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VOLUME 7 - ISSUE 4 | OCTOBER 2017 - £20

INSIDE THIS ISSUE ISFIRE REPORT

7th Global Islamic Finance Awards 2017

BITCOIN: A PERSPECTIVE OF ECONOMICS AND ISLAMIC LAW An Exclusive Interview with KHALID AL KAYED

Chief Executive Officer, Bank Nizwa

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CONTENTS

Note from the

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF This issue of ISFIRE celebrates achievements of Islamic financial institutions, individuals and wider stakeholders in the global Islamic financial services industry. Their contributions were acknowledged and rewarded at the 7th Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) held at Astana, Kazakhstan, on September 6, 2017. His Excellency Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti, became the 7th GIFA Laureate when he received the Global Islamic Finance Leadership Award 2017 from the 4th GIFA Laureate, His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan. A pictorial is included in this issue of ISFIRE, which immortalises the sweet memories of GIFA 2017. Our lead Interview in this issue is that of Khalid Al Kayed, CEO of Bank Nizwa, who has emerged as an influential Islamic finance personality not only in Oman but also in the wider GCC and beyond. Through his interview, it is interesting to note how a small bank – Bank Nizwa – has grown to be an iconic Islamic financial institution in the world. This aspect of Bank Nizwa’s success was recognised at GIFA 2017 where it was awarded Pioneering Islamic Bank Award 2017. Other interviews, i.e., that of Mir Faisal Talpur (a London-based entrepreneur); Mohammed Kateeb, Group Chairman and CEO of Path Solutions; Mohamed Amersi, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Islamic Reporting Initiative (IRI); and our Personality of the Issue, Othman Abdullah, should also inspire our readers. It is heartening to see how ISFIRE stories and interviews are influencing the industry and the human development initiatives in Islamic banking and finance. Our regular columns – Diary of a Mad Philosopher, St. Barbarossa’s Memoirs and Pause for Thought – are all included and I hope that these will continue to interest our readership.

Enjoy reading!

Professor Humayon Dar, PhD (Cantab) Editor-in-Chief


ISSN 2049 - 1905

CONTENTS

ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

COVER STORY 10 Khalid Al K ayed

CEO of Bank Nizwa

VOLUME 7 - ISSUE 4 | OCTOBER 2017

TALKING POINTS

18 Towards Building a Sustainable Islamic Banking Model

Nurhafiza Abdul Kader Malim

30 Islamic Finance in Djibouti: Impetus for Growth

46 Bitcoin, A Perspective of Economics and Islamic

Law

Dr. AbdulBari Mashal

BRIEF NOTE

22 Diary of a Mad Philosopher

INTERVIEW

24 Mohammed K ateeb

Group Chairman and CEO of Path Solutions

34 Mohamed Amersi

Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Islamic Reporting Initiative (IRI)

56 Mir Faisal Talpur

CEO and Founder of Cinch Technologies

ISFIRE SPECIAL REPORT 40 Summer Schools in Islamic Banking and Finance

PERSONALITY 50 Othman Abdullah

Managing Director Islamic Banking, Silverlake Axis

ISFIRE MEMOIRS

54 St. Barbarossa’s Memoirs

PAUSE FOR THOUGHT

64 Character Building Through Islamic Banking & Finance

ISFIRE REPORT

68 7th Global Islamic Finance Awards

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CONTENTS Editor-in-Chief

Professor Humayon Dar PhD, Cambridge University

Editor

Dr. Sofiza Azmi

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CEO, Edbiz Consulting

International Editorial Board Professor Nafis Alam Sunway Universiy, Malaysia

Professor Mehmet Asutay Durham University

Professor Dr. Mehmet Bulut Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University, Turkey

Dato’ Dr. Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki Deputy Minister, Prime Minister’s Department Malaysia

Professor Joseph Falzon University of Malta

Dr. Mian Farooq Haq State Bank of Pakistan

Professor Kabir Hassan University of New Orleans

Datuk Noripah Kamso Islamic Finance Expert

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Moinuddin Malim Alternative International Management Services

Dr. Asmadi Mohamed Naim Universiti Utara Malaysia

Professor Muhamad Rahimi Osman Universiti Teknologi MARA

M. Saleem Ahmed Ranjha Wan Miana Rural Development Programme

Dr. Usamah Ahmed Uthman King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals

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COVER STORY

KCEO,halid A l K ayed B N ank izwa

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Harmonisation with the principles of Shari’acompliance has emerged as an important topic for Islamic finance practitioners and one engrained within our bank at every level.

COVER STORY

Many industry observers opine that Islamic banking has deviated from its paradigm version to become just a Shari’a-compliant version of conventional banking. To what extend do you believe this criticism to be valid? What should Islamic banks do to dispel this impression? One key challenge from the outset of the modern Islamic financial sector has been a lack of uniformity regarding the principles applied, as well as consistency in their practice. This is a result of differences of opinion among schools of thought, which has led to different circumstances from one country to another. For that reason, harmonisation with the principles of Shari’a-compliance has emerged as an important topic for Islamic finance practitioners and one engrained within our bank at every level. It is true that disagreements over what is or is not Shari’a-compliant can make it difficult for financial intermediaries to structure crossborder transactions or develop new products with global appeal. But, I believe there is an urgent need for a common understanding of acceptable rules and standards that will enable Islamic finance to become truly global in its reach. Stakeholders must bear in mind that the trust and confidence of our customers and investors is of the utmost importance. Which is why, at Bank Nizwa, we have maintained a strong dedication to the most stringent Shari’acompliant regulatory frameworks and ensured all products are developed with the expertise and approval of our Shari’a Supervisory Board. Islamic financial institutions must ensure they adhere to the best practices of corporate governance and add an extra layer of supervision in the form of supervisory boards as we have done. Our Shari’a Supervisory Board has both supervisory and consultative functions and is comprised of high-caliber scholars from multiple schools of thought. This provides us with an immense pool of knowledge to draw from when shaping our strategy and developing new solutions, in addition to embedding the values of Shari’a within every level of our operations.

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

COVER STORY

Islamic banking experts are all praise for the Sultanate of Oman when it comes to regulation and governance of Islamic banks. It is indeed a tremendous achievement for a new comer. What role has Bank Nizwa played in helping the regulator to devise such a comprehensive regulatory and governance system for Islamic banks in Oman? Oman’s strong Islamic Banking Regulatory Framework (IBRF) was developed by the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) and has been the basis for Shari’a-compliant finance enjoying such rapid growth in the Sultanate. As a result of the IBRF, Islamic banks in Oman have had sound laws and regulations to follow from the very beginning, which has proven vitally important in consistently maintaining high regulatory standards and market-wide resilience in today’s increasingly dynamic economy. Due to these initiatives set out by the CBO, Islamic banks in Oman are more transparent, safer and better governed by Shari’a and applicable regulatory standards. The sector continues to be overseen by the CBO’s High Shari’a Supervisory Authority, which meets regularly to discuss issues related to Islamic banking.

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You are the second CEO of Bank Nizwa. What legacy did you inherit from your predecessor and what are your plans for further growth and development of the bank in Oman? Khalid Al Kayed receiving an award from the Union of Arab Banks in Beirut.

As Oman’s first Islamic bank, our role has been to raise awareness on the benefits of Shari’acompliant banking and work in tandem with all stakeholders to support the growth of the Sultanate’s economy. This objective has been carried out through a number of important awareness campaigns, such as the Islamic Finance Roadshow, and the tailored solutions we provide to help our customers lead financially secure lifestyles. Since we started in 2013, one other bank and six Islamic window operations have followed. Together, with the full support of the CBO, we have nurtured our industry to reach a total market share of 11.6% of all bank assets in the Sultanate as of June 2017. Initially, experts projected we would only reach double digits before 2018. The fact that we were able to achieve such remarkable growth over a year ahead of time reflects the overall success of this sector and how well it continues to be received.

The growth we have enjoyed since our inception has been nothing short of remarkable, crossing one milestone after another. We were able to achieve breakeven point just three years after launch, win numerous awards, and fulfill our promise of spearheading the development of this burgeoning industry in the Sultanate. Since then, we have continued to grow from strength to strength, using our solid foundation as a catalyst to further cement our role as Oman’s leader in Islamic banking. This year alone, we achieved the highest growth rate in Oman’s banking industry reaching 200% after tax during the first half of 2017. The end of 2017 marks the first full year since the implementation of our Strategy 2020 framework, which focuses on five pillars of development that represents financial performance, technological advancement, market share, team and culture, in addition to progressive organisation. All these pillars are integrated together to deliver a worldclass Shari’a-compliant banking experience to customers, investors and shareholders.


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

COVER STORY

Q4: Do you have plans to expand beyond Oman shores? At the present, we are focusing on consolidating our leadership position within the Sultanate’s Islamic financial sector. We are operating in a market that have yet to achieve its full potential, with growing awareness in Islamic finance contributing to substantial increase in the numbers of customers attracted by what we offer.

There is an urgent need for a common understanding of acceptable rules and standards that will enable Islamic finance to become truly global in its reach Khalid Al Kayed meets members of media to thank them for their support in raising awareness about Islamic finance and offering insight into the future of Bank Nizwa and Islamic banks in Oman`

Q5: On a personal level, what kind of leadership style do you adhere to? Are you considered an authoritarian leader by your senior management?

Q6: You have achieved impressive success to become CEO of the firstever Islamic bank in Oman. What factors contributed to such a huge success so early in your career?

I am completely against heavy-handed, totalitarian and rigid styles of leadership as not only are they entirely counter-productive, but I believe they lead to low levels of morale and performance. True management is measured by the number of ways you can connect and entrust your team to support you in making crucial decisions. The key is trust and for that reason, I do my utmost to maintain a participative work environment that consistently empowers the team. In fact, this has served Bank Nizwa well from the very beginning, with every department supporting one another. As a result, we have managed to continue our growth trajectory and exceed expectations year on year.

I have been on the Management level roles for more than 10 years so I am not in the early in my career. It is actually a right time in the career. There are various success factors that you must know in order to start moving forward in life which includes education, skills, consistency, discipline, character, hard work and attitude. Each one of these success factors has been proven to be critical to the achievement of the best life possible for any given person. By systematically implementing one or more of these success factors into your life, you can put your foot on the accelerator of your own career and achieve the best life for yourself.

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COVER STORY

ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

Bank Nizwa employees at Muscat Grand Mall during a road show

Q7: Our readers would like to know about a typical day in the life of Khalid Al Kayed. Please share your daily routine. I wake up early in the morning and am always an early bird at work. I love feeling good and healthy and having something on my to-do list already checked off by the time I’m in the office. Starting every day with a strong, positive thought is the best way to kickoff each day. I believe that a positive mindset is key to overcoming all obstacles, and I radiate this to my team. Sometimes the day’s schedule goes like a roller coaster ride and despite early wakeup; I tend to burn the midnight oil to manage my to-do list. I never disconnect myself with work and try to respond to each and every email received. At the office I have an open-door policy and I’m straightforward with those I am advising. I have high expectations, but I also believe in rewarding hard work and positive results. At home, family time is a priority and I believe that one should maintain a discipline in life by keeping balance in professional and personal life. At the same time, maintaining good health is also important. I always try to make most of my time and ensure that I get time to read books, articles, latest events etc. especially on weekends.

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Q8: Coming back to Bank Nizwa, where would you like to see it in next five years? As previously mentioned, we have developed a five-year vision, which outlines where we aim to be and how we want to get there clearly mapped out. Our Strategy 2020, is a reaffirmation of our commitment to teamwork, innovation and service excellence. This roadmap clearly outlines our objectives of diversifying our revenue streams, how to best maintain optimal profit margins, and future products and services to be developed and tailored to the needs of the changing economic climates of today and beyond. This strategy was designed to leverage on our growth and position us as a pioneering Islamic financial institution, while achieving sustainable success and contributing to the national economy. We are at the forefront of the Islamic finance industry in Oman, and successful implementation of this strategy will ensure we continue diversifying Shari’a-compliant tools, systems and processes to achieve a sustainable success.


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

COVER STORY

Q9: Who has been your greatest mentor in banking and finance? One mentor cannot offer you a well-rounded view of banking and finance and offer advice on how you should operate in it. You should seek conflicting advice from a number of sources and then analyse it to make the most informed decision on your own. I have been fortunate to have a number of top leaders and professionals as my mentors. And as I have moved into leadership roles, I have tried to emulate the skills I have admired in them, including excellent communication, integrity, and honesty and being a great listener. Overall, though, my leadership style is built on simply being myself. I have learned that building a good career isn’t just about your professional acumen; it’s about integrity and being honest with yourself and others.

I have learned that building a good career isn’t just about your professional acumen; it’s about integrity and being honest with yourself and others Q10: What is, in your view, the greatest challenge faced by Islamic banks in Oman? Given its ability to offer a highly effective and flexible alternative to conventional banking, Islamic finance has enjoyed considerable growth over the past few years. This is true not just in Oman, but all over the world, with countries as diverse as the UK, Singapore, and Brazil opening windows of opportunity to our industry. However, low-levels of customer awareness continue to be the single largest challenge we face as it limits our growth and market share. This has the knock-on effect of limiting the availability of professionals trained in Islamic finance as many young professionals lack understanding of our core principles and solutions.

Q11: Where lays the opportunity? I am a firm believer that the opportunity lies in the challenge, with our industry providing concrete evidence to support that view. While lack of awareness has limited growth, raising awareness has directly correlated with a rise in customers, assets, market share, and deposits. Over the years, we have continuously taken the initiative to unite industry experts in the Sultanate to drawd up plans for the sustained growth of Islamic banking in Oman. We have promoted knowledge exchange among industry stakeholders and identified solutions to common challenges faced by practitioners in order to continue nurturing our growth. Today, Islamic finance in Oman is in a very strong, solid position and we anticipate that this will only grow as more communities, and businesses are exposed to the benefits our industry. On that front, we continue to conduct roadshows that travel to higher educational institutions, high-footfall locations, and invite major institutions from abroad to share our knowledge of Islamic finance. Recently, we have taken these efforts to the next level, uniting with Takaful Oman and Al Kawthur Fund, adding their expertise in Islamic insurance and investment to the comprehensive and increasingly popular Islamic finance agenda in Oman.

Khalid Al Kayed planting trees as part of the Masoliyati staff volunteer programme

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

COVER STORY

Q12: At the recently held Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) in Astana, Bank Nizwa’s pioneering role in Islamic banking in Oman was recognized. This is a remarkable achievement, as Bank Nizwa has become an iconic brand world-wide. What should you attribute this success to? In the years since our establishment, we have grown from strength to strength thanks to the continuous introduction of tailored solutions, increased awareness among the general public, and our dedication to staying true to the values of Islamic banking. Our portfolio of products and services is divided into Personal Banking, Corporate & Commercial Banking and Financial Markets & Investments with customers being served through multiple channels including branches, direct sales, call center, ATM/CCDMs, mobile application, and internet banking. We continue to innovate, offering new ways for financially secure lifestyles to be enjoyed.

Q13: Would you like to share your views on the global Islamic financial services industry? Is it developing in the right direction? While recent figures have shown that the industry’s growth might slow down in 2018, I think it is worth remembering that the vast majority of Islamic banking assets are concentrated in major oil producing countries that are currently suffering from a glut in the crude oil market. The GCC, Malaysia, and Iran account for 80% of the industry’s total assets, estimated to be around US$2.1 trillion at the end of 2016.

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While Malaysia is a diversified, manufacturing powerhouse; economies within the Gulf are currently undergoing a major shift that is expected to boost non-oil sector revenue. The significant drop in the price of oil, reduction in market growth, and spending cuts have had a significant impact on limiting the growth of banks throughout the region. Islamic banking being no exception. With that said, we are definitely enjoying a period of development due to growing interest worldwide in the alternative solutions we offer. For an industry still in its infancy in most of the world, our rapid growth has been nothing short of remarkable.

Q14: Some critics suggest that Islamic banking has failed to incorporate social responsibility in its core business. In your views, is this a valid criticism? On the contrary, while I cannot speak for other institutions, at Bank Nizwa, CSR and community engagement have always been major component of who we are as Oman’s leading Islamic bank. Our strong commitment to empowering local communities is in fact directly inspired by the principles of Shari’a, which maintains the welfare of society as a key pillar. Our efforts initially centered on embedding social and economic empowerment into the very fabric of our organization, subsequently resulting in us emerging to local communities throughout the Sultanate with volunteers from our extended family working to improve lives, one initiative at a time. These efforts encompassed by our Masoliyati volunteering program, which was founded in 2014. Through this initiative, Bank Nizwa staff has participated in dozens of high-impact projects that champion worthy causes. To date, Masoliyati has successfully organized 6

blood donation drives, Iftar Sa’em programs every Ramadan, and countless coastal beach clean-ups that have helped preserve Oman’s picturesque coastline. As a direct result of these initiatives, our dedication to CSR was recognized this year with ‘Excellence in CSR in Islamic Finance’ award at the regional Corporate Social Responsibility in Islamic Finance Conference and Awards ceremony.

