows how the western world and a global audience are taking the Market of Islam seriously.

The Saïd Business School, Oxford University, will host its inaugural Islamic branding and marketing forum in July 2010. The forum aims to bring together over 250 business leaders, branding and marketing experts and thought leaders to discuss the key issues that face this growing market.

According to the Pew Research Center a comprehensive demographic study of more than 200 countries finds that the market for Shariah-compliant products or services totals $2 trillion annually and is growing by $500 million annually.

Only 20% of the 1.8 billion Muslim population belong to the Arab world, with the majority in growing Asian economies that carry Muslim values and are open to adopting hi-tech lifestyles at par with any western country.

No wonder, therefore, that there is massive interest amongst non-Muslim owned companies about how to enter and penetrate this global market, which spans many industries, including finance, food and beverage, cosmetics, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, logistics, tourism, fashion, and others.

The halal appeal, depending largely on core values, calls for consumers to trust the authenticity and cleanliness of the product, and thus, draws on a brand loyalty which will be difficult to shake off — it’s a brand builder’s dream tool it seems!

At the 6th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) in Malaysia this month, leaders of a diverse political, economic and ethnic arena agreed on the strength of the Islamic branding and the need to cash in on the significant interest it is generating in the world today.

Bahrain’s Ethmaar Bank’s vice-chief pointed out that when the Islamic finance history will be written in the future, two non-Muslim names will be featured as its biggest drivers, instead of any Muslim individual.

One individual is Britain’s former Prime Minister Gordon Brown who pioneered plans to make Britain the most Islam-friendly nation in the world and London a global centre for Islamic finance.

The other is French finance minister Christine Lagarde who announced France’s intentions to make Paris the capital of Islamic finance.

Islamic countries have always worked more than conventional banking counterparts in regulating and tightening the industry specially after a crisis, and in today’s global economy reeling from financial meltdown, the relevance of Islamic finance has gone up in leaps and bounds.

Even the Duke of York Prince Andrew, speaking at the WIEF said that there is no scope to stay aloof and not share ideas and best practices of Islamic finance with a global audience to avoid another meltdown in future.

He also said that the new UK Islamic Finance Secretariat (the first Islamic finance trade body in the UK), was launched at the end of March to promote and develop Islamic finance in the UK further, with 22 Islamic banks already operational, 20 Sukuk issues in the London Stock Exchange and 20 law firms in London providing specialist services on Islamic finance in London.

Bangladesh has seen how the “halal” branding can appeal to our local market when in the mid 90s the halal soap concept threw a leading international soap brand into dire straits.

Islamic finance started off in the early 90s in Bangladesh. However, the industry suffers from a lack of unified Shariah rulings, absence of an Islamic inter-bank money market , absence of courses in universities on Islamic financial products, shortage of skilled personnel who are well-versed in the complexities of this specific sector, and difficulty in identification of Shariah-compliant production and service chains are holding back potential of local financial institutions, local manufacturers, and service providers from signing up on this new economic wave.

Bangladesh has been working with Malaysia’s Halal Development Corporation and other partners of the D-8 (eight developing Islamic countries) for a few years now, without much result.

A halal certification board, whether locally set up or integrated with OIC standards, could bolster our access to export markets. Bangladesh is frequently cited in global summits for its success in micro-finance and the success of economists from Bangladesh in changing the way the global economy will be shaped in the future.

Yet we are failing to set more such success milestones in bringing about great case studies in halal products and services production, marketing and distribution, while Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, China and India are fast setting up infrastructure, guidelines and facilitative bodies to cash in on the Islamic branding potential.

Surely, the local market and export market combined, and with eager non-residents waiting for investment opportunities that build bridges, our economy needs to arm itself with all necessary platforms and guidelines immediately to move on to “greener” pastures

source : daily star

Islamic banks unfazed by new competition

Better products and innovation will separate the playersThe country’s existing Islamic banking players remain unfazed by the upcoming competition in the form of more licences to be issued for world-class Islamic banks and takaful operators.

CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd executive director and chief executive officer Badlisyah Abdul Ghani said the move would result in a greater variety of syariah-based financial services and products being offered to the public.

“This, of course, will bring about a more competitive range of products. The challenge for existing players is to continue to innovate and not lose ground here and look for expansion opportunities in the region,” he told StarBiz.

OCBC Al-Amin Bank Bhd director and chief executive officer Syed Abdull Aziz Syed Kechik said: “This development is healthy not only for customers but also for the country as efforts continue towards collaboration with the international financial community to collectively shape the Islamic finance industry.”

KFH Research Ltd said the players would have to further improve on products and services to retain market leadership.

“As competition increases, we also expect the local Islamic banks to aggressively grow their Islamic banking business within the region, if not globally,” it said.

The financial sector liberalisation plan includes the issuance of licences for seven banking and two takaful players from 2009 until 2011.

