UKIFC experts quoted in Chartered Banker Magazine article 'Progressive Pakistan'

The Islamic Republic of Pakistan is by most standards a young country – its founding in 1947 was not without both complication and conflict, and historical political divisions have frequently laid obstacles in its mission to forge a path as an influential and modern Islamic republic. Today, however, the impact of decades of globalisation – along with economic growth across South Asia – puts the country in a strong position, most significantly demonstrated by its increasingly dynamic banking and finance sector.

This article originally featured in the Spring 2021 edition of the Chartered Banker Magazine - click here to download

As the world’s fifth most populous state, Pakistan is nothing if not a significant player in the South Asia region. Its current economic indicators do, however, tell a story of a country that up to now has been relatively slow to develop in its infrastructure, health and education, and business environment.

The hesitant pace of growth and development can be viewed through the lens of a challenging domestic political scene that saw the country struggle until recently to establish a more stable democracy. However, Pakistan has benefited from structural reforms in recent years that have injected new impetus into its continuing transformation as a modernising republic.

A $6.3bn cash facility from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2013, for one, was designed to help Pakistan stabilise its public finances and address energy supply shortages, and measures to attract much-needed foreign investment brought inflows of $3.1bn in 2019-20 – of which the financial sector was the second-highest beneficiary.

Despite some bumps in the road, the positive consequences for banking and financial services in the country are now being felt across the board in Pakistan. The country’s central bank, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), notes the progress made in financial inclusion across such a vast population, saying: “In June 2018, we had 64 million unique accounts in operation, which reflects a penetration of more than 50% of Pakistan’s adult population. As of June 2020, we now have 73 million unique accounts, of which 61% are active.”

These accounts are a mix of traditional branch accounts and digital/mobile platforms – the very territory that is ripe for further expansion. And, given that the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) reports some 93 million citizens as having broadband access, the potential for further penetration looks promising.

It could be cited that there are three ways in which the country’s financial sector has managed to blossom under such a transformative environment for banking worldwide. A key piece in the jigsaw is the autonomy that SBP now enjoys in making vital monetary policy decisions. The reforms go back to 1994, with further powers being subsequently granted in 1997.

“The changes in the State Bank Act gave full and exclusive authority to the State Bank to regulate the banking sector, to conduct an independent monetary policy, and to set limits on government borrowing from SBP”, which had been enacted in the SBP Act 1956. “SBP formulates and monitors monetary and credit policy, and in determining the expansion of liquidity, it takes into account the Federal Governmentʼs targets for growth and inflation that the Bank [operates] in a manner consistent with these targets.”

Secondly, the momentum for digitisation in Pakistan means increasing the share of online banking, whether that includes retail point-of-sale payments or opening and using e-wallets issued by FinTechs. SBP has capitalised on the digital shift by collaborating with the Pakistani government to allow its citizens living abroad easy access to retail investment opportunities back home by launching the Roshan Digital Account (RDA).

“During the past four quarters, the number of registered mobile phone banking users increased by three million to reach8.9 million.”
Institute of Bankers Pakistan

But perhaps a most prominent characteristic of the financial sector here is the growth and development of a highly developed alternate – or Islamic – banking system.

The Islamic banking impact

As an Islamic republic, Pakistan is strategically and culturally well placed to develop Islamic finance products. It is one of the very few jurisdictions to enjoy explicit constitutional support for it, and this in turn has increased incentive and backing for its development from the state.

According to SBP, the government has used a number of legal and regulatory initiatives to help nurture Islamic banking. As part of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, it is determined to increase the share of Islamic banking to 25% of the banking industry, and its branch network to 30% by 2023. SBP has enjoyed a pivotal role in promotion and development of the Islamic banking industry and, as a result, is recognised today as a stable and resilient segment of the overall sector.

Although often seen as niche banking instruments, Pakistan has been cannily nurturing a sub-sector of Sharia-compliant* products and services since the early 1980s, with the result that it has grown substantially in both appeal and reach.

SBP reports 22 Islamic banking institutions operating in the country, including “five fully fledged Islamic banks, one specialised bank and 16 conventional banks with Islamic banking branches”. In the financial year ending 2020, a further 361 branches were added to a network already spanning 3,274 branches in 122 districts. Lower-income citizens are also are part of the commitment to growth, with banks such as NRSP and MCB-Islamic offering a range of Islamic microfinance solutions.