Q15: Any message you would like to give to young people aspiring leaders in Islamic banking and finance? My advice would be to seek knowledge, study and learn as much as you can, embrace innovation, and remain open-minded to new opportunities. Never underestimate the impact an Islamic financial instrument can have on the lives of a customer nor the value of remaining true to the founding values of our industry. That, in a nutshell, is the key to success in our ever growing sector.


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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

Islamic banking has become an important and fast growing segment of the global financial system. The growth is expected to accelerate further in the coming years as more countries are realising the potential of Islamic banking as an alternative to conventional banking. Based on Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), the global Islamic banking assets accounted for US$1.493 trillion in 2016 and constitute 78.9% of the Islamic financial industry’s assets. 1The development of Islamic banking first started in Egypt with the establishment of the Mit Gamr Local Savings Banks in 1963 by Ahmad El-Naggar. This was followed by the establishment of several Islamic banks in other countries including Asia, GCC, Africa and MENA region. There was a diversity of products including Mudaraba, Musyaraka, Murabaha, Ijarah, Salam, Istisna’, Wakalah and Wadiah contracts.

TOWARDS BUILDING A

SUSTAINABLE ISLAMIC BANKING MODEL

Nurhafiza Abdul Kader Malim

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

TALKING POINTS

Despite considerable progress, the issue of sustainability has attracted considerable attention from academics, practitioners and policy makers. The concept of sustainability emphasises on the long term relationship between economic, social and environmental protection. The impact of the financial crisis has lead banks to focus on long term sustainability rather than short term profitability.2 (Banerjee and Velamuri, 2015). Islamic banking has the potential to play a transformative role in ensuring long term economic, social and environmental sustainability. Sustainability reflects the ability to enhance long term survival and prosperity that would impact on societal wellbeing and environmental protection. The resilience of Islamic banking during the global financial crisis has increased its capability as an alternative to conventional banking systems. However, it is argued that Islamic banks are diverging from their theoretical business model, thereby, becoming no difference from the conventional banks in practice. Islamic banks are more inclined towards conventional banking products and practices in which their main focus turns into providing Shari’a compliant versions of conventional products.3 The role of the Islamic banking system is now seen as simply to offer Shari’a-compliantfinancial products and services. Whilst Islamic banking contracts differ from conventional banking, the use of equity financing contracts (profit and loss sharing) such as Mudarabahand Musyaraka is less. Conversely, debt financing contracts such as Tawarruq, Murabahah and Ijarah dominate Islamic financing.

Furthermore, studies show that the margins of Islamic banks are higher than conventional banks. Higher margins reflect higher costs of financial intermediation that can prevent customers from using Islamic banking services. Islamic banks are unable to effectively carry out the role as financial intermediaries in mobilising deposits and providing financing at a lower cost, which is linked to efficient allocation of financial resources. This leads us to question whether Islamic banking serves its social orientation in reducing poverty, creating employment opportunities, providing the necessary requirement funds, promoting financial inclusion, enhancing financial development and adding to general prosperity. The high cost of intermediation remains a challenge for Islamic banks preventing them from achieving their potential of providing financial services to society at an affordable cost thereby contributing to economic development. Thus, it is imperative to find solutions that will contribute to the sustainability in the Islamic banking system. The proposed sustainable banking model for Islamic banking has seven key elements which include growth, Maqasid Shari’a, financial inclusion, stability, Shari’a governance, product innovation and efficiency.

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TALKING POINTS

KEY ELEMENTS OF SUSTAINABLE ISLAMIC BANKING MODEL

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

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Growth: Striking a balance between profit and social welfare and providing a sustainable basis for balanced socioeconomic development.

The transformation strategy of the Islamic banking system requires a holistic approach by focusing on profit and socio-economic development. The development of the Islamic banking business model should be expanded towards providing efficient services and providing financing to society at a lower cost. Islamic banks can play a more active role in channeling financial resources through microfinance and venture capital that promote social welfare and economic development. While Islamic banking needs to increase profits in the business, it is important to strike a balance between social benefits and objectives to achieve the sustainability of Islamic banking.

2

Maqasid Shari’a: Fulfilling the Maqasid Shari’a in the business operations.

It is important for Islamic banks to restructure their business model towards genuine Shari’a based products distinct from conventional banks to remain viable and sustainable. The crisis has called for a return to the basis of Islamic financial intermediation that serves the real economy and socio-economic goals rather than heavy reliance on debtlike financing. Therefore, the Islamic banking industry has to demonstrate a real and effective alternative to the conventional banking system. The dimension of the business model based on Maqasid Shari’a needs to be emphasized in reducing poverty, creating job opportunities and improving the economic development of society.

3

Financial Inclusion: Promoting an inclusive financial sector for people to have access to financial services with affordable costs.

It is crucial that all members of society have access to quality and affordable essential financial services. Thus, the need for Islamic banking to extend its agenda towards the development of the business model that contributes to greater financial inclusion. This requires Islamic banks to embrace social dimensions in their business model to fulfil the spirit of Islamic finance. Their business model should promote effective and efficient mobilisation of deposits and provide financing to different market segments at a lower cost.

TALKING POINTS

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Shari’a Governance: Enhancing Shari’a governance practices and ensuring effective Shari’a compliance of Islamic financial products.

Compliance with Shari’a alone is not sufficient as Islamic banks should move towards Shari’abased products and take steps to focus on how to provide the intermediation services at lower costs to all segments in the society. Islamic banks need to strengthen the effectiveness of Shari’a governance including supervision, monitoring and management. Therefore, ensuring Islamic bank activities comply with the corporate governance framework and disclosure standard is crucial to support business operations.

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Stability: Fostering greater resilience and stability in the Islamic banking sector

It is crucial that all members of society have access to quality and affordable essential financial services. Thus, the need for Islamic banking to extend its agenda towards the development of the business model that contributes to greater financial inclusion. This requires Islamic banks to embrace social dimensions in their business model to fulfil the spirit of Islamic finance. Their business model should promote effective and efficient mobilisation of deposits and provide financing to different market segments at a lower cost.

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Product Innovation: Contributing towards products that capitalise on the value proposition of Islamic finance

Islamic banks need to lead the market in product innovation to differentiate themselves from conventional banks. Innovation should contribute towards products that capitalise on the value proposition of Islamic finance and not simply imitate their conventional counterparts. This means becoming market leaders and benchmark setters in the development and delivery of products and services. In this regard, the Islamic banking industry should offer a comprehensive range of products that are simple, innovative, authentic and competitive. Instead of using the debt-like financing structure such as Murabaha, Islamic banks should place greater emphasis on equity-based financing.

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Efficiency: Improving cost efficiency and taking into consideration the wellbeing of society, economic prosperity and the environment.

Efforts to improve operational efficiency and management need to be emphasized in reducing the costs of Islamic banking especially in governance, Shari’a documentation and financial technology. As the documentation for Shari’acompliant products incurs costs to Islamic banks, simple documentation is critical to increase their competitiveness. The size of the bank plays a key role in gaining economic benefits. In spite of tremendous growth, the Islamic banking sector remains small by international comparison, which indicates the importance of consolidation among Islamic banks for efficiency gains due to economies of scale. Consolidation will help the Islamic banking industry to compete with conventional banks with the creation of bigger banks with a larger assets base to serve customers’ diverse funding needs. Furthermore, consolidation provides a platform for a well-diversified banking that creates differentiation in the market through specialisation and cost efficiency that can result in lower margins. Sound risk management practices are important for improving banking efficiency. There is a need for thorough and appropriate credit evaluation techniques focusing on the regular assessment of the creditworthiness and repayment abilities of the customers which lower the credit risk exposure. Conclusion The building of a sustainable Islamic banking model is pertinent for the progress and sustainability of the Islamic banking industry. Thus, it is crucial to evaluate the capacity of the Islamic banking system to sustain its financial intermediation role in contributing to economic growth. Furthermore, it is important for Islamic banking to provide more credible and affordable products to convince the customers that Islamic finance is really meaningful. The government can also play a vital role to provide an enabling environment that addresses the unique characteristics of Islamic banking to operate efficiently.

1 IFSB. 2017. Islamic Financial Services Industry Stability Report 2017. 2 Banerjee, S., and M. Velamuri. 2015. The conundrum of profitability versus soundness for banks by ownership type: Evidence from the Indian banking sector. Review of Financial Economics 26:12–24. 3 Ahmed, H. 2011. Product development in Islamic banks. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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DIARY OF A MAD PHILOSOPHER

A leader in Islamic banking and finance (IBF) was recently asked how his competitors perceived him. He answered, “My real competitors respect me, and those who consider me their competitor and still use negative tactics to harm me are not my competitors.” Such negative people badmouthing their competitors are simply losers. There is a Persian couplet:

You ought not be concerned about the noise of competitors As barking dogs can never decrease beggars’ earnings


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Competition by default recognises abilities and strength of one’s competitors. Hence, a competitor must respect their rivals. If they don’t respect them, and use negative and unethical tactics in their absence to harm their interests, such people are cowardly, and must not be respected in return. Competition is central to the modern Western economic theory, as it is perceived to lead to the most efficient economic output. Thus, competitors must be taken seriously, and they must be respected. There is a tendency in some markets, including in IBF, where market players tend to malign their competitors by using cheap and unethical means. These tactics normally include spreading rumours about their competitors or using subtle ways like dropping a sentence or so, hence putting a question mark on the credibility of their competitors. For example, I know a man in London, who would go around talking against some of his competitors behind their back on numerous occasions. Such people must be exposed. Similarly, a Shari’a scholar based in London was also found to have spread bad news about other Shari’a scholars and advisors. The most recent event took place at Durham Islamic Finance Summer School when someone based in Birmingham was caught badmouthing a competitor. Such people are simply crazy, as they don’t know that what they say about others in their absence reaches them through other sources. Eventually, such negative characters lose their own respect, if they have any. Backbiting one’s competitors is moronically absurd, to say the least. Islamic banks and other regulated financial institutions (e.g., Islamic asset management companies) play fair games when trying to capture business. Such unethical tactics are actually employed by the providers of ancillary services. For example, some years back a service provider based in the USA approached an asset management company in London to poach its Islamic advisory business, by informing it of its existing service provider’s “expected” bankruptcy. Obviously, this was untrue, and the American firm did not get the business. In the process, however, the existing service provider faced some undue

BRIEF NOTE problems. One must ask if such tactics are really Islamic. This is apparently consistent with the behaviour that is characterised in economics as maximising of self-interest with guile. This diary is not about any individual, I must clarify though. The above examples are used as a preamble to discuss something fundamentally important to IBF. This diary is actually about positive competition, and to analyse if there is any scope for practicing cooperative competition. Competition isn’t the end-game, it is a means to achieve something else. Many short-sighted players would say that the objective is to win. No. Winning is not the end-game. Every game is part of a bigger game, and the objective should be to be part of all the games within a spectrum. For example, Islamic financial advisory is a game within IBF, which itself is part of a bigger game within the global financial services industry. Financial sector is part of an economic system, which in itself is a segment of the overall system. The argument can be extended to include metaphysical domain and beyond. Coopetition is in fact a neologism coined to describe cooperative competition. It is no more just an ethical consideration but a number of large industrial groups are benefitting from coopetition. At this stage of development of IBF, the industry needs coopetition more than competition. This will allow the industry to benefit from an increase in the size of the pie (size of the industry), which should allow the individual players to have a bigger slice in the market, even if it doesn’t increase individual players’ share in the total market. As the size of the pie is small, some shortsighted players in the ancillary market exhibit unethical behaviour when it comes to dealing with their competitors. Apart from the above examples of bad behaviour, there is another glaring example. Institute of Islamic Banking & Insurance (IIBI) in London has on numerous occasions received help from the publishers of ISFIRE but denied them of distributing the magazine in their seminars and lectures. This is obviously not an example of cooperation in

a market that otherwise demand mutual help and cooperation. Consequently, IIBI is fast going into oblivion. The coopetition should be both interindustrial (i.e., cooperation between Islamic and conventional finance) and intra-industrial (whereby Islamic financial institutions and other related players must cooperate to increase the size of the pie). Inter-industrial coopetition will allow to reduce financial exclusion and, hence, increase the size of the global financial services industry, Islamic financial services included therein. Intraindustrial coopetition will allow the global Islamic financial services to increase its size. According to Barry Nalebuff, “Creating value is an inherently cooperative process, capturing value is inherently competitive.” Those players in the Islamic financial services industry, which are fighting for capturing value tend to forget that they will benefit from the real value of IBF only after sufficient value has already been created. Coopetition should be a basic ingredient of a global strategy for further growth of IBF. A comprehensive coopetitive strategy for IBF must delineate a framework to encourage and orchestrate non-hostile/cooperative mergers and acquisitions in the global Islamic financial services industry. Just imagine a scenario in which all subsidiary Islamic banks in Malaysia (e.g., CIMB Islamic, Maybank Islamic and RHB Islamic, etc.) are lumped into one entity called as Islamic Bank of Malaysia (IBM), to which businesses of all the subsidiary Islamic banks must be transferred. This large bank will allow Malaysia to pursue its dream of having its first mega Islamic bank, with the domestic capital. Furthermore, it will also be a cost-effective way of promoting Islamic banking in the country. This suggestion sounds like a crazy idea. But then madness is what the Diary of a Mad Philosopher starts with, and it is befitting the context to end it with madness.

1This should not be confused with Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad.

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MOHAMMED KATEEB

Group Chairman & CEO of Path Solutions

Innovation continues to be a cornerstone in the development of Islamic finance.

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egulatory environments are fast changing. Islamic banks, like their conventional counterparts, must stay ahead of regulatory trends and adapt their products and operations accordingly. What implications does changing regulations have for Islamic banks from a technology viewpoint?

One of technology providers’ biggest challenges, in both Islamic and conventional banking, is providing a solution that can be adaptable to various jurisdictions, capable of complying with multiple evolving regulatory standards. With the number of regulations increasing year after year and gaining wide recognition, non-compliance can result in operational losses and penalties, in addition to reputational risk. This challenge is magnified in Islamic finance because Islamic finance is not as mature as conventional finance when it comes to standardisations. To add to this complexity, in many countries these standards are even set at the institution’s level based on its Shari’a board guidance and interpretation. The key to sustain compliance is to build a flexible solution with dynamic algorithms and workflows that can be easily customised to keep up with changing regulatory requirements and all compliance related activities, in an automated manner. This environment also forces technology providers to stay up-to-date with regulatory changes and proactively manage this issue.

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ocial media is playing an increasingly aggressive role in business and finance. There are now products like Facebook Bank Account and other payment solutions. How far ahead is Path Solutions from its competitors in developing solutions to integrate social media into Islamic banking product offerings? Path Solutions launched iMAL*SocialBanking to support the new eChannels of branchless banking through social media, and to offer the bank customers automated services via Twitter direct messages and Facebook graphical interface such as account opening, balance enquiry, international money transfer and view transaction activity. In addition, we continue to add functionalities and perform deeper integration to all social media channels resulting in many new services, which are in our pipeline to be released in the coming few months. All services are performed in a transparent and secured way by using several security options such as the one-time password (OTP), PIN, captcha, etc. These services will expand the reach of our clients to the demanding Millennial users, increase the number of eChannels, and extend their service hours to cover twenty-four seven, thus achieving all that while reducing transaction costs.

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n the recent past, we have seen a surge in new client procurements by Path Solutions. Please share with us some of your recent success stories.

The slow growth of the economy in many of our markets for the last few years, was balanced by emerging new markets for Islamic finance such as North Africa, and the rapid development and innovation in technology that forced banks to update their systems. Over the past nine months, we have been acquired by new Islamic banks in these geographies and other major banks willing to update their core banking systems to allow digital transformation of their operations. In light of rapid digitalisation, Islamic banks are increasingly aware that technology investment is critical to developing new avenues of competitive advantage. But the biggest challenge in meeting their goals is the constraints brought about by legacy systems. Hence, they are responding to this challenge by investing in IT systems and innovation. They are investing heavily in capabilities such as analytics and eChannels that will help them to deliver superior customer experience. To many banks, this is currently their highest priority. Consequently, Path Solutions has concluded several important deals this past year with many Islamic banks to launch a modern, flexible Islamic core banking platform with new digital distribution channels and enhanced branch automation to enrich their customer experience.

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here are some critics who say that AAOIFI should stop working on Islamic accounting standards, as conventional accounting treatment is good enough for Islamic banks and financial institutions. Do you agree? What could be the possible impact of IFRS9 on Islamic banks?

One of the key challenges of the Islamic finance industry is the lack of standardisation. As conventional accounting standards generally cannot capture the complete details of Shari’abased transactions of Islamic banks and financial institutions. AAOIFI is providing the benchmark for the industry to follow, and its standards are being gradually adopted in multiple countries, which we believe is very positive and should continue. We completely support AAOIFI’s efforts in this area, and Path Solutions is also a member of AAOIFI. Regarding IFRS9, although Islamic banks are asset-backed and based on the concept of mutual agreement, they cannot be completely sheltered from the economic and market turbulence. While the adaptation of IFRS9 by Islamic banks will affect their profitability, nevertheless, we believe it will provide the much-needed additional security to the bank stakeholders.