It also increases limits of foreign equity ownership to 70% from 49% for investment banks, Islamic banks, insurance companies and takaful operators.

The measures would also see the issuance of up to two new licences for Islamic banking with a minimum paid-up capital of US$1bil, as well as up to two new licences for family takaful.

Recently, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, one of the United Arab Emirates’ biggest banks, was reported to be interested to operate in Malaysia.

Currently, there are about 17 Islamic banking institutions in Malaysia.

However, given that the global economy was still in recovery mode, KFH Research did not expect many foreign players to enter the local market this year.

“The prospect for Malaysia is bright, however, given its position as one of the most developed Islamic finance market,” it said.

The industry performed very well last year, with the market share of total banking assets and deposits surpassing 18% and on target to achieve 20% mark this year.

In its Financial Master Plan outlined in 2004, Bank Negara has targeted Islamic banking assets to carve a 20% market share of the banking industry by this year. The figure stood at about 19% in June last year.

As of November 2009, the total Islamic financing of RM115bil constituted 15.5% of the financing portfolio of the banking industry while net non-performing financing remained low at 2.4%.

Malaysia’s Islamic capital market reached RM803bil in August last year, representing 54% of Bursa Malaysia’s market capitalisation then.

Many are not aware that Malaysia has the largest Islamic equity market in the world with about 88% of all stocks listed on Bursa Malaysia deemed as syariah-compliant.

KFH Research said Islamic finance survived the crisis due to a number of key factors which were in line with syariah. This starts with the ban on interest where any pre-determined payment over and above the actual amount of principal was prohibited, as interest (or the intrinsic value of the money) is deemed unlawful by syariah.

“Second is the ban on uncertainty or speculation. However, risk taking is allowed when all the terms and conditions are clear and known to all parties.

“Also, the profit and loss-sharing principle is where parties to a financial transaction must share in the risks and rewards attached to it.

“Asset-backing principle also helps as each financial transaction must refer to a tangible and identifiable underlying asset,” said the research house.

According to CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd executive director and chief executive officer Badlisyah Abdul Ghani, Islamic finance survived the recent economic crisis because it never participated in the US subprime market.

“And there are two reasons for this – first, Islamic financial institutions were not sophisticated enough to participate in the market.

“Also, the objective of doing Islamic finance is for maximum profitability and social responsibility, which means we cannot take part in something that at the end of the day will negatively impact the society,” he said.

OCBC Al-Amin’s Syed Abdull Aziz said Islamic finance was cushioned from the initial effects of the financial crisis as the industry was prohibited from getting involved in transactions that give rise to “gharar” (uncertainty), such as subprime mortgage collateralised debt obligations.

source : thestaronline

Local Islamic Banks Need To Innovate More

Local Islamic banks need to innovate more to remain competitive within the industry following the government’s move to liberalise the financial services sector.

“I think it is a question of survival for competitors. Local players need to buck up and innovative more to effectively compete.

“With foreign banks stating an interest in moving to Malaysia, it is essential that they do this to move ahead,,” said Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd Managing Director, Datuk Seri Zukri Samat Monday.

He told Bernama this after the signing ceremony of Bank Islam’s closed RM330 million syndicated facility for Kedah Sato Sdn Bhd’s new Kolej Universiti Insaniah (KUIN) campus in Baling.

He said in promoting Malaysia to become a leading international and regional hub of Islamic finance, the country needs more industry players.

“My view is that, the interest of the foreign parties, will basically strengthen our position as an Islamic financial hub. When they come in, they will bring along more products and even capital.

“Personally, I welcome them,” he added.

Recently, it was reported that the National Bank of Abu Dhabi – one of biggest in the United Arab Emirates – plans to start commercial banking operations in Malaysia under the liberalisation plan.

Meanwhile, Bahrain-based Islamic lender, Al Baraka is in talks to buy a stake in Malaysia’s Bank Muamalat.

“I think the cake is still big enough for everyone to share. But I will not say, local players would not be affected by the liberalisation move. Some will be.

“However, there are niche areas, where local players need to position themselves and perform,” he explained.

He said the Islamic finance industry in Malaysia is growing faster than conventional banking, with a 20 per cent growth annually.

Asked if there would be any joint-ventures with foreign parties, he said: “If they are already here, I don’t think we need to have any form of cooperation.

“Of course, they have to be members of the Association of Islamic Banking.

“On that platform, we will cooperate with one other. But I don’t think, there is a specific strategy to collaborate with these banks,” he explained.

Zukri also said, he is confident the Islamic finance industry will show a positive trend this year.


images11While Islamic finance grows at a marked clip in the GCC and Asia, what is its prognosis in Europe?

As we’ll see in this article, a considerable demand exists for Islamic banking products in Europe but to date, for a number of reasons including risk-aversion and conservatism, this need has gone largely unfulfilled.


The Islamic banking market continues to flourish around the world with current estimates suggesting that assets managed by Islamic banks are in excess of $700 billion – predominately concentrated in the Middle East.