S. Fahim Ahmad, a Karachi-based Senior Adviser to the UK Islamic Finance Council (UKIFC), has more interest than most in the positive impact of Islamic finance. A former senior banker with Citibank and passionate supporter of sustainable charities, he was asked to set up Pakistan’s representation to the Global Islamic Finance UN SDGs Taskforce, which aims to ensure that it can actively engage with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and make Islamic finance part of this global initiative.

“The team at State Bank of Pakistan were easily convinced of the benefits of such a cause,” he explains. “They had never done this before, as their role is more that of a regulator. But they are ina position to manage the banks much better than I could.”

In November 2020, the Pakistan chapterof the Taskforce was launched, enrolling the support and participation of seven Islamic and conventional banks which it was felt could best drive forward the mission. Its four key objectives include enhancing engagement with the UN SDGs – but also to promote Principles of Responsible Banking (PRB); facilitate alignment tools that deliver on additional areas such as green financing and the Global Ethical Finance Initiative (GEFI); and share international experiences.

“This collaboration between SBP and UKIFC is a novel concept,” continues Ahmad. “The idea is to replicate this in other markets. We have had to catch up in many respects with developed Islamic finance markets, and this is a good chance to make up for that.”This level of engagement is a far cry from the early days when legal issues tended to slow the growth of Islamic banking in Pakistan.

Finally, after 2000, the founding of the country’s largest Islamic bank, Meezan, was made possible when the SBP agreed to scope out proper guidelines and a regulatory framework. Today, Islamic banks in Pakistan are so successful, they have a surplus of liquidity, which inevitably needs to find a home in investment instruments that are considered halal (permissible or lawful).

“There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a huge demand for Islamic finance products,” adds Ahmad. “The impact of wider regional change in 1979-1980 had fundamentally changed the relationship we have since had with Islam, and the younger generation is, by extension, now more into Islamic banking.

”However, there is still no global uniformity among Sharia scholars about the acceptability of different products – and there is extensive room for growth yet. What will make Islamic banking take off in Pakistan? Ahmad argues that this will happen if the government uses it on a large scale, for example through sovereign or corporate bonds in sovereign sukuk.

“Social good is a key part of Islamic finance,” he adds. “Islamic banks hold a lot of liquidity as we know, and if they can deploy that into productive, socially impactful use, the whole economy will benefit.”

Pakistan banks on faith

A recent joint survey held by SBP and the UK Department for International Development identified an “overwhelming demand” for Islamic banking, regardless of whether or not the respondents were urban or rural. A huge majority (94.51%) came out in favour of the prohibition on interest, with 88.4% regarding contemporary bank interest as a similarly prohibited practice.Even non-banked respondents echoed the sentiment, at 98% and 93% respectively, and 62% of those who are banked would willingly pay more for Islamic banking products due to religious preferences.

As with other jurisdictions worldwide, however, the shift towards contactless and e-wallet transactions is strengthening the hand of the non-bank sector too. This has not been lost on SBP which, in 2019, responded by enabling “electronic money institutions” access to Pakistan’s payments ecosystem. It is only a matter of time before the pace of innovation injected into the sector will transform people’s payment habits across the country.

Facing the future with confidence

As the world starts to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic – which, in many countries, is still in full flow – Pakistan’s financial sector seems to have shown a healthy degree of resilience in the face of the shock of 2020. SBP puts this down to capital buffers put in place over the long term to strengthen the banks’ position. The higher capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of 19.5% at the end of September 2020 put Pakistan beyond the minimum local and global requirements for its banking system. Liquidity has also been uninterrupted following state interventions to support key parts of the economy during this period.

From this position of strength, therefore, Pakistan is able to focus on at least three priorities among many that will shape its financial sector into a growing force for the economy: continued digital transformation, affordable lending instruments for housing, and programmes to reduce the gender gap in access to finance.

On the digital front, the Digital Pakistan Policy and the National Financial Inclusion Strategy are two initiatives that hold promise in the battle to reduce the informal economy and make FinTechs a productive addition to the domestic market. In particular, the launch of Raast, an instant digital payment system, will be an innovative step forward in reducing citizens’ reliance on cash while making transactions cheaper.