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dvancements in technology and artificial intelligence may prove to be a fatal threat to banks, at least in their traditional roles. Do you see a bankless society in the future? Artificial Intelligence (AI) is redefining the whole world as we know it. No industry will be immune to this change. When we address the financial industry more specifically, we believe advancements in AI, blockchain, cloud, robotics, etc. are introducing a wave of fintech companies that would create a whole new financial ecosystem. This is already in the making. These new companies will play different roles, they will disrupt some business models, completely replace some services, and they will augment others. But I believe banks, if they respond correctly in the next few years, will continue to play an important role in this ecosystem. It will not be the same traditional role, but still an important one.

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itcoin and other cryptocurrencies are seen as perfect substitutes for the traditional forms of money and payments methods. What are your views on this? How can this impact your own business as a technology firm?

When I am usually asked about this subject, I usually separate this into two issues - technology vs. implementation. Technology is based on blockchain technology, a very promising technology that I believe will play a critical role in the financial industry and is a driving force for the tremendous change that we will be observing in the next few years. Bitcoin and other digital currencies that are already in the market, are specific implementation of this technology. One of the success factors for digital currencies in the future is the reaction of the regulators to this phenomenon. Bitcoin, being one of the most successful of these currencies has enjoyed wide support from many countries, multinational companies and large communities. But it is being challenged still by many regulators, forbidden by some countries and was attacked by many important players in the financial industry. All these has resulted in the huge fluctuation in its valuation. The jury is still out on what the future will hold for bitcoin and other digital currencies. From a Shari’a perspective, their exact nature and characteristics are still debatable due to their electronic nature and to the fact that they are not being backed by a real asset. Path Solutions’ main objective is to remain fully aligned with the Shari’a principles and standards. We look forward to have some Shari’a guidance on this issue. Technically, we have already developed the needed blockchain skills as we will be including the technology in many parts of our system to track valuable assets and contracts.

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ath Solutions was awarded the Best Islamic Financial Technology Provider 2017 award at the recently concluded Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) in Astana. What do you attribute this success to? Path Solutions is a unique company that prides itself on delivering excellence thanks to its multilingual skilled professionals, proven technology, industry know-how and worldwide presence; which increases the client competitive advantage and accelerate growth. We also pride ourselves on building true partnerships with our clients. The cornerstone of our partnership is creating a sound strategy and business plan that our team can stand behind and execute. We work with our clients through every aspect of the project implementation to ensure their vision and strategy translate into tangible bottom-line results.


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INTERVIEW

Artificial Intelligence is redefining the whole world as we know it.

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hat are some of the challenges and opportunities in Islamic FinTech? Is it all big talk and no real business?

As I explained earlier, the world is changing fast. The financial industry is changing significantly and Islamic finance is no exception. Innovation continues to be a cornerstone in the development of Islamic finance. Fintech is necessary for the sector to maintain and grow its market share. Thus, fintech has the potential to play a major role here, primarily to revolutionise processes and for cost effectiveness while maintaining Shari’a compliance. It could help in promoting industry standardisation, harmonisation of Islamic financial products and global integration. With financial inclusion a major issue in many of the Islamic countries, fintech has the potential to play an important role. Microfinance for instance is still a largely untapped segment, and thus technology fintech companies can extend the reach of financial services. In addition, the tremendous innovation that is already happening in the conventional fintech space needs to be brought to the Islamic one. However, few challenges could present a sizeable impediment to the sector’s growth. The principal challenge is the regulatory environment. Regulatory limitations and concerns are hindering the ability of Islamic financial institutions to forge ahead in adopting new models linked to various fintech themes such as crowdfunding and big data. These are at their early days and this may yet become either a key success or notable failure. But I’m sure we all agree that fintech is essential to the growth of the sector. I believe it may be disruptive and damaging for Islamic finance not to capitalise on this innovation.

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hat are the shortterm, medium-term and long-term plans of Path Solutions?

The banking sector is one of the strongest sectors of the economy. It is always seeking advanced services and new technologies to continue expanding. This adds the burden on banks to provide technological services to attract new customers. Digital transformation is one of the most important initiatives on which most of banks are focusing.

At Path Solutions, we are working hard to continue to be the undisputed technology partner to the Islamic finance industry, helping our clients capture deep and unbiased customer insights, and developing new strategies for attracting, engaging, and retaining customers. Together, we work on developing a much deeper understanding of the customer and build a value proposition that addresses their needs with a deep understanding of behaviors, attitudes and perspectives. Throughout this transition, we remain focused on fulfilling our profound commitment to surpass the expectations of our clients, creating valueadded and increased differentiation to them.

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hould we see 2018 as a tough year for Islamic banking and finance or you are more optimistic about it?

Well, according to the global rating agency Standard & Poor’s, they say that Islamic banks in the GCC are expected to face a tough year ahead, and the industry will lose momentum as the slowdown in asset growth is likely to persist. But the impact of the slowdown will vary across markets. Also according to their analysts, another factor explaining the muted industry growth is the depreciation or devaluation of currencies in some Muslim countries. Of course, the current economic conditions in the GCC region are not helping. To counter that, I believe a more aggressive move towards merger and acquisitions will emerge in this space, which would create much stronger Islamic banks. But if you look at the African continent, many North African countries have started the adoption of Islamic banking products. Both Morocco and Algeria have recently adopted new legislation allowing Islamic banking. Their central banks have also set up central Shari’a boards to oversee the new industry. We believe that Africa will be another growth engine for Islamic finance. I also believe that stronger growth is possible once the sector is supported by comprehensive infrastructure, a robust regulatory framework and dynamic market participants, which would result in a truly global industry.

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ISLAMIC FINANCE IN DJIBOUTI: IMPETUS FOR GROWTH This article is an excerpt of the acceptance speech delivered by His Excellency Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti at the Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) 2017 ceremony held in Astana, Kazakhstan. His Excellency Ismail Omar Guelleh was honoured with the Global Islamic Finance Leadership Award 2017 for his relentless role in promoting Islamic banking and finance in the Republic of Djibouti as well as the wider African region. Praise be to Allah the most Glorified, and peace and blessings be upon the Prophet, his Family and Companions. Allow me to begin my speech by expressing my appreciation as well as convey my greetings to you Mr President and to the brotherly people of Kazakhstan for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality extended to me and my delegation since our arrival in the beautiful city of Astana. I am honored to receive the prestigious Global Islamic Finance Leadership Award 2017. It is a great recognition for my country. I cannot bear the merit of this award alone, as it is the result of many years of steady work done with passion by many public institutions, private investors and businessmen, as well as multilateral institutions, all convinced that Islamic finance is useful and effective for the economic development of the Republic of Djibouti. Therefore, I would like to express our profound gratitude to the Awards Committee, whose decision to recognise our

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albeit modest contribution to the development of the Islamic finance is not only an honor but first and foremost a challenge for us to do more in this endeavor. At a time when Islam and our Ummah are attacked and our faith is disparaged by the false claims of criminals, it is crucial to proudly point out one of the many areas in which Islam excels. This area is Islamic finance, which has over the last few decades evolved considerably and is now at the forefront of innovation. Islamic finance owes it success to its core values and principles of operations based on Shari’a laws, which protect it against shocks and crises. Furthermore, the linkages with the real economy, and the competitiveness of Islamic banks and their innovative financial products, are the reasons behind their remarkable performance. These core values have sheltered Islamic finance against the 2008 financial crisis, and they are building its strength and attractiveness well beyond the Islamic world.


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This is to express how much these virtuous principles, drawn from the Holy Koran and our Sacred Scriptures, that are the cornerstone of the Islamic financial industry, are noble and right. However, beyond its profound ethical values, Islamic finance also owes its success to tireless efforts and tremendous works of men and women, decision makers, experts and practitioners in our great Islamic financial community, represented by the eminent personalities gathered here.

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Our objective is to translate the strategic position of Djibouti on the world map.

Decision makers and practitioners of the Islamic finance have proven that finance can be reconciled with ethics, and that Islam is not incompatible with the business world. Thanks to their initiatives, Islamic finance has become a secure and a qualitative feature that everybody is now looking for. The Republic of Djibouti is a small country, with less than one million people and limited natural resources. But the infinite Grace of Allah places my country on one of the most strategic sea route, at the confluent of three continents. Strengthened by this blessing, we are committed to transforming Djibouti into a strategic, commercial and financial hub. We translated this ambition into our development program entitled “Djibouti Vision 2035�. This programme is a long-term vision with the objective to build the architecture of a long lasting and harmonious economic and social development by 2035. In this regard, we are taking all the necessary steps to endow our country with the most modern and the most competitive infrastructure in the area of transportation and communication. Our objective is to translate the strategic position of Djibouti on the world map into an optimal source of sustainable growth, jobs, and wealth. With the support of our friends and development partners,

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who trust us, who know how promising the economic development of our continent is we are confident we will reach our goals and beyond. Promoting an effective, robust and sound financial system is the second pillar of our development strategy. Therefore, we undertook important reforms that have allowed a deep transformation of our financial sector attracting companies and promoting diversified financial activities and products. Thus, the financial sector of our economy has evolved from two conventional banks and 5 financial auxiliaries in 2006 to 34 financial institutions. Today, the range of financial supply includes all types of financial products and services capable of meeting all kind of demand emanating from local and sub regional markets. It is against this backdrop that Islamic finance appeared in Djibouti, as the youngest form of finance. The first Islamic bank having been established only in 2006 and since then the number of Islamic financial institutions has been growing steadily. In this environment, the Islamic banks, currently three out of eleven banks, have adapted quickly, consolidated their market shares, and grown their activities, supported by their effectiveness and their ability to penetrate the market, as well as their propensity to innovate. These good results and the strong perspectives have incited the interest of many conventional banks in Islamic finance, as they consider opening their own branches in Islamic finance. To fully support and continuously deepen the expansion and the influence of our financial market, it is our duty as policy makers to create a business environment that is attractive and convenient, by putting in place adequate policies and reforms. Our efforts in this regard, have allowed us to design and implement specific rules and regulations for Islamic banks operating in Djibouti, as we did for conventional banks. This regulatory framework has been supplemented in 2016, by the creation of the National Committee of the Shari’a laws, composed of experts in Islamic Laws and Islamic finance. This committee oversees the surveillance of the regularity and the conformity of Islamic finance products to Shari’a Laws in the Republic of Djibouti.

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The first Islamic bank having been established only in 2006 and since then the number of Islamic financial institutions has been growing steadily.

The anchoring of Islamic finance in the financial landscape of Djibouti is now accomplished, both among professional and individual customers. The success and the remarkable performance of the Islamic banks contribute to the expansion and the development of our financial sector; and they are confirming that we were correct in our strategic choices. So, Djibouti, land of Islam, and commercial crossroads between Africa and Asia, has positioned itself as the natural place for the expansion of Islamic banking into the whole of Africa. In this capacity, the African Summit of Islamic Finance that we organise each year in our country since 2012 is the expression of this willingness to promote the development of Islamic finance in Africa. We want for Djibouti, a viable and sustainable Islamic finance, a modern and sophisticated finance based on Shari’a laws and supportive of the productive investments in our economy and in conformity with the diverse needs of our businesses. We also want an Islamic finance that meets all the aspirations of the poorest people in our country. This is because, like the rest of the continent, we are still facing many challenges especially in social development and the financing of our economies. Despite a rapid and sustained growth, and the progress made in human development throughout the continent, much remains to be done to alleviate poverty and social exclusion in many African countries. One way to achieve that is through financial


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

access for all and the deepening of our financial markets. I firmly believe that because of its solid ethical background, Islamic finance can be the right tool to achieve that. In addition, we need to invest massively in strategic sectors of our economies such as infrastructure, energy, industry, water etc.‌For that to happen, the current strong expansion of Islamic finance in the world and the important resources from the Islamic financial funds that come with it, appear to be one of the most appropriate solutions to our financing needs. The solutions offered by Islamic finance are not just accessory or complementary. They are effective and adapted to our needs, and to our spiritual and moral principles. In fact, the virtue

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in trade, the prohibition of Riba or charging interest on loan, the prevention of speculative behaviors and the financing of the production, are the core values that any developing economy such as ours needs. However, our impression is that, the delay that Africa is now experiencing regarding the development of Islamic finance is detrimental considering the growing interest shown by the western countries for this kind of finance. The penetration rate of Islamic finance in Africa is still low, whereas the continent’s exceptional potential continues to attract more and more conventional investors.

It is therefore urgent for the continent to catch up and adapt its financial industry to benefit from the much needed financial windfall to boost its economy and strengthen its development process. Our countries are in dire need of alternative financing, and I call upon international Islamic finance institutions to partner with us and further grasp the excellent investment and business opportunities that our continent is offering. This is a battle we must fight together for a better world, and it is at the core of our religion. May the Almighty Allah grant us his Grace and Blessing. Amin

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INTERVIEW

MOHAMED AMERSI Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Islamic Reporting Initiative (IRI)

The Islamic Reporting Initiative is an independent not-for-profit organization leading the creation of the world’s first reporting standard for corporate sustainability and social responsibility (CSR) based on Islamic values. The IRI has been commended by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Chairman of the UN Global Compact Foundation, and members in more than 50 countries. The vision of the IRI is a sustainable global economy that contributes actively to society and the environment by integrating the values of peace, compassion, tolerance, social justice, environmental stewardship and human dignity into corporate culture. The mission of the IRI is to enable organizations throughout the world to examine the values that guide their activities and express with clarity and simplicity their contribution to sustainability in society and the environment.

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The IRI is currently in the process of forming a Board of Founding Patrons - open for applications until the end of September 2017. The Board will consist of a select group of organizations from all over the world who support the ideals and the potential of the IRI. Essentially, these leaders will go into history as the Founders of the world’s first reporting standard for Sustainability & CSR based on Islamic values and principles. Mohamed Amersi is engaged in a full sphere of activities ranging from for profit, responsible profit and non-profit. He is an active philanthropist and social conscience leader sitting on numerous Boards and Advisory Councils, including those of the Royal Agricultural University and the Prince’s Trust International. www.islamicreporting.org


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If the principles of islam were embodied into conventional ways of doing business, I think the world would be a far better place.

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W We had reached a point where the focus on profit and shareholder benefit was the primary essential motive for business.

hat do you consider to be the global challenges today that require the full and combined attention of government, civil society and business?

Of course there are quite a few, but let me mention three which I consider to be fundamental. The first is poverty and inequality; unless something is done to narrow that gap, we will find a situation where the bottom of the pyramid will demand what they believe is rightly theirs, and then there will be uprising. That gap has to be addressed. Secondly there is the issue of climate change. As you know, we all signed the Paris agreement but now the US has pulled out of Paris. The US tried to engineer the latest G20 so that Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and other countries would also start having reservations about Paris, but fortunately for us all sanity prevaile d and all the other 19 members reaffirmed their commitment. The third one – and all three are in many ways interrelated - is an inability to meet the social and structural needs of a rapidly growing population. And by that I mean primarily food, clean water, sanitation, healthcare - all the basic needs required for society to function, as well as the natural resources that support our modern societies. Unless we truly acknowledge these shortfalls and act accordingly, we will soon find ourselves in an untenable situation. So I see these as the key challenges, all interconnected, and all requiring very urgent attention.

*All photos are credited to Romana Love

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ransparency and shared prosperity have always served as a basis for ethical business. Why do you think we now see more attention given to this topic?

There are a number of reasons for this. To start with, there is quite a degree of mistrust in business, especially given the 2008 financial crisis, when the world’s financial systems nearly collapsed. We had reached a point where the focus on profit and shareholder benefit was the primary essential motive for business. The outrage of the public at large for the misguided motivations of business spurred legislators and regulators, as well as large asset owners to compel businesses to become much more transparent about their objectives, motivations and activities. Additionally, pressure from customers and competition now require businesses to be much more transparent, disclosing far more than in the past. The practice of making money at the expense of social good is no longer acceptable and the demand for transparency is no longer at the fringes. And then of course you have the whole notion of unfair, corrupt practices, which is as high it’s ever been. I saw some statistics recently from Transparency International indicating that overall the amount of money that is lost, or subject to corrupt activities, is in the order of 1.8 - 2 trillion dollars a year. That equates to 3.5 percent of global GDP. Now if there was a way to curb that corruption the world would be a far better place than it is today. So these things are now very much in the open. Social media has allowed news in connection with ethics to be made available so widely and so quickly that it is hard now to keep secrets. Governments are also under pressure to ensure that business is competitive, with full transparency, full integrity, and with full respect for ethical issues. So we live in a very different climate now.

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ow is being socially responsible good for business?