It is a fact that there are sufficient Muslim investors and borrowers in both Islamic and non-Islamic countries to warrant the attention of traditional banks that seek to serve such clients and capture a potentially profitable slice of a still relatively untapped market. This is corroborated by the growth of Islamic finance in the US, which has a population of over 7 million Muslims.

The challenge for European financial institutions is how to leverage their banking knowledge and expertise in developing sufficient products and services that fulfill the requirements of their Islamic customer base while being compliant with Islamic finance principles.

Key Islamic financial Instruments

Islam is not only concerned with the relationship between man and God but it is also a system of beliefs, justice, equity, fairness and morality which are the values that underpin the entire Islamic way of life. These beliefs are governed by the body of Islamic principles generally referred to as Shariah, which is used to develop and create Islamic financial products.

The European market size and scope

There are more than 14.74 million Muslims in Europe, of which 1.8 million are resident in the UK plus an additional 72 million in Turkey. There are 360,000 Muslim households in the UK.

The following table illustrates the potential market size in mainland Europe for an Islamic bank, as well as highlights the potential for extra-European expansion in countries such as Turkey.


Population (millions) Muslim Population (millions) Percentage

France 61.00 6.10 10%

UK 60.00 1.8 3%

Germany 83.6 3.25 3.89%

Italy 56.00 1.39 2.5%

Spain 42.10 0.60 1.43%

Belgium 10.70 0.39 3.65%

Sweden 9.30 0.31 3.33%

Austria 8.50 0.22 2.6%

Denmark 5.60 0.19 3.4%

Cyprus 0.95 0.24 25.26%

Turkey 72.10 72.00 99.89%

Switzerland 7.80 0.25 3.2%

Source: OECD World Fact Book 2005

The UK is the first country in Europe to promote and encourage retail Islamic banking and it is in the process of embracing Islamic financial techniques by introducing new laws to facilitate further market entry and practice of Islamic finance in the UK.

According to the Office of National Statistics the UK Muslims by country of origin are in the following proportion:

41% Pakistani

13% Bangladeshi

11% Indian

In a research carried out by The Runnymede Trust, “Islamophobia – a challenge for us all,” the Muslims from Middle East and Africa represent 24% of the total Muslim population in the UK. Islamic banking in Europe will inevitably focus on both the retail and institutional customers as these are the two major dominant players in the market. As the table clearly illustrates there is a significant retail market opportunity in Europe for new retail banks, but in terms of sheer volume of transactions the institutional market provides the more lucrative opportunity for the Islamic banks.

Trends in Islamic Banking in Europe

The UK has taken a major lead in Europe in promoting and encouraging Islamic banking activities but this has mainly focused on retail banking and only more recently on investment banking.

The Financial Services Authorities (FSA) in the UK has only authorized one Islamic retail bank which is the Islamic Bank of Britain (IBB). Although other investors have looked into the retail banking arena, no other dedicated competitors have entered the retail market, mainly due to the level of investment required to acquire the critical mass customers that are needed to ensure the retail bank is profitable. There is potentially one Islamic retail bank in France called Tayseer Bank with is going through the authorization process from regulators and should be operational in the near future.

The major hurdle for IBB and any new Islamic retail bank in the UK and Europe is having banking products that are competitive with conventional products offered by other retail banks. Also, competitive product development provides opportunities for potential new entrants into the market to differentiate themselves and add competitive advantage against existing banks in the market.

More recently in the UK, there have been new Islamic investment banks authorized by the FSA including the European Islamic Investment Bank and the most recent entry, Gatehouse Bank. In total, there are five Islamic investments banks in the UK focusing on institutional investors in Europe and also looking to gain institutional funding from organizations in the Middle East. The Islamic investment banking sector in the UK has flourished enormously with other potential new entrants in the pipeline.

The trend in the UK seems to be that bankers believe it will be more difficult to make profitable businesses from the retail customer base while the institutional market is seen as an area where Islamic banks can make significant inroads into the European market. Further supporting the rise of Islamic banking activities is the fact that the UK government is making a concerted effort to turn London into a global hub for the industry.

Customer Segmentation in Retail Islamic Banking

Developing Shariah compliant retail financial products can be complex, with a multitude of options available. Before embarking on such a route, it is paramount that the target customer base for the product is clearly defined and their needs and priorities are understood. As in European banking, where there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to product development, the same can be said of Islamic banking, with an array of customer segments each with different product and service requirements as well as brand criteria.

In terms of product, a key differentiator between Islamic banking customer segments is the interpretation of what constitutes acceptable levels of Shariah compliance. The scale is divided between the more traditional and conservative customers on the one side, and those who seek higher levels of Islamic assurance on the other. Certain customer segments are willing to pay a premium for the most compliant Shariah products, whereas others will be more attracted to products that are only part Shariah compliant but offer a more competitive rate. Prior to designing a Shariah compliant product concept, the requirements of the target customer segment should be clearly understood, and the resulting costs and benefits weighed.