This collaboration between State Bank of Pakistan and the UK Islamic Finance Councilis a novel concept... We have had to catch up in many respects with developed Islamic Finance markets, and this isa good chance to makeup for that.
Islamic Finance Council, UK

Long-term property lending policies – where SBP has given mandatory lending targets to banks on their housing portfolios and developers are being offered incentives – should help boost a sector badly in need of modernisation to benefit future homeowners.Third is the launch of SBP’s Banking on Equality Strategy, where a “gender lens” will be applied to the industry to ensure increased financial access for women based on a set of approved measures.

When viewed in the context of an often-turbulent history, there’s little doubting the progress made to date in Pakistan’s journey of banking and finance. The policies, commitment, and liquidity – three factors crucial to any developing economy – should herald a more prosperous and dynamic economy well into this century.

No one left behind

According to State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), women are disproportionately underserved by the country’s financial system. With only around 25% of bank accounts held in the name of women (even fewer are actually active), it has been widely accepted by government that economic development cannot be achieved without a healthier approach to reducing the gender gap. The bank has therefore created a policy entitled Banking on Equality: Reducing the Gender Gap in Financial Inclusion to ensurea manageable but proactive shift towards women-friendly business practices. The draft policy was presented in December 2020 for consultation.


PRESS RELEASE: Major report finds only 1% of Principles for Responsible Investment worldwide signatories are based within Organisation of Islamic Cooperation member states

REPORT ANNOUNCEMENT

ISLAMIC FINANCE AND THE PRINCIPLES FOR RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT

"Only 1% of Principles for Responsible Investment worldwide signatories are based within Organisation of Islamic Cooperation member states.”

UK – 24th March 2021, The Islamic Finance Council UK (UKIFC), in partnership with Malaysia based International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA), has launched the second report in its 4-part thought leadership series that aims to assist and encourage active engagement in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the global Islamic finance sector.

The report provides a quantitative and qualitative analysis of responsible investing in the Islamic finance sector, assessing the level of engagement with the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) amongst financial institutions in Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) member states and analysing the approaches and terminology used by 12 Islamic finance signatories. It also features detailed case studies on BIMB Investment Management Berhad, DDCAP Group, GIB UK and Sedco Capital who have all shown notable leadership in responsible investing. 

The PRI, which launched in 2006, is the world’s leading framework for responsible investment and is underpinned by six voluntary and aspirational investment Principles that support signatories to incorporate Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) issues into their investment practices. This enable signatories to align with the broader sustainable objectives of society – as currently best defined by PRI as the SDGs. The report uses the PRI as a proxy to demonstrate engagement with the broader fast growing global responsible investment and ethical finance market and explores if the Islamic finance sector is successfully engaging in such or missing out on a multi-trillion dollar commercial opportunity.

With its underlying Shari’ah principles, Islamic finance is naturally aligned to, not only support but, lead the financial services sector’s efforts towards achieving the SDGs. However, whilst a small number of organisations are making significant progress the report has highlighted the pressing need to raise awareness, in OIC member states and beyond, of responsible investing and the ‘triple bottom line’ benefits to be achieved by integrating Shariah compliance with ESG strategies.

TAKEAWAYS FROM THE REPORT INCLUDE:

  • Of the 83 countries containing PRI signatories only 12 are OIC member states.
  • These 12 OIC member states have 37 PRI signatories, comprising 24 investment managers, 4 asset owners and 9 service providers.
  • Despite the OIC member states having a collective population of over 1.82 billion (24% of the total world population) only 37 (1%) of the 3,575 PRI worldwide signatories are based within them.
  • Between 2008 and 2016 there were 9 PRI signatories based in OIC member states but since 2017 a further 28 new signatories have joined the PRI.
  • Responsible investing presents an opportunity for Islamic asset managers to tap into emerging agnostic global liquidity pools seeking SDG-aligned products and increase their assets under responsible management.
  • Aligning Shariah compliant and ESG investment strategies supports the tayyib concept enabling Islamic financial institutions to deliver financial returns and societal impact within the established shariah compliance framework. The tayyib thematic within Islamic finance presents one of the biggest growth opportunities for the industry.

With OIC countries amongst those in greatest need of SDG investment more work must be done to raise the profile and increase adoption of the PRI amongst the 57 OIC member states as well as the global Islamic finance investment community. By working together Islamic finance institutions have the opportunity to develop and position Shariah-compliant ESG engagement as a beacon of responsible investment.