On a short-term basis I accept that it may not appear to be the case. This is the other huge challenge we have today. Many shareholders still look at the financial bottom line on a quarter-byquarter basis as an indication of value. That, with

all due respect, is a very negative and shortsighted manner of looking at business.

that money is in circulation and doesn’t become the sole property of a few people.

If you really want to obtain the greatest value and therefore the best returns from a business, we have to convince shareholders and investors to take a much longer-term view. And if a business is not ensuring that sustainability in terms of societal support and environmental stewardship are built into the very heart and DNA of the business, it is simply pushing costs and risks down the road, costs and risks that are now starting to be revealed.

The focus of the IRI is to help Islamic society integrate the values and principle s that drive its businesses and business practices with conventional CSR. It’s a question of seeing the extent to which there is commonality between the two systems, and how one can learn from the other. To me that is fascinating.

If you run a business based on long-term value, which naturally includes values, these risks are properly and better dealt with. Unilever is a good example in particular. This is borne out also in the report, Better Business Better World, commissioned by the UN and chaired by Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, which actually articulates the value that businesses can generate if they become sustainable on a longterm basis. This value outstrips the short-term gains that are being achieved today. There are many many other academic studies and empirical research that prove the link between values-based management and greater financial performance. It is not a new science, but is only gaining greater traction now that we have seen major disruptions in short sighted business. We should be compelling companies to generate greater transparency, greater integrity, more environmental sustainability, a healthy respect for society, more detailed supply chain audits, action against modern-day slavery practices, respect for climate change and all other social and environmental externalities that we have neglected for so long. There is greater prosperity in doing so.

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hat is it that really drew you to support and be part of the IRI?

When you look at the countries that make up the Islamic world, they have been blessed by many features. In particular, the billions of people and dozens of counties that make up Islamic society are part of a shared system of belief that is highly prescriptive in social philosophy, particularly with respect to social justice and environmental stewardship.

The IRI, for the very first time and in an organized way, is drawing the world’s attention to the whole ecosystem of how business should be carried out in accordance with Islamic values and principles that support peace, sincerity, respect, dignity and prosperity for all. These are the values that unfortunately are lacking in many of the conventional ways of doing business around the world.

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hat does the IRI bring to organizations in terms of meeting transparency needs?

The IRI reflects the principles of Shariah. A key cornerstone of Shariah is to ensure transparency, which is nothing more than honesty. It is a level playing field where information is being made available to all those who are interested in a uniform way, in a complete way, and in a truthful way. If the principles of Islam were embodied into conventional ways of doing business, I think the world would be a far better place. The IRI is helping to head in that direction. Listed companies are required to share far more information today than ever before. Reporting to the markets, for example, if anything is other than that set out in their plans, in their budgets - anything that occurs in the way of damage or loss, or reputational issue for example. The obligations today to make that information available as promptly as possible, and to share the implications of that information is huge. This though is not unique to Islam alone. The values of transparency, integrity and ethics are shared by all faith systems. The benefit for the IRI is that Islam is more prescriptive, more codified. There are specific references to social justice and environmental stewardship required of every Muslim and Islamic organisation. Islamic Finance, for example, is a very intentioned ethical way of doing business that is unique to Islam.

Additionally, many Islamic countries have been blessed with an enormous amount of wealth as the result of hydrocarbon deposits. So much of that wealth is used to reduce poverty, to ensure

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o how is the IRI really different from other, existing standards for Sustainability & CSR?

Actually the Qur’an has some very interesting principles that address this, such as the principles of sanctity of contract, the principle that money has to be in circulation, the principle that one is not permitted to engage in activities that are harmful to man and to society like gambling, drugs, prostitution, pornography. And then there are principles that don’t allow interest to be paid and received – this is because anyone who wants to live off interest, is not being entrepreneurial to help with the improvement of society by engaging in business, by innovating, by entrepreneurship. All these principles are very powerful, separately as well as taken as a whole. If the world of today starts to focus on these kind of social principles, and starts to implement some of them, I think irrespective of their source the world will be a better place.

I would also add one more point, that today there may be an anathema in looking at something that has got the label ‘Islamic’, for reasons that are very obvious. Therefore, if the terminology can reflect what is known as a values-based system of finance, a values-based system of investing, embracing all the Shariah values today, I think that adoption globally will be easier and quicker. One of the overall goals of the IRI is to highlight these values-based principles and make them everyday practice.

H

ow will the IRI overcome the complex challenges of implementing something like this across more than 57 countries?

I don’t consider this as difficult as many may believe it to be because there is a source. The source being the Qur’an, the Sunnah, or the Hadith of the Prophet and his followers. There is already a body of thought in existence that doesn’t have to be invented, or re-invented. Some may point to potential difficulties in how the values and principles are interpreted across Islam, but the IRI is a cross-denominational

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organization that represents the whole of the House of Islam, in adherence with the Amman Message that recognises all eight schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Our objectives are to provide guidance that pertains exclusively to business and finance under the values and principles of Islam according to the Shariah. I’m confident that our Advisory Council that is represented by all schools of Islam can very quickly achieve consensus on any questions or issues regarding business and finance.

S

o what do you see as the greatest asset of the IRI?

Again, it is the first time that there has been an organization looking at Shariah principles and the conventional way of conducting business and reporting, and attempting to see how the two systems that have operated in parallel can be brought together in such a way that each can learn from the other and bring out the best in each other. I think the IRI is presently seeking to do this in a way that has not been done before, bridging this knowledge gap between two good systems so that these two systems, the Shariah and the non-Shariah system can operate in parallel. The greatest asset for the IRI is Islam itself. In a very short period of time, the IRI has gained the support and backing of global organisations from all over the world. Islam is clearly ready for a reporting standard that provides guidance to businesses and financial institutions.

H

ow will the IRI serve as a tool for Western organizations for their local activities, and allow a dialogue that is meaningful and relevant to their ‘Islamic’ constituents?

In the Islamic world, there isn’t this separation to which you allude. In the Islamic world, by and large, if one lives in an Islamic country one is expected to follow the principles of Shariah. At the same time, if you want Western investors to participate in Islamic financing and investments, you need to be able to talk the language that people in the West understand,

accept, and are able to follow. It’s a question of seeing how we can bring in the best practices that work for all companies all round the world – whether they are from the Islamic or non-Islamic world. It’s about understanding the principles from the Islamic world, and then blending them into the non-Islamic world without painting them with an Islamic brush. That to me is the challenge, but also the opportunity.

H

ow is the IRI relevant to the Islamic Finance sector?

Islamic Finance suffers from the form in which it is practised, which has in my view diminished some of its growth. One of them is the application of negative screening. If it is to become mainstream, it has to evolve to positive screening. Let me come back to Unilever for example. Unilever is a company that focuses on positive screening, as opposed to negative screening. Secondly, there’s the equivalent of greenwashing in Islamic Finance. Greenwashing is “dressing a situation up to look green” when in fact it really is not. In Islamic Finance, it amounts to using interest as a tool to compute returns indirectly or directly, but then finding ways to dress this up so it does not look like interest. We need to move away from these practices through greater and more meaningful transparency. The third point is for me a very strong point. Does one see the notion of Jewish Finance, Christian Finance, or Hindu Finance in the world today? No, so why does one need to label Islamic Finance, and market it as such? Why can’t one practise Shariah or other principles and call it values-based finance, and then see how quickly it will grow? Notwithstanding, the transformation of labelling is a step process, so firstly one should use the same terminology to identify the core values that Shariah and Islamic Finance principles bring to the table. Once you’ve raised the profile of that and people understand that and start to adopt it, then you can become confident in changing terminology. But if you do that today, I think you’ve lost it all. It’s about getting that initial engagement.


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

INTERVIEW

H

ow can Islamic Finance institutions play a role in building and developing the IRI?

They have a body of expertise in terms of the practical application of theory today, so of course they will be a very good port of call to help educate the IRI on what are practical difficulties, challenges and opportunities they have faced on the ground. They are better informed than people sitting at a desk.

A

s Chairman of the Board of Trustees, what are your main priorities for the next 2 years?

To ensure that the vision of the IRI as encapsulated in its annual report is followed systematically, methodically, and timely, and reaches its objectives. One must consider how to raise the profile of this organization, how to ensure that it is properly understood not only by companies, individuals, regulators and others in the Islamic world, but also in the non-Islamic world, how to raise funding so that it is able to fulfil its objectives, and then how to get the buy-in of organizations. So those are the key challenges, and I hope that with all the fellow trustees and the great group of people we have assembled together over a number of years we will now be able to accelerate public awareness of this amazing organization.

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ISFIRE SPECIAL REPORT

ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

Islamic banking and finance (IBF) has gradually and steadily grown into an academic discipline at the institutions of higher learning and professional bodies in the last 15 years. There are scores of universities and institutions of higher learning in the world, where IBF is being taught as an academic or professional discipline. In the UK only there are over 15 institutions offering instruction and doctoral level research supervision in this emerging field (see Table 1). Every month there is at least one book being released on the topic. The most recent addition to the relevant body of literature is A Socially Responsible Islamic Finance, authored by Umar Moghul. The most celebrated summer school in IBF was set up at the Islamic Foundation in the 1990s in the name of International Orientation Course in Islamic Economics, Banking & Finance. It was a very successful programme, supported by Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI). It is interesting to note that Professor Mehmet Asutay was associated with this summer school, albeit in a junior role. Later he developed the most successful summer school in Islamic finance at Durham University. Another important summer school type programme was developed by Professor Humayon Dar at the University of Cambridge in 2007 for Institute of Islamic Banking & Insurance (IIBI). This remained a successful programme until 2010, and gradually died down after Professor Dar left the programme and IIBI could not manage it. It was a shame that such an innovative programme failed due to bad governance that is still haunting IIBI.

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ISFIRE SPECIAL REPORT

ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

SUMMER SCHOOLS IN ISLAMIC BANKING & FINANCE

The University of Sarajevo Summer School

The IZU Summer School

Durham Islamic Finance Summer School

July 3-6, 2017

July 3-6, 2017

July 24-28, 2017

ISFIRE Assessment: 4/10

ISFIRE Assessment: 4/10

ISFIRE Assessment: 8/10

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ISFIRE SPECIAL REPORT

ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

Table 1: Representative Institutions of Higher Education in the UK (involved in Islamic finance INSTITUTIONS

COURSES

Durham​​University

Masters​​level,​​PhD

Lancaster​​University

Masters​​level,​​PhD

Kingston University

PhD

University of Bolton

Masters level, PhD

Markfield Institute of Higher Education

Masters level

University​​of​​Westminster

Masters

Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment (CISI)

Certificate level

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

Certificate level

University​​of​​East​​London

Modules​​and​​PhD

Bangor University

MBA in Islamic Finance

City University

Executive MBA in Islamic Finance*

BPP University

Masters (LLM in Islamic Finance and Business Law)

Queen Mary’s University of London

Modules

Cardiff Metropolitan University

Modules and PhD

University of Staffordshire

Masters

Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)

Modules, PhD

* Offered at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

After the huge success of Durham University’s Islamic Finance Summer School (established in 2010), an increasing number of universities around the world have started organising summer schools in IBF. Not all of such initiatives have succeeded, as many enthusiasts started summer schools without proper planning and failed miserably. One such example of failure is a summer school at the University of East London (UEL), which was organised last year around the same time when the most celebrated Durham University Islamic Summer School was organised. The result was obvious – the UEL’s programme fell short of high standards and expectations. This summer, there have been three important summer schools held in Turkey, BosniaHerzegovina and the UK. Pakistan also witnessed a number of training programmes organised​​in​​summer​​holiday​​hill​​stations​​like​​Murree​​and​​Abbottabad.

Summer​ ​School​ ​at​ ​Istanbul​ ​S abahattin​ ​Z aim​ ​University Istanbul Sabahattin Zaim University (IZU) organised a summer school called International Islamic Economics and Finance Summer School on July 10-13, 2017. This was the fourth edition of the summer school founded in 2014 in collaboration with Durham University, UK. The next three editions (including that of this year) were organised solely and independently by IZU. Attended by primarily Turkish delegates, the summer school nevertheless attracted a number of international trainers, including Professor Masudul Alam Choudhry (Malaysia), Professor Humayon Dar (UK), Dr. Sofiza Azmi (Malaysia), Dr. Sami Al-Suweilem (Saudi Arabia) and​​Dr.​​Shariq​​Nisar​​(India). All the credit to develop this summer school must goes to Professor Mehmet Bulut, President of IZU, who takes personal interest in the development of Islamic economics, banking and finance in Turkey in general and at IZU in particular. The state of the art building of the International Research Centre for Islamic Economics and Finance provides excellent resources to undertake research and teaching projects in Islamic economics, banking and finance. The summer school at IZU started with an ambition of becoming an international rendezvous for the Who’s Who in IBF, and in fact succeeded in doing so in the first year. Since then, it has become a bit introvert, as this year’s programme could not attract any significant number of participants​​from​​the​​ international​​market. With the appointment of Dr. Abdelkader Caci as a member of the permanent faculty, one should hope that the future editions of the summer schools will have more international participation. Dr. Caci has vast experience of running programmes similar to the summer school at IZU, as he was one of the founding members of the International Orientation Course in Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance, which the Islamic Foundation of Leicester ran​​for​​ many​​years​​before​​the​​programme​​was​​eventually​​shut​​down.

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ISFIRE SPECIAL REPORT

“A number of Muslim tourists visit Cordoba and Granada in Spain, and it is hoped that through IBF, Sarajevo will succeed in introducing​​the​​Muslim​​ Europe​ ​in​ ​Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

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ISFIRE SPECIAL REPORT

ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

Summer School at the University of Sarajevo The most important development in 2017 was the holding of a summer school in IBF by the Centre for Islamic Economics, Banking and Finance (CIEBF) at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In a way, this is an extension of the endeavour of Bank Bosna International (BBI) to promote IBF in the country and the south eastern Europe (SEE). The summer school was named as Certificate in Islamic Finance, due to technical restrictions on the use of the term “Summer School” as per the rules and regulations of the University of Sarajevo. The primary objective of the summer school at the University of Sarajevo was to create a platform for education, promotion, research and development of Islamic economics and finance at the university. This is part of a wider agenda to development human resources for the fastgrowing IBF industry in the country and the SEE. The summer school was held on July 3-6, 2017. This ISFIRE Special Report documents the individual contributions of Professor Mehmet Asutay of Durham University, who has emerged as one of the most influential academicians in the global Islamic financial services industry. After the likes of Professor John Presley (Loughborough University), Professor Rodney Wilson (Durham University), Professor Simon Archer (University of Surrey), Professor Mehmet Asutay has emerged as the torch-bearer of the academic leadership in IBF. A number of trainers at the summer school at Sarajevo have directly or indirectly benefited from Professor Mehmet Asutay. This includes Dr. Velid Efendic, founder of the summer school at the University of Sarajevo. The summer school was designed in such a way that it provided the participants an opportunity to become familiar with the latest trends in IBF and the practical applications of nominate Islamic financial contracts in a modern context. There were a number of lectures and training sessions by eminent experts in this field. A unique aspect of the summer school was visits to historical and touristic places of interest. BosniaHerzegovina is an interesting country, with a multicultural society with different faith-based and ethnic groups. “Bosnia and Herzegovina is a unique country where East and West meet, where different cultures and religions live together, a unique place wherein hundred meters away from each other we have a mosque, a Catholic church, an Orthodox church and a synagogue that together defy time and various temptations for hundreds of years,” said Dr. Velid Efendic.

The participants from the United Kingdom, Hungary, Turkey, Serbia, Macedonia, Nigeria, Malaysia and Bulgaria enjoyed not only the technical discussions and lectures but also benefitted from the cultural contents context of the programme. While Bosnia-Herzegovina has only one Islamic banks, namely, Bank Bosna International (BBI), the participants shared perspectives and experiences from other markets and countries that enjoy more comprehensive Islamic financial sectors. “Our local delegates benefitted from the international speakers who came from the countries like UK that has more diverse Islamic financial sector,” said Dr. Velid Efendic. The speakers came from the UK and Turkey, in addition to the local speakers drawn from the University of Sarajevo and the senior executives at BBI. It was an intensive four-day programme, which succeeded in improving and further developing the participants’ knowledge and skills in Islamic finance. It was an excellent programme that would further strengthen the academic and professional linkages between the University of Sarajevo and Bolton University, and also with the pioneering institutions like Durham University and Markfield Institute of Higher Education. The participants of the Sarajevo summer school enjoyed a historical trip to Mostar. Sarajevo itself is a beautiful city with three distinct ditricts – the Ottoman, Austrian and modern. The central Ottoman district is Mini Istanbul in the words of Rafe Haneef, CEO of CIMB Islamic. Holding of the summer school in Sarajevo is also an attempt to introduce the Muslims to the beauty of the Muslim Europe. A number of Muslim tourists visit Cordoba and Granada in Spain, and it is hoped that through IBF, Sarajevo will succeed in introducing the Muslim Europe in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Head of the organizing committee and founder of the programme, Dr. Velid Efendić, was satisfied with the number of participants and pointed out that the summer school was one of the many other successful projects that CIEBF regularly organizes every year. “This Summer School is our new project that is being built in addition to our Masters in Islamic Banking programme, that we offer in conjunction with the University of Bolton from UK, resulting in award of a joint degree,” he said. One of the Turkish participants, Fatih Korucu, expressed his views, “This [summer school] surpassed my expectations as it brought participants from different parts of the world to share their experiences, knowledge and ideas. Bosnia-Herzegovina is a bridge between the East and the West and through it the concept of Islamic banking should be extended to the West.”