In addition to the product, service requirement is another area that will differ between customer segments. Characteristics such as a customer’s age, education, lifestyle and desired relationship with the bank will determine these criteria. Delivering against these is a key element in the proposition and will differentiate banks, which otherwise might offer similar Shariah compliant products.

The community spirit and culture has been lost from banking in the UK and these adjustments in the delivery services have marginalized the small trader and sole proprietor who no longer has a local branch of his/her bank for cash deposits and withdrawals, and the collection/exchange of coins. The Cruikshank Report published in 2000 highlighted the poor service provided by the traditional banking community in the UK. More importantly, the report focused on the high level of charges being imposed by traditional banks on their clients due to cartel structures and difficulties for clients changing banks. The recently published financial results of the major banks show that this position has not changed. The ethos and values offered by retail Islamic banks go against these trends and thus provide a unique selling point against conventional retail banks.

Brand recognition is also a key factor that will differ between customer segments. Certain customer segments will only bank with brands that have a strong history and presence in Islamic countries, whereas other customer segments will be more willing to accept European brands with the right product and service propositions.

As with any new product development, prior to taking a Shariah compliant product to market, the customer segments which form that market must be understood, their product, service and brand criteria defined, and the economic, technical and regulatory feasibility of delivering against them assessed. Only by doing this will banks be able to develop compelling propositions that provide the desired level of return.

The way forward

In the wider context, Islamic finance faces the perpetual challenge that it operates as a subset of conventional finance which is based on fundamentally different premises. While this may be a limiting facet (in that Islamic financial institutions must model their products after conventional models) Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) also have the capacity to innovate within this space. In a sense, the constraints can become boundaries that Islamic finance pushes. Certainly, in the current context of financial intuitions failing the world over, IFIs might be able to showcase their own equitable forms of financing and risk sharing. This in turn may allow IFIs to influence the development of financial systems the world over.

In Europe, the UK is leading the charge to enact laws that embrace Islamic banking. It abolished double stamp duties that until recently hindered the purchase of a property under Islamic principles. The UK Government is reviewing other laws in order to soften the establishment and offering of Islamic banking products and naturally this has opened the doors for European banks to further their focus in this market.

In 2005, Lloyds TSB launched services that provided Shariah compliant banking products to its existing retail customer base, but these products were merely white labeling an existing limited product range, and thus not competitive compared to conventional retail banking offerings in the UK. This was the first major activity from a European bank in this market and has encouraged other banks to evaluate their strategy and to take a closer look at this market.

As the market for Islamic banking grows, there is also a need for IT systems that can accommodate an innovative mix of products and provide an efficient cost effective pricing for banks to offer Shariah compliant products. Currently there is no recognized universal IT system for Islamic banks thus resulting in bespoke systems being implemented which are not necessarily providing the services required by banks, hence limiting their product development capabilities.

A European bank using effective IT systems and developing Shariah compliant products will have the key competitive advantage over their rivals and as a result will, without a doubt, ensure that the bank makes great inroads into this prosperous and growing market.

European banks need to incorporate various aspects of traditional banking with Islamic banking concepts in order to fully capture the Islamic market in Europe. While being compliant with Islamic principles may initially be seen as a hurdle, the potential return and increase in customer base will inevitably outweigh any financial investments and commitments made by the bank.

The main principles of Shariah are:


Interest – the charging of interest or riba is strictly prohibited as it is deemed to be terms of unfair exploitation

Speculation – Shariah does not permit speculation or gambling, thus many institutions are unable to enter into derivative transactions such as swaps, futures and options

Prohibited investments – investments in certain products such as alcohol, pork and gambling activities are deemed inappropriate Profit – profit cannot be assured and the Islamic financial institution must assume at least part of the investment risk, thus a guaranteed return is not applicable in Islamic finance

Uncertainty – there is no concept of uncertainty, thus uncertain investment returns are not permitted.

Islamic institutions raise money mainly through the main banking services, the current accounts and savings accounts that generally comes under the strict law of Shariah, thus being fully compliant.


Following are the main Islamic techniques used in finance:


Mudaraba (Trust Financing): This is a form of partnership in which one partner provides the capital required for funding a project while the other party manages the investments using his expertise.

Ijara (Leasing): The ijara contract is very similar to the conventional lease. Ijara is a contract under which the bank buys and leases out the asset or equipment required by its client for a rental fee. This is commonly used for Islamic mortgages.

Salam (Advance Purchase): This is defined as forward purchase of specified goods for full forward payment. This contract is regularly used for financing agricultural production.

Murabahah (Cost-plus Financing): This technique is used extensively to facilitate the trade finance activities of Islamic financial institutions. The bank will purchase the necessary goods/equipments and then sell on to its clients at cost plus a reasonable profit.