ENDS

DOWNLOAD THE REPORThttps://ukifc.com/sdg/

“Islamic finance is naturally aligned with the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But the low level of engagement with the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) in the OIC region means there is a huge opportunity. Through our Global Islamic Finance and SDGs Taskforce we have the platform to work with PRI and the Islamic finance sector to increase awareness, promote understanding and encourage adoption of the Principles.”

Omar Shaikh, Board Member, UKIFC

“We welcome this important report which aims to build on the nascent development of ESG investment and the SDGs amongst the Islamic finance community. The alignment of people, profit and planet and the drive to achieve a sustainable global financial system is a universal one; we invite asset owners, investment managers and service providers working in Islamic finance to join us at PRI to further this mission.”

Fiona Reynolds, CEO, Principles for Responsible Investment


UKIFC appear on MetroTVNews Indonesia

UKIFC founder Omar Shaikh appeared on Indonesia's MetroTVNews to discuss Islamic finance, and its relationship to sustainable and responsible finance more broadly. Watch now:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/NgjXXR1C6so

UKIFC launch 'Pioneers of Islamic Finance' series on International Women's Day

UKIFC recently launched our brand new 'Pioneers of Islamic Finance' series on International Women's Day, highlighting Stella Cox's contribution to the UK's Islamic finance industry.

Stella sat down with Omar Shaikh of the UKIFC to discuss her experiences as one of the UK’s pioneers in Islamic finance. Stella speaks about her early days at Kleinwort Benson, her friendship with Shariah scholars, her journey founding DDCAP, one of the leading intermediaries in Islamic finance, and what the future holds for Islamic finance in the UK and beyond.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/EY3BlAGiJYM

Islamic finance has a long history, and is gathering momentum as a new generation embrace the power of digital technology. UKIFC has uniquely curated a Pioneers of Islamic Finance series with two key objectives:

  1. Use the wisdom and learning of the pioneers inform the next generation of business models, entrepeneurs and leaders in Islamic finance
  2. Preserve and document the journey of the pioneers and celebrate their contribution to the field

This fascinating series exlores the personal highs and lows and the professional successes and struggles they experienced. We ask what they would have done differently if they could turn back time and what advice they have for the next generation. Find out more at ukifc.com/pioneers

Forthcoming Interviews

The series of interviews is ongoing; contact us at info@ukifc.com if you would like to suggest a Pioneer whose story should be told.


UKIFC is proud to support the Path to COP26 campaign

UKIFC is proud to be a signatory of the Path to COP26 campaign from the Global Ethical Finance Initiative. We are supporting the Faith in the SDGs stream of the campaign, which seeks to bring together, diverse global faith groups to drive change in finance through ethical leadership and stewardship of their endowments, bringing faith to finance, and finance to faith at the crucial Glasgow summit in 2021

Alongside UKIFC, signatories include major financial institutions such as NatWest Group, Baillie Gifford and Aberdeen Standard Investments, professional bodies such as Chartered Banker and CISI, and campaign groups and NGOs including Make My Money Matter and NatureScot.


UKIFC experts explain why UK and UAE fintechs could be taking on the world together - Arabian Business

This article originally appeared at https://www.arabianbusiness.com/banking-finance/457790-why-uk-uae-fintechs-could-be-taking-on-the-world-together.

The UK and the UAE fintech markets will see major regional cross-collaboration in the coming years, according to experts.

Fintech – including Islamic fintech - is a growing industry globally. Britain is now home to 27 Islamic fintechs, followed by Malaysia with 19, the UAE with 15, Indonesia with 13, and Saudi Arabia and the US with nine, according to IFN FinTech.

Global investments in Islamic economy-relevant companies totalled $11.8 billion in 2019/20, according to the State of Islamic Economy 2019/2020 report by Dinar Standard.

Islamic fintech attracted 41.8 percent of the investments. This figure reflects corporate-led mergers and acquisitions, venture capital investments in tech start-ups, and private equity investments, the report said.

British fintech boom

The UK’s fintech start-up scene has seen an injection of Islamic-focused firms in recent months, which abide by interest-free Sharia laws and avoid ‘unethical’ investments, such as alcohol and gambling.

My Ahmed, a sharia-compliant e-money platform, was accepted into the Financial Conduct Authority’s regulatory sandbox in July. In the same month, Islamic peer-to-peer lending platform Qardus launched UK services, along with trading platform Minted and sharia-compliant ethical banking alternative, Kestrl.