CIEBF has an international reputation in teaching, research, training, and organising conferences and seminars in the field of Islamic economics, banking and finance. Within these activities, the CIEBF also runs a master programme Islamic banking, with a joint degree with Bolton University in the UK, which has been selected among the top 5 study programmes in this field in the world. Also, all international students have a chance to get 50% scholarship for this postgraduate programme. In order to apply for this master study and other events, you may follow www.efsa.unsa.ba/cieb

www.facebook.com/CIEBF.Sarajevo/

Additional information can be obtained by +387 33 564 368

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ciebf@efsa.unsa.ba


ISFIRE SPECIAL REPORT

ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

Durham Islamic Finance Summer School Undoubtedly the best summer school in Islamic finance in the world, Durham Islamic Finance Summer School (DIFSS), attracts the best speakers from both the academia and the global Islamic financial services industry. The participants also happen to come from diverse ethnic, national and faith backgrounds. Durham Centre for Islamic Economics and Finance (DCIEF) is an internationally-acclaimed Centre of Excellence for Islamic finance. Held on July 24-28, 2017, this year’s edition of the DIFSS attracted about 50 external delegates, in addition to 35-50 internal participants who are registered in different academic programmes at Durham University. This year’s programme was as rigorous as in previous years, and the feedback from the participants was extremely positive. “Undoubtedly, one of the best summer schools in Islamic finance I have ever attended,” said Kamran Sherwani, Head of Shari’a and Compliance at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank’s Islamic window, ADCB Islamic.

“Undoubtedly, one of the best summer schools in Islamic finance I have ever attended.” Kamran Sherwani, Head of Shari’a and Compliance, ADCB Islamic

Kamran Sherwani proved to be one of the most popular speakers at the DIFSS. He shared his expertise on profit distribution mechanisms in Islamic banks, and also took a session on sukuk structuring. The high quality speakers like Kamran Sherwani are a hallmark of the DIFSS.

Other prominent speakers this year included:

Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin, World Bank

Dr. Hylmun Izhar, Islamic Research & Training Institute

Dr. Dalal Aassouli, Durham Centre for Islamic Economics and Finance

Dr. Ahmet Suayb Gundogdu, Islamic Development Bank

Professor Barbara Ruiz-Bejarano, The UNESCO-University of Alicante

Iqbal Khan, Fajr Capital

These speakers brought their perspectives on the matters of importance to IBF, based on their practical knowledge and experiences. For example, Dr. Dalal Aassouli shared her views on liquidity management practices and challenges for Islamic financial institutions. Her presentation included her experience with the International Liquidity Management Corporation (IILMC), set up by the government of Malaysia. She was a key member of the management team at IILMC, and her presentation was received with a lot of appreciation. Professor Barbara Ruiz-Bejarano spoke on halal markets and its dynamics, trends and issues. Her topic was one example of the diversification of topics at the DIFSS. Professor Mehmet Asutay, himself being an expert of Islamic political economy and its moral dimensions, spoke on the morality of IBF. The likes of Dr. Ahmet Suayb Gundogdu shared their wisdom and experiences on product development in IBF. His topic, “Islamic trade finance: practice, product development and future directions,” was very well-received. Iqbal Khan, CEO of Fajr Capital, ended the programme with his concluding remarks. That was the most befitting end to an amazing summer school.

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

TALKING POINTS

BITCOIN, A PERSPECTIVE OF ECONOMICS AND ISLAMIC LAW At present, specialists are hamstrung from offering a Sharʿi opinion on the production of Bitcoin by the sheer abundance of questions around this electronic currency combined with the lack of conceptual clarity around the product. In some respects the haze that surrounds the issue arises out of insufficiency of the information available. What has been stated to date has been inadequate, and has been of a rather exploratory and conceptualizing character. The present paper would perhaps initiate a hitherto unprecedented stage in which new steps are taken in dealing with this exigency in terms of Islamic law. I will attempt here to provide a seminal foundation for academic dialogue on the issue with due emphasis upon the nature of the problem as a contemporary exigency. It exhibits a great degree of similarity to fiduciary paper money unbacked by gold and silver whose status as money stems from confidence reposed in its issuer, who is the sovereign authority of every country, and whose value changes in relation to a country’s trade balance, i.e. its exports and imports in the first instance, followed by investments and speculations in the currency markets as the chief factor influencing the stability or unsteadiness of a currency vis-a-vis other currencies.

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Dr. AbdulBari Mashal Chairman Raqaba Group

The available information brings into relief three aspects to Bitcoin: (1) production; (2) dealing and trading in Bitcoin; and (3) entering the Bitcoin network as an investor. I will presently deal with the first and second aspects only, leaving aside the third on account of the fact that it lacks universality as compared to aspects 1 and 2, and in consideration of it holding greater relation to the mechanics of network marketing against which many a fatwa has warned.


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

TALKING POINTS

Production of the digital currency Bitcoin It is important at the outset to differentiate between Bitcoin as a digital currency on the one hand, and the possibility of converting any real currency to a digital or electronic currency. I will initially comment upon this latter aspect and later return to the first as it is the actual issue under discussion. Converting any currency into digital currency: It is possible to convert, or encrypt, real currency into digital or electronic currency in pursuit of a faster and safer means to exchange and trade in currencies, and perhaps even money laundering. This is because digital currency steps over the obstacles which state oversight imposes on currencies. Purpose and intent notwithstanding, this much produces nothing new in terms of the Islamic legal position. The mere reference to a currency in an alternative format does nothing to alter the reality of it being, for example, dollars or pounds sterling, even when expressed as an equivalent value under a new descriptor, eg. $100 = 1 unit of digital currency X. As long as it remains possible to revert to the original currency through decryption, matters will remain reasonable, acceptable and free from substantive change. In the use of currency cards, bank transfers or prepaid banks cards we actually find something that correlates to it in form, with one important distinction, which is that these mediums operate on units of the original currency itself while Bitcoin utilizes a new equivalent value and a new unit descriptor. This would then bring us to the situation where a real currency has been converted into Bitcoin via exchange, which is what I will presently discuss.

“Purpose and intent notwithstanding, this much produces nothing new in terms of the Islamic legal position.” Bitcoin as digital currency There are, as stated in the introduction, two aspects with which I will deal: firstly, production of this currency; and secondly, dealing with it and its acceptability as currency. To me, the second aspect appears to be much easier that the first. I will begin with the first. What is meant by production here is the issuance of currency, comparable to the minting of currency as in when a sovereign power prints dollars etc. With Bitcoin, however, there is no sovereign issuing authority. What we do have, according to the available information, is that anyone can issue Bitcoin currency through the process referred to as mining on specific internet sites. This is done via the use of an electronic program that requires a high powered computer. The computer process culminates in the production of a specific number of units of the digital currency Bitcoin. Accordingly, anyone can use the program and issue Bitcoin currency with which to credit his own internet based account. This method of production forms a substantive point of divergence between sovereign issued currency, and Bitcoin. The latter is not issued by an authority who defines and guarantees it. This particular aspect of Bitcoin is wrapped in obscurity. Some of the information available would appear to point at the possibility that this currency could even electronically evaporate from a user’s internet account. The absence of a guaranteeing authority would mean that in instances of such evaporation there would be no one from whom compensation could be demanded.

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

TALKING POINTS It may be argued that commercial banks as private entities issue credit money many times in excess of the amount of actual currency originally deposited with them, and they do this by granting finance to an extent much higher than the deposits they hold. However, the difference between Bitcoin and money issued by commercial banks (in a process spoken of as the creation of money) is that issuance by banks is backed by the guarantee of original deposits as well as by oversight of the sovereign authority. None of these two factors features in Bitcoin. I now continue on to the second aspect, leaving for later the Islamic legal position on issuance, since complete conceptualization and an economic view would greatly facilitate the formulation of a position in Islamic law. To date the issuance of Bitcoin has been riddled by the obscurity that surrounds its guaranteeing authority and the sovereign authority which generates confidence in it. The real purpose of Bitcoin is to compete with other currencies in the purchase of goods and services, or even speculating in currency. Bitcoin has in fact emerged as an accepted currency in thousands of stores around the world, and has become accepted as a currency parallel to other currencies to the extent where it has become exchangeable with the dollar and the euro at prices accepted in Wall Street like any other currency. The emergence of Bitcoin currency from its issuer (or producer) to the restaurant owner or the owners of dollars or pounds raises Bitcoin from the obscurity and haze that surrounds the stage of its production, to a stage where a general norm comes to form around Bitcoin as an accepted means for settling obligations, a means of commercial exchange, or a store of value or wealth. These are the salient features of any currency. At this point, if we were to close our eyes to the nebulousness of production, we find ourselves before a new currency comparable to other currencies in their essential features whilst exceeding them in ease and safety—but also exhibiting the risk factors of which we spoke earlier. The Islamic legal view on issuance: It is noted that Bitcoin differs from the fundamental concept for the issuance of any currency in that its issuing authority is unknown, that it is acquired without recompense, and that its producers gain access to great advantages by exchanging these numbers for goods and other currencies. Through the advantages of issuing currency they are able to generate enormous

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“The real purpose of Bitcoin is to compete with other currencies in the purchase of goods and services, or even speculating in currency.�

wealth at the expense of society as represented in its sovereign authority. This is one of the important axial points of consideration in the formulation of an Islamic legal position in the issuance of Bitcoin. The issuance stage, however, will soon recede into a non-existent historical stage while the currency itself remains as available and accessible as any other. The questions will remain: Who is the issuer? And by what right did the issuer achieve those massive returns on issuance? Is it an undisclosed global government with governmental authority to issue? This assumption might well be the key to facilitating an Islamic legal position, thereby bypassing the issuance stage. As the currency increases in circulation, discussion around the issuance stage will disappear because the currency would then become, as mentioned, a reality before the eyes and ears of the world. The Islamic legal view of the post-issuance stage (circulation, settlement and saving): A general norm has begun forming around the acceptability of this currency in all markets in full view of legislators. There are even places for the exchange of Bitcoin against other currencies. This will reinforce a view of Bitcoin as fully comparable to other currencies in currency-forcurrency contracts, and in usury through the enforcement of equivalence in case of singlespecie contracts, and the taking of constructive delivery bilaterally where more than one specie is involved as in the case of dollars-for-Bitcoin, as well as the prohibition on lending at interest.

Support for the notion of a general norm might be drawn here from a point Imam Malik mentions: if people were to agree on camel skin leather as money, the rules of usury would apply to it. The reality, however, is somewhat different. Money issued from camel skin leather is on par with gold and silver since all of these are recognized as goods in their own right, which is quite different from paper money which are not goods on their own but only paper. Bitcoin, similarly, is only numbers. It is for this reason that I have hinted at the problems inherent in its issuance. Had Bitcoin been a form of goods in its own right it could have been said to be similar to gold, silver or camel leather. Being as it is a mere number, it bears greater resemblance to contemporary paper money which is nothing but paper. Nevertheless, Bitcoin differs from paper money in that the latter receives from sovereign decree a confidence which it will lose in full only through another sovereign decree of discontinuation, while confidence in Bitcoin grows gradually, without any sovereign decree, but only by its actual existence. The above is not a legal ruling. It is a window to boost academic legal study of this important exigency. The length to which it went was necessary. I preferred not to divide it into two papers in order to keep the subject in one place from the first aspect, thereby allowing researchers and specialists to develop upon it.


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

PERSONALITY

OTHMAN ABDULLAH

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

PERSONALITY

I always aim to be the best at whatever that I do. What drives me then is the desire to be the best.

W

hat was one of your most defining moments in life?

My most defining moment was when I emerged as the Best Student, Graduating Class of July 1993 after completing a 3 year American Degree Program (AAD) as preparation to be transferred to a university in the US. As the top student, I was given the honour to give a valedictorian speech. After the convocation ceremony, I was interviewed by a newspaper journalist. The next day, a photo of me and my family was in the News Straits Times Malaysia with my graduation story entitled “Slogging pays for top student”.

W

hat was your earliest ambition?

Coming from an uneducated family and living in a small town during my younger days, I was not exposed to the various exciting professions out there. My late mother had always wanted me to be a teacher, and that became my earliest ambition. But all this changed when one day during my final year at secondary school, I was asked by my Physics teacher what my ambition in life was. She wasn’t too excited with my answer as she believed I had so much potential. She instead advised me to be an engineer. Thanks to her, I actually became a computer engineer.

That memorable experience had boasted my confident tremendously because during the initial stage in the AAD program, I was very scared that I could not make it due to my poor proficiency in English. I was accepted into the programme with my English just meeting the minimum entry requirement. After enrolment, I had to sit for TOEFL of which if I did not pass after three attempts, I would be expelled. I managed to pass with a score slightly above the passing marks, only after my second attempt. From a very low confidence level of not being able to make it to graduating as the best student, it was like a wild dream to me. The whole episode taught me a very valuable lesson. Nothing is impossible if you are determined and set your mind to achieve your goal. Of course you have to work hard to get there.

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

PERSONALITY

I am inspired by all successful people that started from nothing

W

hat ambitions do you still have?

I would like to be successful in the corporate world and sit on the board of various companies. I would also like to get a PHD and contribute in academics as an adjunct professor and later become full time academician after I retire from the corporate world. I also want to publish books.

W W

hat drives you?

I always aim to be the best at whatever that I do. What drives me then is the desire to be the best.

ho has inspired you in your life and why?

I am inspired by all successful people that started from nothing especially so for those people who came from humble family backgrounds. Such people are typically very determine and perseverance all the way to get to where they are today. Not to forget, a lot of sacrifices will have to be made along the journey.

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PERSONALITY

H

ow do you define success?

For me success is when you have peace of mind - you are financially secured, you live happily with your family and you can afford to do what you like. Most importantly, you are in good health to enjoy your life in the company of your family and friends. And when you are no longer around, people remember your legacy and have nothing but good things to say about you.

W

hat is your philosophy towards your work?

To produce excellent results, we have to be passionate about our work, be proactive to make our work interesting, assume responsibilities and try new things. We shouldn’t shy away from seeking help when we need it. No excuse if we don’t make it as we have only ourselves to be blamed.

W

hat is your best childhood memory?

My life was mundane until I completed primary school. It only became more interesting during my secondary school days. I was active in cocurricular activities and was an excellent student. I was a school prefect, class monitor and a committee member of few clubs. I represented my school in Malay language speeches and debates competitions. I also took part in some drama and traditional dance competitions. By the time I was in the final year of my secondary school, the school principal and most teachers knew me in person and I was quite well known among the students too. Looking back, I would say those were some of my best memories towards the later part of my childhood.

H

ow would your friends describe you?

My friends would probably describe me as a good teacher. Thanks for Allah’s blessing on me for being able to articulate well, some friends actually told me that they liked it when I explained something to them as I could make it easier for them to understand.

I

f you could only keep five possessions, what would they be?

• Al – Quran for my spiritual purpose • My smart phone for communications and to look at memorable pictures • My laptop to do my work • My passport to be able to go to places in this world • My diplomas/certificates as proof of my credentials that I had worked hard for

I

f you could travel anywhere, where would you go and why?

My work has taken me to quite number of places. I like Europe especially the stunning architectural designs and New Zealand for the natural sceneries. I have never been to Morocco but would love to visit. There is so much to see and learn about Morocco with the history spanning several millennia and Islamic footprint all the way back to the Ummayad Caliphate’s time.

I

f you had a chance for a “doover” in life, what would you do differently?

I would take up accountancy and become a professional accountant. I have observed that people helming top positions in big public listed companies especially in financial services industry are mostly qualified accountants. If I am a qualified accountant, I would like to be a CEO of an Islamic financial institution.

I W

f someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?

“The Islamic FinTech Man”

hat is your favourite quote and why?

“Richness is not having many possessions, but richness is being content with oneself”(Prophet Muhamad s.a.w.) We will never think that we have enough of material possessions. Real happiness comes when we are content with what we have.

I

f your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he say?

He would probably congratulate me for the choice that I had made to create a niche in Islamic finance which uses technical knowledge that I started gathering since my early twenties and complement it with Islamic finance knowledge that I have been gathering for the past 20 years.

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St. Barbarossa’s Memoirs is a regular feature of ISFIRE. We present here the memoirs of Professor Humayon Dar in a light and occasionally humorous way to highlight some issues of importance to the global Islamic financial services industry. This is not intended to offend any individual or institution but rather present a perspective on the practice of Islamic banking and finance.