Sukuk (Bond Issue): This essentially amounts to commercial paper that provides the subscribers with ownership in the underlying assets.

There are various types of Islamic finance and all in some form or another are limited by the following observations:

In terms of mortgage, a large deposit is sometimes required then the conventional mortgages

Most observers believe that Islamic mortgages are more expensive than the conventional ones

Monthly payments are high in murabahah, but volatile in ijara

Each transaction can be complex and difficult to convey as there are combination of contracts involved in a single transaction

There is a possibility for “negative equity” in the ijarah mortgage

Absent or underdeveloped international capital market

No market maker mechanism


Article written by Nurul Islam, Founder & Executive Director of the European Bangladesh Federation of Commerce & Industry (EBF) and Director of the Nerissa Group.


Gauging the Global Takaful Market

takaful_microchipBy Bill Kenealy


What happens when you apply modern technology to an ancient practice? A new report from Boston-based Celent concludes that insurers and the vendors that supply them need to answer some fundamental questions before they can reap the rewards of the fast-growing market for takaful, a form of mutual insurance popular in the Muslim world.

According to the report, takaful, once a niche product sold largely by small local operators, is rapidly being embraced by multi-national financial services firms with sophisticated product differentiation and distribution capabilities.

The report, Policy Administration Systems for Takaful: A Global Solution Spectrum, was authored by Celent analysts Catherine Magg-Stacey and Ashley Evans, and examines the issues that are shaping the market worldwide. A lack of economies of scale and comparatively lower use of technology, means takaful companies are operating with inflated expense rations, according to the authors.

“Takaful companies, particularly in the Middle East, have shown higher expense ratios than their conventional counterparts,” the report states. “Over time, volumes will rise, and higher customer persistence is expected to offset the expense ratios to some extent. The

final key to managing the expense ratios lies in the use of technology.”

The report provides detailed profiles of the core systems available to takaful companies, especially policy administration systems.

“Policy administration systems are the beating technological heart of any insurance company and this is equally true for takaful companies,” it states. “Given the specificities of a takaful company, a critical element to a successful policy administration system is a flexible architecture. Fortunately, for those entering into this market, many of the modern policy administration systems offer this with user-friendly interfaces and tools allowing configuration of products, workflow, and reports.”

Yet, the report finds many barriers to widespread technological adoption in the takaful market, including a lack of standardization.

“In the short term, it is unlikely that national or international takaful standards will emerge,” the authors state. “Even though many industry players acknowledge the benefits to be gained by harmonization, the reconciliation of the varied approaches espoused by competing associations and standards boards will be a formidable challenge.”

Challenges notwithstanding, the rapid growth of the takaful marketplace will entice insurers and vendors alike to target it. Celent predicts the global takaful market will grow to $7.39 billion by 2015, with the greatest growth in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. “For the moment, the growing takaful market presents a niche opportunity, and the small number of vendors with takaful experience reflects this. However, the sustained double-digit increase in premium in this market will see a commensurate increase in takaful operators/windows in the next few years.”

Source: Celent

Global Strategies for Islamic Banking and Finance

American Finance House – LARIBA


10th Annual Symposium on Riba-Free Finance & Banking

22 March 2003

Pasadena, California


Professor Rifaat Ahmed Abdel Karim

Secretary General


Islamic Financial Services Board



Ladies and Gentlemen

Assalamu alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatu and good afternoon to all of you. I would like to thank the organisers for organising inviting me to speak in this conference which addresses an important and topical issue facing the Islamic banking and finance industryAmerican Finance House (LARIBA) for honouring me and for giving me this opportunity to address this prestigious gathering.

It is heartening to see the Islamic and finance bankingfinancial services industry anticipating and addressing the issues whichissues, which we need to tackle if we are to ensure that this industry is fully integrated into the international financial system.


As a person whose career for the last twelve years was involved with the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI) and now with the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), the two the Secretary General of the Islamic banking industry’s only transnational accounting, auditing and governance standard setting bodybodies of the Islamic financial services industry, I find that the case for global as opposed to national strategies is something which I end up arguing for over and over again. It is my conviction that our the industry can succeed only if we avoid following differing national strategies and work together to follow consistent and harmonised global strategies that attempt to enhance the soundness and stability of the global financial system..


I would like to focus on three issues during my presentation.: Tthe importance for the Islamic and finance banfinancial servicesking industry of developing –


· a global accounting and financial reporting framework;

· a global prudential and supervisory framework consistent with internationally recognized best practice in the overall global finance industry; and

· a global Shari’ah framework.


In my opinion, the importance of these three issues for building market or investor confidence in our this industry and in encouraging more stable, long-term international investment flows cannot by overestimated.


I believe that in order to sustain the impressive growth that our this industry has experienced, we must work together to ensure that we are, and are seen to bemoreover are widely recognized as being, transparent and accountable, and to be managing risks by ensuring that we follow appropriate internationally recogniszed standardsbest practices.