This year, Islamic banking app Niyah and sharia-complaint digital bank Rizq also launched in the UK.

My Ahmed is a sharia-compliant e-money platform

The UK’s large Muslim population has played a major role in helping to establish London as the focal point of Islamic financial services in the west. About 4.5 percent of the British population is Muslim, according to the 2011 census. More than a million of the UK’s 2.8 million Muslims live in London.

What’s more, Britain’s Muslim population is growing - and getting wealthier. The average monthly income of those born locally, with at least one parent born in Britain, is £1,219, compared with £815 for those who arrived aged six or older, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit.

UK-UAE crossover

Former Lord Mayor Peter Estlin, the global ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services industry, visited the Gulf in January 2020 to help strengthen fintech trade and investment ties.

Discussing emerging opportunities for collaboration between the region and the UK, he said: “British business and innovation across financial and professional services has much to offer partners in the region, whether it be in currency trading and asset management, or growing areas like fintech and green finance."

Former Lord Mayor Peter Estlin, the global ambassador for the UK’s financial and professional services industry

According to Umer Suleman, board member, UK Islamic Finance Council (IFC), the UK finance market is mature with a strong regulatory landscape and a legacy of innovation. These British strengths offer partnership benefits for the UAE, Suleman said.

“The UK has launched many products and we know how to utilise financial technology,” the UK IFC board member told Arabian Business. “We know finance can go wrong - however, we’ve seen the resolution and evolution of products and services over time.”

“The Gulf has a great appetite for new innovative ideas. UK experts can offer their experience in terms of implementation and help build the region’s products and ecosystems,” said Suleman, adding that the Middle East’s high mobile phone penetration, legacy-free systems and flowing capital are boons for fintech growth.

“The Middle East is very open to using Islamic fintech but the [domestic] innovation isn’t fully there yet as it takes a while for research facilities to grow,” he added.

Gaurav Dhar, a global fintech investor and founder of Dubai-based digital payments firm Marshal, said London has a “huge history” of creating financial products and exporting them globally.

“This experience has flowed through into the digital age,” Dhar told Arabian Business.

Stella Cox CBE, Islamic finance government lobbyist and managing director at financial market intermediary DDCAP Group

Strong fintech dialogue

The Marshal founder said that a strong fintech dialogue has already begun between the UK and Gulf governments.

“It’s important that this conversation continues. There is a lot of opportunity for the exchange of technology, ideas and learning.

"While the UK has more to offer at this stage in terms of technology, the cross-regional fintech relationship is still in the early stages and will continue to grow organically.”

Stella Cox CBE, Islamic finance government lobbyist and managing director at financial market intermediary DDCAP Group, said there is major scope for cross-collaboration in the fintech space as the Gulf states continue to develop their cryptocurrency and digital payments ecosystems.

“The UK Islamic fintech community are creating its own ecosystem at the moment which is quite exciting. There is a lot of opportunities to share intellectual capital [between the UK and the Gulf] and I’m sure we’re eagerly looking at each other’s regulatory sandboxes at the moment,” she told Arabian Business earlier this month.

The potential for crossover and authorisation in one market attracts the attention of other proximate markets, Cox added.

“I see this dynamic extending beyond the Middle East into South East Asia as the Islamic fintechs create their own dynamic.


Muslim students still waiting for government funding plan - BBC News

UKIFC co-founder Omar Shaikh appeared on a BBC News video explaining some of the challenges that Muslim students are facing in accessing Shariah-compliant student finance - watch now.


The application of Maqaasid As-Shariah in achieving the UN SDGs

In simplistic terms, Maqaasid As-Sharia is defined as the “Goals of Shariah”. These encompass the 5 necessities of human existence. The preservation of: faith, life, intellect, lineage and wealth. These objectives have a great resemblance to the UN SDGs (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals). The SDGs are defined as “the world we want. They apply to all nations and mean, quite simply, to ensure that no one is left behind.”

Maqaasid As-Shariah involves realising the human well-being by enhancing welfare or benefit (maslaha) of the people on one hand, and preventing harm (mafsadah) on the other. The satisfaction of these needs is a basic human right and has been addressed under the generic term “Maqaasid As-Shariah”.