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

Meezan Bank is the largest Islamic bank in Pakistan. I have visited its headquarters in Karachi on numerous occasions, and I was impressed by the Islamic culture the bank has nurtured amongst its key employees and the central management. Visiting Meezan Bank’s headquarters is a pleasant experience. I have visited numerous conventional banks in Pakistan and in other countries, and I must say that Meezan Bank stands tall in terms of upholding an Islamic culture within the organisation. The bank is led by Irfan Siddiqui who has provided an exemplary leadership. In terms of Shari’a authenticity, Pakistan provides the best example of compliance with Shari’a. Meezan Bank has led the process of Shari’a assurance from the front. The bank’s leadership is close to what most advocates of Islamic banking and finance (IBF) would like to see in terms of their competency and adherence to Shari’a on a personal level. The likes of Ahmed Ali Siddiqui (Head of Product Development & Shari’a Compliance), Farhan Usmani (Head of Shari’a Audit & Advisory) and other members of the executive management of the bank lead the bank by example. A number of members of the top management of the bank has some kind of formal qualification in Shari’a from the seminaries like Darul Uloom Karachi or informal instruction from Shari’a scholars. No wonder why Meezan Bank has achieved a lot of accolades, apart from being a profitable bank in the country. The bank benefits from direct guidance by Sheikh Taqi Usmani, arguably the most influential jurist of the present times. His son, Dr. Muhammad Imran Usmani, serves as the full-time resident Shari’a advisor at the bank. All the above praise for Meezan Bank is not without a purpose. I wanted to share with our readers the experience of culinary delights I had when I visited the bank. Irfan Siddiqui, President & CEO of the bank, invited

ISFIRE MEMOIRS

me for lunch during one of my visits to its headquarters. The eatery is an impressive place at the bank, where all the employees can enjoy delicious food for very cheap prices. It reminded me of my early morning visits to Bloomberg offices in London. Bloomberg offers free breakfast to its employees, and I was told that it has contributed to productivity of its employees. To avoid the possible perception by our readers that I might have been paid to write this note of appreciation for Meezan Bank, I must also mention of some other Islamic banks in Pakistan, which are being led by some very able people. Bank Islami Pakistan is one such example. Its President and CEO, Hasan Bilgrami, is another visionary leader who has built the bank from scratch. I remember visiting him in his office in an unfinished tower in Karachi (before the fullfledged launch of the bank), overlooking the Arabian Sea. I presented to him a product that we had developed at that time for the use of Islamic banks around the world. He rejected the product on the grounds that it wasn’t sufficiently a profit loss sharing (PLS) product. He wanted to offer “genuinely” PLS-oriented products through his bank. A few years later, we met again, and he said, “The PLS doesn’t work. When I want to offer PLS to successful businesses they are not willing to share their profits with us. Only low quality financing opportunities are brought to us for PLS.” I just thought at that time that economists were not entirely useless people. They had for long identified moral hazard and adverse selection issues with share contracts. At this juncture, I must mention of my meeting with Nat Rothschild in New York in 2008 or 2009. I presented a very innovative Islamic financial product for use by one of the entities the Rothschild family owns. He didn’t like the product on the grounds that it was not sufficiently Islamic. His argument was interesting. He was of the view that his family

would like to offer the most conservative Islamic products, if it decided to do so, to avoid any possible reputational risks. Given the not very ideal perception of the Jewish community amongst most of the Muslims (and of the Rothschild family), he didn’t want to expose his business to any controversies and the consequent reputational risks. I liked the guy, and I also wondered if we should ask Jews to take a lead role in developing IBF. I must say that in most cases, we the Muslims are making mockery of IBF by developing products that have limited appeal amongst the Muslim masses. On the issue of product development in IBF, I must say that there is a dangerous trend emerging in even the most conservative markets. I have shown my appreciation for the Shari’a authenticity of IBF in Pakistan but even in this market some hawkish Shari’a scholars of the second generation have started developing soft corners for otherwise Shari’a-light products. Salam currency is one such issue and we have included an analysis of such products in a previous issue of ISFIRE. There is one group on social media, called Islamic Economic Forum, on the WhatsApp, where some young Shari’a scholars have aggressively defended some questionable Islamic financial products. I have shown my discomfort with such a trend. While jurisprudence is central to product development, consideration of other socioeconomic factors is also important for product development and wider development of IBF. If such trends are not analysed in an objective way, this will lead to acceptance of interest in Islam, albeit in a camouflaged way. Conservatism is the best policy in this respect. In this context, I have huge respect for the likes of Dr. Muhammad Anas Zarqa, a prominent Islamic economics and son of the famous jurist Dr. Mustafa Zarqa, who has shown huge restraint in opining on Islamic financial products.

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MIR FAISAL TALPUR

TECHNOLOGY IS CHANGING EVERYTHING FROM HOW WE SPEAK TO FELLOW HUMANS TO HOW WE COMMUNICATE WITH AN ARTIFICIALLY INTELLIGENT PERSONAL ASSISTANT


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

INTERVIEW

CEO & Founder Cinch Technologies

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INTERVIEW

There is a lot to be done, and one of the major challenges that this industry faces is the fear of acceptance among the new adopters.

Mir Faisal Talpur follows his dreams with a businessman’s mind set. As a successful serial entrepreneur, he likes to put ideas into action to help his clients turn their dreams into reality. He wears various hats as a ​skilled consultant, business turnaround specialist, technology enthusiast, marketing expert and property investments advisor. ​Mr Talpur is currently serving as CEO of Cinch Group of Companies, a London-based group, with interests and experiences in technology, investment and financial advisory, brand media & marketing, high-end consulting, call centre development & management, ​business automation,​​and​​e-commerce. Entrepreneur at heart, Mir Faisal Talpur has been involved with helping and setting up businesses for almost a decade. While running a successful property investment company, he also ventured into creative technology.

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During his ventures he realised the inadequate use of technology among organisations. He decided to do something about it and founded Cinch Technologies, along with his wife, Shakera Alam, who comes from a corporate City background. In 2017, Faisal is excited to launch his new venture ‘Business Pronto’, which can be classified as world’s first of its kind “business entrepreneurship platform”. The platform aims​​ to​​enhance​​the​​true​​spirit​​of​​entrepreneurship​​and​​help​​ businesses​​achieve​​success. Mir Faisal Talpur exhibits the entrepreneurial spirit of London. Professor Humayon Dar interviewed him for the benefit of many established and potential entrepreneurs in Islamic banking​​and​​finance.


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

INTERVIEW

O

ur readers would like to know about your family background, education and professional interests. Would you care sharing these briefly?

You’re​​starting​​with​​a​​wrong​​question​​[smiling].​​ Asking​​an​​ex-royal​​about​​his​​family background​​is​​ at​​times​​painful.​​Having​​said​​that​​I​​t ake​​pleasure​​ in​​sharing​​with​​you​​and​​your readers​​that​​I​​ belong​​to​​the​​Royal​​Talpur​​family​​of​​Sindh​​in​​the​​ Indian​​Sub-continent.​​Talpurs ruled​​Sindh,​​now​​ a​​province​​of​​Pakistan,​​just​​before​​the​​advent​​ of​​the​​British.​​I​​am​​the​​5th direct​​descendent​​of​​ the​​last​​ruler,​​His​​Highness​​Mir​​Sher​​Muhammad​​ Talpur,​​also​​known​​as the​​Lion​​of​​Sindh.​​Talpurs​​ were​​considered​​to​​be​​the​​most​​benevolent​​ leaders​​in​​the​​history of​​Sindh,​​a​​tradition​​still​​ continued​​by​​many​​Talpurs,​​including​​my​​father,​​ Mir​​Khalid​​Hussain Talpur,​​who​​is​​responsible​​ for​​the​​upkeep​​of​​over​​10,000​​people​​in​​Mirpur​​ Khas,​​Sindh.

T

echnology is determining the way we live in the postmodern world. Please tell us about​​your​​technology​​ business. ​ inancial institutions like banks are embarking F on plans to encourage significant investment in the FinTech sector. Technology is changing everything from how we speak to fellow humans to how we communicate with an artificially intelligent personal assistant like Amazon​​Alexa. Cinch Technologies prides in providing solutions that have real use in the market. In our business approach, every innovation or revolutionary idea must go through a process to lead to a product that must eventually be accepted in the market for ultimate consumption and use. There is a stepped process for a new concept or technology to be accepted in the social system.​​ We​​divide​​this​​process​​into​​layers.​​We​​focus​​on​​ the​​layer​​that​​no​​one​​is​​focusing​​on.

Like many of my cousins and other members of the extended family, I received my early education from BVS Parsi High School in Karachi. My fascination with technology started when I was 8. My mother, Tasleem Talpur, played a very pivotal role in my personal and creative development and encouraged me to seek further education in the UK. At the age of 19, I came to London to seek further education and completed my BSc. in Computer Science from Queen Mary University of London. My entrepreneurial and innovative nature led me to choose​​a​​path​​away​​ from​​family​​business.

This layer is where the concept meets human understanding. It is where idea starts to now find a real use in people’s lives, a harmonic convergence of radical thoughts with conventional logic. This is the layer which has the potential to disrupt the market and we call it as trans-integrational layer. A lot of activity takes place here. It is where human actions and underlying business methods can be converted into their technical equivalent, where different systems can coherently work to solve complex problems. By focusing on this layer we​​can​​ dissect​​complex​​functions​​into​​single​​t asks.

I experimented with various innovative products, before inventing E-Thermal shoes at the age of 17 for which I also hold a patent. My accolades also include running Pakistan’s first Englishlanguage scientific magazine called ‘Knowledge Spectra’. I was the founder and editor​​of​​this​​ magazine.

Trans-integrational layer deals with the transformation of people’s mind set, their adaptability to new technology, their acceptability of change and their conscious competence of making the right decisions. It also deals with the acceptance of technology in the industry and internal integration of systems to provide a sustainable and homogenous environment. ​It is this layer which we feel is the most used by humans but overlooked by majority​​of​​technology​​companies.

I

t is becoming a bit too philosophical and too technological for me. Can you please tell how​​your​​ technological​​innovations​​can​​help​​ Islamic​​banking​​and​​finance? I’m ​sorry​​for​​getting​​carried​​away.​​This​​should​​ show​​my​​passion​​for​​technology. [After​​a​​pause] We are working on concepts that will change the way Shari’a-compliant businesses trade, how they get funded, how they market themselves, and how individuals conduct their personal​​finances. Modern Islamic banking is just 40 years old with last 10 years being the most creative decade. There is a lot to be done, and one of the major challenges that this industry faces is the fear of acceptance among the new adopters. In an effort to boost the transition from conventional system to Islamic finance we will be streamlining communication channels, easing the resistance through literacy and education and make the interactions more social and​​friendly. Our Islamic finance projects include financial literacy, crowdfunding, peer to peer lending, online Shari’a banking, investments, e-payment, m-payment and s-payment systems. ​One of the problems we are trying to address is to provide a lucrative finance alternative to the UK companies​​by​​providing​​a​​peer​​to​​peer​​Shari’acompliant​​crowdfunding​​platform.

A

ny​​specific​​products​​in​​the​​ pipeline?

We expect to do this by introducing concepts like Shari’a-compliant loan management systems​ ; ​self-learning, intelligent and interactive portals; practical education and e-learning portals;​​smart​​ payment​​systems​;​​and​​​community​​currencies.

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INTERVIEW

My daily aim for my team is simple: Move forward with clarity of purpose, make sure to be creative in what you do and improve upon yourself daily.

W

e have heard that you’re about to launch a global investment platform. Would you like​ ​to​ ​share​ ​details​ ​of​ ​ this​i​nnovative​​exchange​​with​​our​​ readership? Yes. We are, In Shaa Allah, launching what is supposed to be the world’s first Shari’acompliant global investor marketplace. We believe this will be the future face of how global investments will work. This is a cloud based platform that will allow users to trade openly. By trade, we mean traditional trade. The platform will also behave as an intermediary on many occasions when required. An example of this can be trade finance, where the platform can buy the asset and then sell it to the end buyer with the margin being the profit. Other features will include investment comparison, personal finance management, fundraising, invoice discounting, asset or inventory finance, and other products to help businesses with their​​working​​capital. It will be a truly global online investment platform where investors will congregate to benefit from assorted and pre-qualified offerings. I am very excited to see this being developed as a technologically advanced, feature rich, innovative online marketplace and communication network where, for the first time, product providers will be given the opportunity to have a one to one direct contact with investors, while investors will be able to communicate with other​​fellow​​ investors​​enabling​​a​​global​​exchange​​of​​friendly​​ investment​​network. Such offerings on the platform will attract UK and global businesses and provide them with powerful alternative to fall back on. As the offering will be based on cloud technology this will​​give​​the​​power​​back​​to​​the​​users​​and​​allow​​ them​​to​​use​​the​​service​​from​​anywhere.

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T

his is absolutely awesome. How can our readers and other people invest in this project,​​if​​this​​project​​is​​ open​​to​​external​​investors​​at​​all? The idea of the project is to bring likeminded people together. We are always open fordiscussions be it an individual or an institutional investor. If there is a synergy and common ground, we are very open to form a mutual beneficial relationship, which will help the end product. I always believe that the more likeminded people on board the quicker you move forward​​and​​that’s​​where​​the​​core​​strength​​lies​​ in​​‘Togetherness’​​.

Y

ou​ ​have​ ​lived​ ​in​ ​London​ ​for​ ​ long.​​Do​​you​​think​​Islamic​​ banking​​and​​finance​​has​​ any meaningful​ ​future​​in​​the​​UK? Yes, undoubtedly. I am a firm believer of good positive change. There should always be another way. We live in the world of choices. From the choice of shampoo to the choice of cars. Then why shouldn’t we be able to choose the financial system we want to be associated​​with? David Cameron (former UK Prime Minister) made an announcement in 2013 putting London on the map of global capitals of Islamic finance. We, the British Muslims hope that the successive UK governments will continue to provide a levelplaying field to Islamic banking and​​finance.


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

INTERVIEW

W

hat challenges do you perceive for financial services in the wake of growing role and influence​​of​​FinTech? I​ feel it’s a trust, expectation and timing issue. If financial services industry and all the more important consumers in their heart of hearts accept technology, then the FinTech revolution will prevail in a comprehensive way. For FinTech to become mainstream FinTech companies need to approach the market where their products are understood and relied upon by the people. Change, adaptability and acceptance are the 3 challenges any revolution faces, and bringing FinTech into our daily lives won’t be different. There are speedy innovations happening in other areas, but in FinTech that is not the case. Surely, we need to speed up that process. This, however, has to go hand in hand with creating market awareness,​​adaptability​​to​​change​​and​​ acceptance.

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INTERVIEW

P

lease share with the readers a typical day of Mir Faisal Talpur. How it starts and what​ ​are​ ​must​ ​on​ ​the​ ​to-do​ ​ list​​on​​a​​daily​​basis?

N

ow a few words about your future business plans. How does your vision of business and​​ entrepreneurship​​treat​​Islamic​​ banking​​and​​finance?

I always like to challenge the status quo, especially when things don’t look right and we all know the financial environment has had more than its fair share of problems. We would like to contribute and help put things in order, if possible. Modern Islamic financial system is still nascent and is going through a major awareness stage. Lack of education on how Islamic products work is one of the main challenges; which is where we are positioning to approach the​​market​​with​​a​​practical​​education​​solution. We would like to be flying the creative flag in the next decades to come, and always looking for​​ partners​​who​​shares​​our​​flair.

Y

ou must have travelled to a number of countries. Which Muslim-majority country has​​really​​ impressed​​you​​and​​why? [laughing]: One must remain in good books of one’s wife. But when I name Bangladesh it is not just pleasing my wife who comes from Bangladesh. I have been extremely impressed by the country, as it has gone through a complete overhaul and deep financial technology revolution. Their ​mobile internet subscribers are over 60 million, and over 100 million mobile users make Bangladesh a perfect incubator and growth hub for FinTech start-ups. The world’s second largest mobile money provider company is from Bangladesh. There is a huge opportunity and potential to develop other FinTech sectors in Bangladesh. The current government is also encouraging the digital revolution in the country and their policies and budget are ICT friendly. When Bangladesh overcomes the lack of consumer trust issue in technology​​we​​will​​ see​​more​​key​​players​​in​​FinTech​​sector​​emerging​​ from​​Bangladesh.

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Day starts with my Fajr prayers. Although I wake up at 4.30 am, I come to work at around 10:30 am. Late for most of the world! Time between 5 am till I get to work is my self-development time, as I pray, meditate, focus and plan my life and business. I utilise this time for creative and innovative ideas and plan how to execute them. I reflect on my current projects​a​ nd​​make​​future​​ strategies. I am probably the most relaxed CEO. I believe things happen when they are meant to happen and pushing and stressing does not help. I hardly have a daily strict to-do list. I am a firm believer in focusing on the end goal we are trying to achieve, the destination we need to get to, and my aim daily is to make sure that I and my team across 3 countries are moving towards that goal. We aim to synchronise our work as much as possible where including myself other people in the company have clarity on what they are doing and work efficiently. When I’m at office, 80% of my time goes towards working on the business while the remaining 20% I work in the business. I have reduced key-man dependency, introduced smart delegation and automated our business. My daily aim for my team is simple: Move forward with clarity of purpose, make sure to be creative in what you do and improve upon yourself daily. Most days I leave work by 6.30 pm. Although my wife and I work together we make sure the day ends with spending quality time with each other, occasionally with friends​​ and​​family.