We can see from the work of trans-national bodies like the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) and the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) that the issues of developing global accounting and prudential and supervisory frameworks are being addressed globally, especially in the light of the recent events both here in the USA and in East Asian Economic Crises.


The need for developing global accounting, prudential and supervisory, and as well as Shari’a,h frameworks, for the Islamic banking and financefinancial services industry is more acute due owing to the industry’s relatively short history. Since the Islamic banking and finance are is newindustry has recently developed, , many people within the Islamic countries as well as those outside, view our this industry with suspicion since because they either do not understand how our itindustry works or have consciously or unconsciously built upbecome a biased against the industry. This Such suspicion has serious andhas real and serious consequences for our this industry. An obvious consequence is the fact that this leads to Islamic banks financial institutions being assessed viewed as having higher credit risk, and therebyrisk, thereby increasing their cost of capital, which is a serious competitive disadvantage in today’s global marketplace.


Let me first address the issue of developing a global accounting and financial reporting framework for the Islamic banking financial services industry. first.


The supply of relevant and reliable information regarding all material matters relating to Islamic financial institutions is indispensable for ensuring good corporate governance and for protecting investors. A strong disclosure regime which enforces certain minimum disclosure requirementsregime, which enforces certain minimum disclosure requirements, will also, I believe, lower the cost of capital of Islamic banks by improving the environment for domestic and international investment in the Islamic banking and financefinancial services industry and by increasing the credibility of, and confidence in, Islamic financial institutions.


Disclosures have to be made in such a way so that they are reliable, comparable and comprehensive,that they are reliable, comparable and comprehensive and in sufficient detail to enable users to assess the stewardship of the institution and make informed investment decisions.


The quality of the information that is provided to the markets is best ensured by the application of a high-quality set of standards whichstandards, which is applied consistently across national boundaries. In my view, implementing an internationally recognised set of financial reporting standards is an indispensibleindispensable means the best way to preservinge and enhancinge the quality and the credibility of the Islamic banking and financefinancial services industry.


In today’s global economy where institutions operate across national boundaries, the ability to use one set of accounting standards for all purposes has the potential to achieve economies of scale for the Islamic banking and financefinancial services industry and generate considerable cost savings. Not only will Tthis will reduce not only the cost of preparing financial statements but also the cost of auditing, and as well as the costs incurred by financial analysts and rating agencies in assessing Islamic financial institutions. This is particularly important for countries aspiring to become international Islamic financial centres.


However, the most important benefits will be in terms of improving the efficiency of the workings of capital markets. The provision to the market of high quality, transparent information on a comparable basis to the market will reduce uncertainties in the information available to the markets to be on a comparable basis to the situation in the conventional financial market. and cConsequently, it should lead to a reduction in the cost of capital of Islamic banks because investors, both shareholders and investment account holders, could not reasonably expect returns higher than those of conventional investments with similar classes of risk. Indeed, nNumerous empirical studies have concluded that the more information you provide on standardised basis, the lower your cost of capital will be. This also makes intuitive sense. More comparable information means less uncertainty and hence the less lower degree of risk that has to be factored in to the price of capital.


When I was aAt the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), AAOIFI, we have made a start by developing a core set of accounting, auditing and governance standards for Islamic financial institutions, by working together with relevant parties form from all over the world. We are workingworked in conjunction with central banksregulatory bodies and international standard setting bodies to have these such core standards adopted across the globe as the benchmarks standards for the Islamic banking and financefinancial services industry.


I am sure that many peoplepeople, who are not familiar with the work of AAOIFI, may be thinking that my our aspiration to have global strategies and standards is undermined by the the fact that AAOIFI has developed a separate set of standards from those issued by the International Accounting Standards CommitteeBoard, . are contradictoryThis is not the case.


Let me address tackle this issue briefly. Islamic banks do not accept or lend funds on an interest-bearing basis. Rather, for mobilizing and allocating funds, Islamic banks use different types of contracts that have specific provisions not usually catered for in similar contracts used by their conventional counterparts. , and therefore Hence, many of the items in their financial statements of these banks are different from those that appear in the financial statements of conventional banks, and vice versa. This has important consequences for accounting standards.


For example, the disclosure requirements of International Accounting Standard (IAS) No. 30, which deals with banks, are largely inapplicable to Islamic banks, and hence IAS 30 is not an effective disclosure standard for such institutions. There are also problems with the measurement aspects of certain accounting standards, where the IAS’s do not address issues that arise because of the specificities of the Islamic banking transactions. Consequently, when IAS’s are applied to the financial reporting of Islamic banks, they are only very partially effective in ensuring appropriate standardisation of disclosure and measurement practices..