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

INTERVIEW

W

hat would be your message to the global Islamic financial services community, particularly​​the​​youth?

The youth who have chosen Islamic financial services as their career path or are willing to venture into this sector as entrepreneurs should keep a positive, yet keen eye on the market. Interestingly, in my opinion, despite a sluggish start this sector will see considerable growth in the next decade and enjoy a prolonged success after that. In favourable global economic​​ conditions,​​it​​may​​even​​experience​​a​​period​​of​​ hyper​​exponential​​growth.

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PAUSE FOR THOUGHT

“There is no conflict between the Islamic law and morality; the former merely formalises the latter.�

CHARACTER BUILDING THROUGH ISLAMIC BANKING & FINANCE Islamic banking and finance (IBF) is legalistic in its very nature. Those who are involved in product development in Islamic financial institutions are very well aware that the Islamic jurisprudence of financial transactions is deeply rooted in ethics. There is an explicit emphasis on understanding of contractual arrangements and honouring the terms and conditions therein. Morality in Islam is governed by implicit and explicit contracts that people enter into for different economic activities. There is no conflict between the Islamic law and morality; the former merely formalises the latter.

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Working for an Islamic business (i.e., an Islamic bank) in itself should induce good behaviour on part of its employees. In addition, it is the responsibility of Islamic banks and financial institutions to provide character-building training to its employees so that the business does not face undue reputational risks. It may not be too demanding to ask Islamic banks to start spending on character-building of their customers and clientsl. There are well-established credit score cards that banks (including Islamic banks) use to assess credit

worthiness of their customers. Similarly, character score cards can easily be developed to assess morality of their customers. In the beginning, the proposed character score cards may be based on the voluntarily provided information by their employees and customers, which can be further developed and refined with the availability of more detailed data.


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

PAUSE FOR THOUGHT

This is not a far-fetched idea, as the government of China has already embarked upon a project to develop a social credit score, which will be based on all the actions and activities of the companies and individuals, stored in a central place. Although this project has temporarily been halted for a number of socio-political concerns, the project will resume after these concerns have been addressed. Based on the social credit scores, the individuals and businesses will be given certain concessions or will face restrictions if their score falls short of a threshold. Credit scoring companies like Experian have credit files off all the individuals (who are listed on the national voters list) in the UK. The proposal here can be seen as an extension of the practice to include social behaviour.

hence they should be positively discriminated. Inclusion of positive screens in addition to negative screens in Islamic asset management is a relevant trend in this respect.

As such social credit scores are not available at present, CSR-related activities of corporate clients of Islamic banks should be taken as preliminary indicators of good behaviour, and

Some people may opine that this will amount to a Big Brother watching you all the time, which goes against civil liberties and individual freedom. This is certainly a valid argument.

Islamic banks should also start investing in a character score card similar to the proposed Chinese social credit card, which could be based on certain social, moral, and economic. factors. For example, if someone is found to be involved in domestic violence, that person could be denied access to financial services offered by Islamic banks. In the beginning, it will be difficult to collect and collate data on customers, but it should be relatively easier to have such information on the employees of Islamic banks. Hence, a good start will be to develop the system for employees of Islamic banks, later to extend it to customers.

However, in this world of big data analytics, we are all being watched all the time in one way or the other. Smart phones and social media platform continuously collect and store data on their users and customers. Credit card companies have detailed information on their cardholders and can very easily analyse their spending behaviour. Obviously, a comprehensive character score card can only be developed with the help of government bodies and other big market players. The national citizenship registration authorities have data on all the individuals living in a country and through IT systems each and every individual is assigned a unique registration number. More data can be stitched around these unique registration numbers to develop a character score card.

1Although this project has temporarily been halted for a number of socio-political concerns, the project will resume after these concerns have been addressed.

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PAUSE FOR THOUGHT

FINANCIAL INTEGRITY

Without suggesting to have an open-ended all-encompassing character score system, we suggest that it should initially be based on five pillars:

Financial integrity can easily be quantified by looking into the factors like involvement in fraud, tax evasion, and wilful default etc.

PERSONAL MORALITY Personal morality should be based on whether the person has lied in the past, is involved in child labour (e.g., whether the person employs a child as a domestic worker), has been proven to be involved in domestic violence, and the related factors.

SOCIAL BEHAVIOUR Social behaviour should refer to contribution to charitable and good causes, involvement in promotion of civic services, and voluntary services like lollypop man services (or what is otherwise known as crossing guide services), etc.

COMMITMENT TO ISLAMIC BANKING & FINANCE Commitment to Islamic banking and finance may be gauged by looking into multiple accounts (with Islamic and conventional banks), attitude towards the prohibition of interest, and the general perception of Islamic banking and finance the person may have, etc.

ADHERENCE TO SHARI’A

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Adherence to Shari’a is perhaps the most controversial from a secular viewpoint, and Islamic banks must take extra care to incorporate it in the proposed character scoring. It is recommended that the non-Muslims should not be discriminated against on the basis of Shari’a adherence.

In the beginning, the proposed character scoring system may not be perfect but it will evolve into something meaningful. Like Human Development Index (HDI), as developed by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), was not all encompassing in the beginning but over the years it has given birth to a number of other sub-indices that have incorporated human development more comprehensively. Similarly, the proposed character character scoring will also improve with the passage of the time. Why is the proposed character scoring system important and why Islamic banks should spearhead this initiative? The proposed character scoring system is important because it will be a market-led process to reform Islamic societies. All other efforts (political, religious and purely reform-based) have failed to bring social reforms in the Muslim world. With the IT revolution it has for the first time become possible for the private sector to collect and collate information on individuals and corporates on various aspects of their lives and businesses. Hence, it is important for Islamic banks to come forward and play an important role in this respect. Access to finance is a basic need and there is huge emphasis being placed on financial inclusion all over the world. Islamic banks, emerging as important players in the financial systems of the countries where they operate, are in the best position to induce the required changes in individual behaviour and through an aggregation process in the social thinking and practices.

“Social behaviour should refer to contribution to charitable and good causes, involvement in promotion of civic services, and voluntary services like lollypop man services (or what is otherwise known as crossing guide services), etc.”


Cambridge

MBRID

GE

CA

Analytica

IFLP

IF

4th

CAMBRIDGE

ISLAMIC FINANCE LEADERSHIP PROGRAMME

JULY 29 - AUGUST 3, 2018

C L A R E CO L L E G E , C A M B R I D G E

Leadership Talks Leadership Activities The Cambridge Islamic Finance Leadership Programme (Cambridge-IFLP) aims to prepare the next generation of outstanding leaders in

Leadership Interviews

Social Activities

Islamic banking & finance by providing them with unique mentoring opportunities, rigorous

Cambridge Cases

leadership training from renowned leaders, and industry-specific perspectives through case studies specifically written for this programme.

Leadership Workshops


ISFIRE REPORT

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017


ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | WWW.ISFIRE.NET

ISFIRE REPORT

The 7th Global Islamic Finance Awards Ceremony (GIFA Ceremony) was held at a glittery event attended by heads of state and government, ministers, ambassadors and Islamic financial fraternity from around the world. Held on the 6th of September 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan; more than 200 dignitaries and leaders in Islamic finance attended the awards gala dinner, which was organised by Edbiz Corporation and hosted by the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC). In its seventh year, GIFA is now fully embraced by the global Islamic finance industry attracting a host of strong and worthy nominations. The annual ceremony is designed to highlight, encourage and reward exceptional performance and contribution in the growth of the global Islamic banking and finance community with an ultimate objective of promoting social responsibility, adherence to Shari’a authenticity and commitment to Islamic banking and finance. Being the only global Islamic finance awards programme, GIFA winners come from all corners of the world, from the USA to Indonesia, and from the UK to Kazakhstan. The winners are selected from all stakeholders – from industry players to regulators and from Shari’a scholars to the services providers on the fringe of the industry. GIFA is also the only Islamic finance award programme that recognises the role and support of governments and politicians in the development of Islamic banking and finance.

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ISFIRE REPORT

ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

“GIFA prides itself on being the most authentic market-led awards in the global Islamic financial services industry,” said Professor Humayon Dar, Founding Chairman of GIFA. “Since the first awards ceremony in Oman in 2011, GIFA has become the most prestigious Islamic finance awards programme in the world, respected and sought after by leading political personalities and countries involved in Islamic banking and finance.” Over the last 7 years, GIFA have honoured more than 180 governments, institutions and individuals who have demonstrated strong commitment and leadership in Islamic finance. Commenting on the awards winners, Professor Humayon Dar commented, “Over the years, we have seen new levels of innovation and authenticity in the products and services of our winners. These reflect the growing diversity and strength of the Islamic financial services industry.” The choice of Astana, Kazakhstan to host the seventh GIFA is strategic, as to highlight the emerging role of Kazakhstan in Islamic banking and finance. With the passing of its first laws for Islamic banking in 2009, Kazakhstan became the first country in the CIS to facilitate the development of Islamic finance and is poised to establish itself as a regional hub for Islamic finance in Central Asia and the CIS region. AIFC Governor, Kairat Kelimbetov opened the award ceremony with a welcoming address in which he highlighted that “In 2009, Kazakhstan became the first country in the CIS region and Central Asia to create a path for Islamic finance industry. Since then Kazakhstan has witnessed a gradual growth in developing of Islamic finance industry.” The Governor also shared his vision for AIFC to serve as an Islamic finance gateway and Islamic finance hub for the region. As such the Governor said that “one of the pillars in the work of AIFC, scheduled to launch next year is Islamic finance.” His Excellency Kairat Kelimbetov, Governor of Astana International Financial Centre, delivering his speech.

During her welcoming speech, Dr. Sofiza Azmi, CEO of Edbiz Corporation said that “The coverage of GIFA is comprehensive, as we include all the industry stakeholders from politicians to academicians that have played leadership roles in their respective fields.” She further added that “Since GIFA first made its debut in Muscat, Oman; the awards programme has come a long way to become the number one Islamic finance awards programme in the world.” Today GIFA is indeed a global brand that is recognised as the most authentic and respected Islamic finance awards programme in the world. She also applauded and congratulated all award winners who have displayed leadership and innovation in the industry. She added that their success exemplifies the relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to create a positive impact in the world through the shared values and principles of Islamic finance.

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His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, addressed the guests and in his speech he said “It is an honour to host the GIFA. Gathering participants of the global financial market is an effective tool of international cooperation.” He added that “the award ceremony will identify the leaders of different areas of Islamic finance, which will contribute to the further development of financial services. I express gratitude to the founder of the global award for the decision to hold a ceremony in our country.” He also reiterated the importance of Islamic finance for the country, saying that the estimated assets of the Islamic finance sector in Kazakhstan is expected to reach US$23 billion by 2025 and make up 10% of the total banking sector assets.

His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, delivering his speech.

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

More than 50 individuals and institutions from world over were recognised for their leadership roles in Islamic banking and finance at the prestigious GIFA gala dinner where the President of the Republic of Djibouti, Ismail Omar Guelleh, was honoured with the Global Islamic Finance Leadership Award 2017 for the great strides his country has made in the field of Islamic banking and finance under his direct patronage. It is due to the keen personal interest taken by President Ismail Omar Guelleh that Djibouti is now serving as a gateway for Islamic banking and finance to the East African region.

His Excellency Ismail Omar Guelleh, President of the Republic of Djibouti, receiving the Global Islamic Finance Leadership Award 2017 from His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev.

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The award was presented to him by President Nursultan Nazarbayev who himself was a GIFA Laureate in 2014. With this leadership award, President Ismail Omar Guelleh joins a list of eminent GIFA Laureates, which includes His Excellency Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia; His Royal Highness Muhammadu Sanusi II, Emir of Kano; His Excellency Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan; His Excellency Shaukat Aziz, Former Prime Minister of Pakistan; His Royal Highness Sultan Nazrin Shah, Sultan of Perak, Malaysia; and His Excellency Tun Abdullah Badawi, former Prime Minister of Malaysia. The Global Islamic Finance Leadership Award 2017 in the Country Category was conferred to the Emirate of Dubai for the global strategic vision the emirate has pursued to make Dubai as a Centre of Excellence for Islamic economy. The Republic of Tatarstan was presented with the GIFA Championship Award (Country) 2017 in recognition of the lead role the country has played in promoting Islamic banking and finance in Russia and the wider region.

Mr. Adnan Ahmed Yousif, CEO of Albaraka Banking Group, receiving the Islamic Finance Personality of the Year award 2017

His Excellency Vasil Shaykhraziev, Vice Prime Minister of the Republic of Tatarstan, receiving the Championship Award 2017 on behalf of the Republic of Tatarstan.

At the individual level, notable awards winner included Adnan Ahmed Yousif, CEO and President of Albaraka Banking Group, who was declared as the Islamic Finance Personality of the Year 2017 for his pan-Islamic leadership role in Islamic banking and finance. Adnan Ahmed Yousif was ranked 6th in the GIFR Influence Index developed by Cambridge IF Analytica, a UK-based think tank. The Index ranked top leaders in Islamic banking and finance on the basis on 5 factors, namely, investment, advocacy, intellectual, thought leadership, technical/professional contribution and tenure. GIFA recognised his strong and visionary leadership in developing Albaraka banks and financial institutions around the world, which has also helped him to effectively advocate Islamic banking and finance on a global level. Under his leadership, Albaraka Banking Group has achieved a number of milestones and has helped the industry to innovate for the benefit of all its stakeholders.

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Jamal Saeed Bin Ghalaita (CEO of Emirates Islamic) was named GIFA CEO of the Year 2017 whilst Datuk Ab Latiff Abu Bakar (CEO of Takaful Ikhlas) was awarded Takaful CEO of the Year 2017. Meanwhile, the Islamic Banker of the Year 2017 award went to Amr Saad Al Menhali, Executive Vice President, Head of Islamic Banking Division of Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. Other outstanding individuals who were honoured that night included: GIFA Lifetime Achievement Award 2017: Dr. Yahia Abdul-Rahman GIFA Championship Award (Public Sector Support) 2017: His Excellency Bakhyt Sultanov, Minister of Finance, Republic of Kazakhstan GIFA Championship Award (Regulatory) 2017: Ms. Elvira Nabuillina, Governor of Central Bank of Russia. GIFA Special Award (for Advocacy of Islamic Financial Criminology) 2017: Professor Dr Normah Haji Omar, UiTM GIFA Special Award (Leadership in Takaful) 2017: Wael Al Sharif, CEO of Takaful Emarat GIFA Special Award (Leadership Role in Islamic Retail Banking) 2017: Kashif Mohammed Naeem, EVP and Head of Retail Banking, SME and Microfinance at Bank of Khartoum. Upcoming Personality in Global Islamic Finance (Product Development & Solutions) 2017: Siraj Yasini, Executive Director - Head of Islamic Finance, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. Upcoming Personality in Global Islamic Finance (Product Development & Solutions) 2017: Othman Abdullah, Managing Director, Islamic Banking, Silverlake Upcoming Personality in Global Islamic Finance (HR & Talent Development) 2017: Farid Basir Upcoming Personality in Global Islamic Finance (Academic) 2017: Dr Hylmun Izhar Upcoming Personality in Global Islamic Finance (Risk Management) 2017: Tauhidur Rahman

His Excellency Bakhyt Sultanov, Minister of Finance, Republic of Kazakhstan, receiving the GIFA Championship Award (in Public Sector Support) 2017.

Datuk Abdul Latif Abu Bakar, CEO of Takaful Ikhlas Berhad Malaysia, receiving the Takaful CEO of the Year 2017 award.

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Mr. Othman Abdullah, Managing Director, Islamic Banking at Silverlake Axis, receiving the Upcoming Personality in Global Islamic Finance Award (Product Development & Solutions) 2017.

Mr. Wael Al Sharif, CEO of Takaful Emarat, receiving the GIFA Special Award for Leadership in Takaful 2017.

Mr. Siraj Yasini, Executive Director - Head of Islamic Finance, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd., receiving the Upcoming Personality in Global Islamic Finance Award (Product Development & Solutions) 2017

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Mr. Kashif Mohammed Naeem, EVP and Head of Retail Banking, SME and Microfinance at Bank of Khartoum, receiving the GIFA Special Award (Leadership Role in Islamic Retail Banking) 2017

Mr. Amr Saad Al Menhali, Executive Vice President, Head of Islamic Banking Division of Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, receiving the Islamic Banker of the Year 2017 award.

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Dr. Yahia Abdul-Rahman, Founder of American Finance House, receiving the GIFA Lifetime Achievement Award 2017.

Notable institutional winners included Al Baraka Turk Participation Bank for Best Islamic Bank 2017; Solidarity Saudi Takaful Company for Best Takaful Company 2017; Meezan Bank for Shari’a Authenticity Award 2017; BTPN Syariah for Best Islamic Bank for SME Banking 2017; Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group for Best Wholesale Banking Award 2017, Bank of Khartoum for Most Innovative Islamic Bank 2017, East Africa Bank for Upcoming Islamic Bank 2017 and Al Hilal Bank Kazakhstan for Pioneer of Islamic Banking (Kazakhstan) 2017.

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

Bank Nizwa was honoured with Pioneering Islamic Bank Award 2017 for its exceptionally exemplary role in developing Islamic banking in Oman. In tandem with its on-going strategy to bring Islamic banking to customers’ doorsteps and fingertips, the Bank currently offers a suite of financing, savings and investment products for individual customers. The Bank is also in the process of expanding its services to cater to corporate and commercial customers, while providing tailored products for the segments of investment banking and global markets. With innovation at the forefront of its successful operations, Bank Nizwa has been consistently introducing forward-thinking products and services.

Dr. Ashraf Nabhan Al Nabhani, General Manager (Corporate Support), Bank Nizwa, receiving the Pioneer of Islamic Banking 2017 award on behalf of Bank Nizwa.

FNB Islamic Banking was awarded the Best Islamic Banking Window 2017 award. FNB was the first of the large four banks in South Africa to open an Islamic banking window and offer Islamic banking to South Africa’s minority Muslim population, which roughly constitutes just 2% of the total population. This year 4 categories of Market Leadership Award were handed out. GIFA Market Leadership Award (Facilitation & Support) 2017 went to DDCAP; GIFA Market Leadership Award (Islamic Financial Intelligence & Ratings) 2017 was awarded to Moody’s; GIFA Market Leadership Award (Pawnbroking Services) 2017 was once again won by Bank Rakyat Malaysia and GIFA Market Leadership Award (Islamic Asset Management) 2017 was presented to SEDCO Capital of Saudi Arabia.

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Mr. Amman Mohamed, Chief Executive Officer, FNB Islamic Banking, receiving the Best Islamic Banking Window 2017 award on behalf of FNB Islamic Banking.

Mr. Sean Marion, Managing Director, Financial Institutions, Moody’s, receiving the GIFA Market Leadership Award (Islamic Financial Intelligence & Ratings) 2017.

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Mr. Kasim Docrat, Director, DDCAP Group, receiving the GIFA Market Leadership Award (Facilitation & Support) 2017 on behalf of the DDCAP Group.

Mr. Farid Basir, Chief Human Capital, Bank Rakyat Malaysia, receiving the GIFA Market Leadership Award (Pawnbroking Services) 2017 for Bank Rakyat.

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The Best Islamic Fund Manager 2017 award was bagged by Nomura Islamic Asset Management (NIAM) for the second consecutive year. Established in November 2008 to serve as the global Islamic hub for the Nomura Asset Management (NAM) Group internationally; NIAM has have successfully built itself as one of the largest Islamic fund management boutiques in the world by Asset Under Management (AUM) size, and have been ranked amongst the world’s top 25 largest for the past 5 consecutive years by Asian Investor.

Mr. Saruta Takashi, Executive Vice President, Nomura Asset Management, receiving the Best Islamic Fund Manager 2017 award on behalf of Nomura Islamic Asset Management (NIAM).

Other notable winners in the category of Islamic wealth/asset/fund management are Volaw Group for Best Islamic Trust Formation Services 2017 and Oasis Crescent Global Equity Fund for Best Shari’acompliant Global Equity Fund 2017. The Best Islamic Fund 2017 award was presented to International Airfinance Corporation for its Aircraft Leasing Islamic Fund (ALIF).

Mr. Adam Ismail Ebrahim, Chief Executive Officer, Oasis Crescent Global Equity Fund, receiving the Award for Best Shari’a-compliant Global Equity Fund 2017 on behalf of Oasis Crescent Global Equity Fund.

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Mr. Montasser Khelifi, Head of Strategy, International AirFinance Corporation, receiving the Best Islamic Fund 2017 award on behalf of International AirFinance Corporation for its Aircraft Leasing Islamic Fund (ALIF).

Mr. Shamsul Akmal Ahmad, Director Islamic Capital Markets, Bursa Malaysia-i, receiving the Best Islamic Exchange 2017 award on behalf of Bursa Malaysia-i.

Bursa Malaysia-i was the proud recipient of the Best Islamic Exchange 2017. Introduced in September 2016, Bursa Malaysia-i, the world’s first end-to-end Shariah investing platform. It offers a comprehensive suite of Shari’a-compliant exchange-related services. The platform supports Shari’a-compliant products, including Stocks (i-Stocks), Indices (i-Indices), Exchange Traded Funds (i-ETFs), Real Estate Investment Trusts (i-REITs) and Exchange Traded Bonds and Sukuk (ETBS).

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Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia (AIM), the largest Islamic microfinance provider in the country, is a true global leader as it was awarded the Best Islamic Microfinance Institutions for the 5th consecutive year. As AIM turns 30 this year, the institution remains devoted to its vision of becoming a renowned, revered, dynamic world-class microfinance institution that eradicates poverty and elevates the well-being of ummah.

Dato’ Dr. Zubir Harun, Chairman of Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia, receiving the Best Islamic Microfinance Institution 2017 award on behalf of Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia.

Best Sukuk House of the Year 2017 was awarded to AmInvestment Bank, which is part of the AmBank Group, a leading Malaysian investment bank. The Bank provides a full range of wholesale banking related products and services that include corporate finance, equity markets, debt markets, Islamic capital markets, global markets and private banking solutions. AmInvestment also has an award-winning track record in the debt, equity and Islamic capital market. The GIFA coverage is not limited to just hard core financial institutions. The winners include universities, advisory firms, training providers, rating agencies, multilateral organisations, governments, and numerous other institutions beyond the financial sector.

Professor Rahimi Osman, Dean of Academy of Contemporary Islamic Studies, Academy of Contemporary Islamic Studies (ACIS), UiTM, receiving the Pioneer in Philanthropic Programmes in the Higher Education Institutions 2017 award on behalf of ACIS.

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During GIFA 2017, two academic institutions were recognised for their contribution towards the global Islamic finance industry. Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) walked away with 2 awards - Pioneer in Philanthropic Programmes in the Higher Education Institutions 2017 was presented to Academy of Contemporary Islamic Studies (ACIS), UiTM and Global Research Excellence in Islamic Financial Criminology 2017 was awarded to the Accounting Research Institute (ARI), UiTM. Meanwhile, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) received the Best Islamic Finance Education Provider 2017 award.


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Professor Dr. Normah Omar, Director, Accounting Research Institute (ARI), receiving the GIFA Special Award for Advocacy of Islamic Financial criminology 2017.

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Datuk Dr. Mohd Daud Bakar, Founder and Group Chairman of Amanie Advisors, receiving the Best Islamic Finance Case 2017 award for his Emirates Airline Sukuk book.

Datuk Dr. Mohd Daud Bakar, Founder and Group Chairman of Amanie Advisors, took home two awards at GIFA 2017 – Best Islamic Finance Case 2017 for Emirates Airline Sukuk and Best Shari’a Advisory Firm 2017. In the consulting space, Karim Consulting Indonesia was the proud recipient of Best Islamic Finance Consultancy 2017. Khazanah Nasional, the strategic investment fund of the Government of Malaysia, was once again the proud winner of Islamic Social Responsibility Award 2017. Khazanah is a pioneer in the development of Islamic finance on both local and global fronts. This year saw Khazanah issuing the second tranche of its social impact sukuk, which includes both institutional and retail offering. This issuance further attests Khazanah’s continued effort to push the envelope on transaction innovation and the positioning for Islamic structures. The first issuance of the social impact sukuk was in 2015. This was the world’s first ringgit denominated social impact sukuk that combined education and Islamic finance sectors along with socially responsible investments through an innovative structure.

Dato Izani Ghani, Executive Director, Khazanah Nasional, receiving the Islamic Social Responsibility Award 2017 on behalf of Khazanah Nasional.

Other prominent winners included Oman’s US$2 Billion Seven Year Sukuk; MIRAS by ICD for Best Human Capital Development Programme 2017; Malaysian Rating Corporation Berhad (MARC) was the proud recipient of Best Islamic Rating Agency 2017; Best Shari’a-compliant Commodity Brokers 2017 went to AbleAce Raakin; Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) took home the Best Supporting Institution of the Year 2017 and the International Corporation for the Insurance of Investment & Export Credit (ICIEC) received Global Islamic Export Credit and Political Risk Insurance Award 2017.

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Islamic Reporting Initiative (IRI) bagged the Best Islamic Financial Reporting Award 2017 for its leading initiatives in leading creating the world’s first reporting standard for corporate sustainability and social responsibility – across all sectors of business – based on Islamic values and principles. Meanwhile, GIFA Advocacy Award 2017 was presented to S&P Global for its lead role in Islamic financial ordination. GIFA also recognises the importance of technology in driving the industry’s growth. In light of this recognition a number of awards in the technology space were handed out during the gala dinner. This included Best Islamic Finance Technology Product 2017 for ETHIX by ITS, GIFA Special Award (Micropayments and Digital Technology) 2017 went to AIMS Solutions, Best Islamic Finance Technology Provider 2017 was awarded to Path Solutions and Silverlake Axis took home the Best Islamic Finance Solutions Provider 2017 award.

WHAT

GIFA WINNERS 2017 HAD TO SAY

“I am truly humbled and honoured to receive the Islamic Finance Personality of the Year 2017 award. I believe the award is a strong recognition of the my team as well who is as committed to furthering the cause out of obligation and firm belief that Islamic finance is good for all of mankind. We will carry this growth & success forward with continuous innovation and persistence and with the aim of ultimately making Islamic banking & finance the norm for the consumers globally. On behalf of Albaraka Banking Group, I also would like to thank the GIFA Awards Committee and applaud their efforts to recognise best practices in the global Islamic finance industry.” MR ADNAN AHMED YOUSIF PRESIDENT & CHIEF EXECUTIVE, AL BARAKA BANKING GROUP

“I would like to thank the organisers of the Global Islamic Finance Awards for this honour. I accept this award on behalf of our entire team at Emirates Islamic. It is because of their commitment and dedication, our Bank has managed to successfully grow over the last few years and rank among the leading Islamic banks in the UAE. Together, we have built a platform that truly combines the best of Shari’a compliant banking with the latest in banking technology, as we progress the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai of making Dubai the global capital of Islamic economy. Going forward, we remain committed to keeping Emirates Islamic at the forefront of growth and innovation in the overall banking sector” MR. JAMAL BIN GHALAITA CEO, EMIRATES ISLAMIC

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“I am honoured to receive Takaful Ikhlas Berhad second GIFA award and very much appreciate the recognition from GIFA. I am thrilled to be selected to receive this award and indirectly, it gives me the opportunity to be at par with those who have succeeded in their own fields. The accolade also recognises the efforts and commitment of our team and our philosophy to be the perfect Islamic financial protection services provider for our customers. The recognition should be shared with all Takaful IKHLAS’ customers, agents and staffs who have been very supportive to me. This success further strengthens my spirit to be more dedicated and work harder in an effort to provide quality and professional service, which will indirectly enhance and strengthen the status of Takaful IKHLAS as the chosen financial protection service based on Islamic principles and values”. DATUK HJ AB LATIFF HJ ABU BAKAR

PRESIDENT & CEO, TAKAFUL IKHLAS BERHAD


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“Alhamdulillah, Meezan Bank is honoured and pleased to be recognized for its strongest USP i.e. Shari’a-compliance. This is indeed a valuable recognition of our commitment towards achieving our Vision of ‘Establishing Islamic banking as banking of first choice…’ This award is a testimony for each one of our team members and for our customers who have supported us in not only becoming the leading Islamic bank in the country, but a full-fledged retail bank across Pakistan. We have one of the largest product development, Shari’a-compliance, audit and research teams in the world who provide innovative, focused and practical banking solutions that are in line with Islamic Shari’a. Since its inception, Meezan Bank has also established itself as a market leader in providing Islamic advisory and arrangement services to other banks as well as industries in converting their operations Shari’a-compliant. If the business of our customer is Shar’ia-compliant, we take it as a challenge to provide a suitable Sharia-compliant financing solution. We have one of the strongest Shariah Supervisory Boards chaired by Justice (Retd.) Muhammad Taqi Usmani that monitors our products and processes and ensures that they are completely in line with Islamic Shari’a. I would like to thank the Global Islamic Finance Awards committee for conferring the Shari’a Authenticity award to Meezan Bank. It is truly fulfilling for the Meezan Family to be recognised for our core values. We value the trust that our shareholders and customers have put in us in providing top of the line Islamic banking products and services”. MR. IRFAN SIDDIQUI

PRESIDENT & CEO, MEEZAN BANK

“S&P Global is pleased to receive this prestigious recognition for its expertise in Islamic finance. The award is a testament of the breadth and depth of S&P understanding of Islamic capital markets and its commitment to support the industry growth. S&P in-house global team of dedicated analysts not only monitors the credit quality of Islamic institutions and instruments it rates but also formulates coherent, transparent methodologies and timely opinions about the trends shaping the industry. We are keen to continue raising the awareness and improving the understanding of global investors of this important industry.” S&P GLOBAL

“We are honoured to receive the “Best Sukuk House of the Year 2017” award from the Global Islamic Finance Awards. This recognition reaffirms our capability to leverage on our position as a leading Sukuk house that continuously reinforces its pole position in innovations in the realm of Islamic finance”. RAJA TEH MAIMUNAH RAJA ABDUL AZIZ

ISFIRE REPORT

“DDCAP Group is delighted to be announced as the winner of the GIFA Market Leadership Award 2017 (Facilitation & Support). We consider it our privilege and honour to receive the recognition of the GIFA Committee. It is respected validation of the commitment and investment that DDCAP has made, during the past two decades, to developing a robust platform to facilitate the execution of Sharia’a compliant liquidly management and capital market transactions, as well as innovating automation for the post trade environment. We are proud of the intermediary business services model that we pioneered, which has clearly encouraged others to follow us”. STELLA COX CBE

MANAGING DIRECTOR OF DDCAP GROUP

“It is a great honor for us to have this trust and support that reinforces SEDCO Capital’s position as the leading Shariah asset management company globally. This award is a result of SEDCO Capital’s continued efforts and dedication to serving our clients and bridging our Shariah asset management practice with ESG through our Prudent Ethical Investment practice; in addition to great diversification in product development, including international real estate, global private equity and our illiquid assets strategies in listed equites and Sukuks that provide exceptional returns to clients. I would like to thank GIFA for this recognition and thank my colleagues in SEDCO Capital team who worked very hard using their great ideas and years of experience to deliver more innovative products.” MR HASAN AL JABRI CEO, SEDCO CAPITAL

“Moody’s is delighted to have been awarded the GIFA Market Leadership Award 2017 (Islamic Financial Intelligence & Ratings). Islamic finance is a fast growing and increasingly important part of the financial markets, the development of which we are committed to supporting, through our ratings, frequent and timely research and outreach to those who have an interest in this sector. We have been increasing the resources we dedicate to Islamic finance and made efforts to strengthen further our coverage across all relevant rating groups, including sovereign, banking, corporates and structured finance. We are therefore very grateful for the recognition received from the GIFA through this award”. MR HENRY MACNEVIN

ASSOCIATE MANAGING DIRECTOR RESPONSIBLE FOR MOODY’S BANK RATINGS IN THE GCC REGION

CEO OF AMINVESTMENT BANK BERHAD AND MANAGING DIRECTOR OF WHOLESALE BANKING, AMBANK GROUP

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ISLAMIC FINANCE REVIEW | OCTOBER 2017

A must read for Islamic bankers & wealth management professionals

The report is aimed at narrowing the demand and supply gap in Islamic wealth management products and solutions. Further, the report explores the growth in Islamic wealth, highlighting its concentration in dierent regions, providing crucial business intelligence to supply-side leaders and potential clients of the Islamic wealth management industry. "With the increasing number of Muslim individuals and families appearing in the global wealth list and growth in Islamic ďŹ nancial assets, it is not unrealistic to assume that there is an increase in Islamic wealth globally. It is, therefore, high time that a Report analyzing the developments, products and solutions in Islamic wealth management is produced, which should assist the players to narrow the demand supply gap." Professor Humayon Dar, Executive Chairman of HD-Edbiz Group of Companies

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Winner – Best Islamic Trust Formation Services at the Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA) 2016 and 2017

It’s as simple as... knowing what matters to you VG’s award-winning Islamic finance team has deep cultural and financial understanding of the Muslim world that we translate into creating and managing Shariah-compliant structures for corporates and successful individuals and families.

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