The Islamic banking financial services industry recognised recognized this such problems and established AAOIFI to address these issues. We view AAOIFI’s accounting standards as are complementary to, rather than being in conflict with, IAS’s. We view ourWe viewed the role atof AAOIFI as filling gaps in IAS’s, which do not have specific provisions to standards to deal with the typical transactions of Islamic bankingfinancial services. transactions and hence allow Without AAOIFI filing the gaps, IAS’s would have allowed those preparingers and auditingors of the financial statements of Islamic banks to to have considerable scope for cherry-picking and making ad hoc interpretations of IAS’s,. a process that would result in rendering the financial statements prepared by these institutions less transparent than conventional financial statements, and non-comparable therewith, as well as spawning inconsistencies between the accounting and auditing of different Islamic financial institutions.


We are in discussions with the IASC, with the aim of establishing complementarity between AAOIFI and IASC with regards to setting the accounting standards to be followed by Islamic financial institutions. In addition, we areAAOIFI has been actively engaging banking supervisors around the worldin many countries, as well as other relevant international bodies like the International Accounting Standards Board, to convince them of the necessity of adopting the AAOIFI standards as the benchmarks standards for Islamic financial institutions in their jurisdictions, and thereby improving the transparency in and comparability of the financial reporting of Islamic financial institutions.


So far, the banking supervisors in a number of countries such as Bahrain, and Sudan and Jordan now require Islamic banks either to comply with AAOIFI’s standards, or, as in the case of Saudi Arabia, are specifying AAOIFI’s standards as guidelines. In Qatar, the central bank has developed standards based on AAOIFI standards, and I understand that Qatar will now converge fully to AAOIFI standards.





Let me now move on to the second issue of developing a global prudential and supervisory framework consistent with internationally recognized best practice in the overall global finance industry.


We must ensure that Islamic financial institutions are regulated and supervised to an internationally acceptable standards, in order to:


· maintain and enhance the confidence of the the industry’s participants; and

· ensure that these institutions are subject to the same prudential standards, regardless of their country of domicile, and thereby achieving a level playing field for all participants within the Islamic financial services industry; and

· win the respect of governments, regulators, investors and users of funds in non-Muslim countries, so as to enable Islamic banking and finance to be more integrated into the mainstream of global finance.


As many of the studies into the East Asian Crisis of 1997 and 1998 have found, although most of the financial institutions that experienced difficulties were complying with their national rules and regulations, many discrepancies were found between national practices and international rules. My proposition assertion is that, as the well well-being of a country’s banking financial services industry has implications for the whole economy and stability of the country, and hencethe experience of the East Asia Crisis shows that the regulation of the Islamic banking financial services industry is too important to be left to individual countries or regulatory authorities to deal withalone.


Like As with their situation as regardsthe the case in accounting and auditing situation, at present Islamic financial institutions are currently exposed to differing prudential and supervisory standards. These depend upon ing on the country in which they operate. This, it can be reasonably argued, is mainly dueowing to the lack of proper understanding of the work of Islamic financial institutions and also because of the implementation of different accounting standards. This was evident in the results of the study carried out by a committee – comprising, among others, a number of central banks in co-operation withand AAOIFI – that was formed to develop an appropriate capital adequacy guidelines for Islamic financial institutionsbanks. This committee promulgatedled to the issuance by AAOIFI of the Statement on the Purpose and Calculation of Capital Adequacy Ratio for Islamic Financial InstitutionsBanks, which takes in to account the differences between deposit accounts in conventional banking and investment accounts in Islamic banking. The statement has built up on the capital adequacy principles laid down by the Basle Basel Committee.


However, the lessons that we at AAOIFI have learned from the Capital Adequacy study have similaritieare consistent with the implications of ours with our work in preparing accounting standards. Our view wais that, in order to adequately and fairly to regulate Islamic financial institutions, we required a set of prudential and supervisory standards that would take into consideration the specificitiesspecificities y of Islamic banking and finance transactions.


To this end, AAOIFI, together organised with the International Monetary Fund and the Islamic Development Bank, organised, a conference on the regulation of Islamic banking last year. One of the major recommendations from that conference, which was endorsed by many central banks, was the establishment of the Financial Services Board within AAOIFI. Although the central banks later decided that the Financial Services Board be established as a separate entity from AAOIFI, we are satisfied that it was AAOIFI which has brought awareness of to the need for such a board to issue prudential and supervisory standards for Islamic financial institutions, so as to ensure a level playing field.


An important point which we need to be aware of, and one that became apparent from the work we did in developing the AAOIFI Capital Adequacy Statement, is that the success of the Financial Services Board will to a large extent depend on the adoption of a unified set of accounting standards by the Islamic banking and finance industry.


In today’s global economy, when Islamic financial institutions are appearing all over the world, it is simply not acceptable to have Islamic banks financial institutions in different jurisdictions complying with differing prudential and supervisory guidelines. We need to set our sights on having aim to have a level playing field, regardless of which the jurisdictions in which an an Islamic financial institution operates in. When two Islamic banks financial institutions in different countries say that they have a capital adequacy ratio of 2012%, these ratios have to be strictly comparable:, we need to compare apples with apples.


It is interesting satisfying to note that it is countries such as Malaysia, Bahrain and Sudan, which have led the drive towards developing specific regulatory guidelines for the Islamic banking industry. However, Iit is difficult for countries, which, which do not have an extensive Islamic banking experience to develop similar guidelines. It is more efficient and cheaper to develop uniform international regulatory guidelines, by leveraging the experience of those who have had the most experience with a greater exposure to the industry and the issues that it has raisedit throws up.


To this end, AAOIFI, together with the International Monetary Fund and the Islamic Development Bank, organised a conference on the regulation of Islamic banking in 2000. One of the major recommendations from that conference, which was endorsed by many central banks, was the establishment of the IFSB. At present, the Full Members of the IFSB Council comprise Bahrain, Indonesia, Iran, Kuwait, Malaysia, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the Islamic Development Bank. Malaysia is the host country of the IFSB.


I am honoured to be appointed the first Secretary-General of the IFSB, which serves as an international standard-setting body of central banks and monetary agencies, and which is entrusted to ensure the stability of the global Islamic financial services industry by developing prudential standards and promoting international best practices in the regulation and supervision of this industry. In advancing this mission, the IFSB will promote the development of prudent and transparent financial services through introducing new, or adapting existing, international standards consistent with Islamic rules and principles; and will recommend these for adoption.


In addition, the IFSB will focus on the development of risk management instruments and the cultivation of sound risk management practices. It will facilitate the implementation of robust risk control mechanisms in Islamic financial institutions through research, training and technical assistance. Its focus will encompass the adoption of present international best practices on risk management standards, as well as the development of new risk management techniques in conformity with Islamic rules and principles.


In this respect, the IFSB combines aspects of the mission of the Basel Committee on prudential matters and aspects of that of the UK Financial Services Authority in relation to good practice for other financial services, namely insurance, capital markets and investor protection.



Let me now move on to the issue of developing a global Shari’a framework.


At present, in most countries, with the possible exception of Malaysia, Islamic financial institutions have attempted to self-regulate the process of complying with Shari’ahShari’a precepts by appointing their own Shari’a Boards consisting of part-time membersmembers to oversee the Shrai’a compliance function. Not surprisingly, the terms of reference of Shari’a Boards vary widely from institution to institution. Each Shari’a Board has complete discretion as to how it performperforms its work and expresses its opinion. This has resulted in a lack of standardisation of for Islamic banking and finance transactions, a situation which again makes the financial statements of Islamic financial institutions non-comparable.


I note from the program guide for this conference that there is a session devoted to dealing with harmonizing Shari’a issuesrulings, so I will not go into specific details during this session. However, what I would like to highlight is that MmMost of the accounting, prudential and supervisory issues that arise in the Islamic banking financial services industry results from Shari’a rulings, and hence its is imperative that we work towards developing a global Shari’a framework. If we do not make progress towards harmonising Shari’a rulings, our work relating to harmonising accounting, prudential and supervisory standards will be undermined.





At AAOIFI, we have taken an initiative to established a Shari’a Board in response to an initiationive ofby Islamic financial institutions. The Shari’ah Board withhas members from different Islamic countries, to develop and promulgate Shari’a standards with the aim of harmonising Shari’a rulings between Islamic financial institutions and across national boundaries though the Board’s own developments and promulgation of Shari’a standards.


It is our hope that theThe Shari’a Board’s irse Shari’ah pronouncements willare intended to to be used as a benchmark for the Shari’ah rulings of Shari’ah supervisory Bboards in Islamic Ffinancial Iinstitutions worldwide. This, we believe, will approach should support the development of the Islamic Bbanking and Ffinance industry and enhance both its transparency and its credibility.


However, there are those who believe that the AAOIFI Shari’a Board should have adequate representation of the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence, broaden the composition of its members to include representatives from relevant sectors of the industry to provide specialist knowledge (e.g. in banking, finance and accounting), and that its Shari’a scholars should have the required expertise in the various specialized areas of the Islamic financial services industry

. I believe that these are genuine concerns and that they should be addressed in the ongoing development of that important Board. In this regard, the IFSB could contribute, especially since it will be issuing codes of good practice, and Shari’a precepts are central to the business ethics of Islamic financial services.





Let me conclude by saying that,In my view in today’s world, any country that takes a purely national approach to regulation, especially in those aspects relating to Islamic banking and finance, is, is likely to be viewed with suspicion by the market,, and the Islamic financial institutions based in that country may pay a price in terms of having a higher cost of capitalbe disadvantaged. The challenge facing us the Islamic financial services industry is to ensure that we take an international approach to regulation since, whether we like it or not, we live in a world where national frontiers have become less relevant – especially in finance.

source : Lariba.com