Although the SDGs have not been developed on a religious basis, most goals are nonetheless aligned with the spirit of Islamic law! Muslims are duty-bound by their religion to ensure the sustenance of the 5 necessities of Maqaasid As-Shariah. This means that the Islamic development is endogenously sustainable since preservation of life is an explicit objective of the Islamic law.

The dimensions of SDGs (the 5Ps) can also be found in Maqaasid As-Sharia as follows: People (Intellect), Planet (lineage), Prosperity (wealth), Partnership (faith) and Peace (life). When we talk about Maqaasid As-Shariah we are really talking about a guiding framework, a value system, the objectives of which are explained from the holy Qur’an. Some of these are referenced below:

  • No Poverty, Zero Hunger, Decent work and economic growth (SDG1, 2 & 8)

[Chapter 16 v 97: “Whoever works righteousness, whether male or female, while he (or she) is a true believer verily, to him We will give a good life (in this world with respect, contentment and lawful provision)…”]

  • Good health and well-being (SDG 3), Quality Education (SDG 4), Clean water and Sanitation (SDG 6)

[Chapter 7 V 160: “…Eat of the good things with which we have provided you…”]

  • Gender equality (SDG 5)

[Chapter 49 v 13: “We have created you from a male and a female….Verily the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has at taqwa (piety)…”]

  • Affordable & Clean Energy (SDG 7), Climate Action (SDG 13)

[Chapter 7; V85: ““…and do not mischief the earth after it has been set in order…”]

  • Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure (SDG 9)

[Chapter 13 v 11: “…Verily, Allah will not change the good condition of a people as long as they do not change their state of goodness themselves …”]

  • Reducing inequality & Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions (SDG 10, 16)

[Chapter 4 v 135: “Stand out firmly for justice…”]

  • Responsible consumption & Production (SDG 12)

[Chapter 7 v 31: “…eat and drink but waste not in extravagance…”]

[Prophetic advice: “The food of one person is sufficient for two, the food of two people suffices for four people and the food of four people suffices for eight”]

  • Sustainable cities & Communities (SDG 11)

[Chapter 8 v 46: “…do not dispute (with one another)…”]

  • Life below Water (SDG 14), Life on Land (SDG 15)

[Chapter 30 v 41: “…Evil has appeared on land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned (by oppression and evil deeds)…”]

  • Partnerships for the goals (SDG 17)

[Chapter 5 v2: “…help you one another in virtue, righteousness and piety (common good) but do not help one another in sin and transgression…”]

The UN SDGs are primarily intended for the well-being of human beings. As sustainable development strives for a balanced economy, society and environment, Islam too drives a balance between the 3 to maintain efficient and effective resource usage. If spirituality becomes a way of life upholding timeless moral, ethical and human values, sustainability is certainly assured and Maqaasid As-Shariah to serve as governance framework, guidelines and values.


The adaptability of Islamic Finance (IF) post Covid-19 - AAOIFI

During the recent AAOIFI webinar that took place on the 14th December 2020, much of the discussion was around the adaptability of Islamic Finance (IF) post Covid-19. The COVID-19 pandemic is an event which has provoked unprecedented reflections and shifts within the sector.

Many countries fell into economic depression despite government and central bank support, with supply chains, currencies and SMEs all affected. However, the pandemic also accelerated the set-up of the digitalisation trend - from the creation of blockchain technology platforms where users could mobilise funds in a transparent manner, to online banking, online schools, virtual meetings and more.

A study conducted by some of the participating banks in Turkey revealed that the pandemic presented some strengths where clients were giving priority to Murabaha debt to continue financing their business operations and there were no dealings in any derivatives instruments. It was also an opportunity for widening the distribution channels and increasing the number of customers. On the more challenging side, the contraction in economic activities caused a cash shortage in companies and where participating banks were not able to lend a helping hand. Participating banks had limited number of instruments for consumer credits.

In an Islamic Economic system, the gap between the real and financial sectors is non-existent. While the financial sector can move independently from the real sector (which is what happened during the financial meltdown of 2008, when profits were being made while the real economy shrank). It is evident that reform in IF is needed, and there is a huge opportunity for the industry to re-inject returns into the real economy towards the creation of employment and promoting real businesses. On the other hand, financial innovation relating to the environment such as green financing and sustainable financing is encouraged by the Maqasid Al-Shariah.

In this current climate the role of regulators is more imminent than ever in providing guidance & the necessary educational tools to Islamic Banks (IB) and the industry, especially where many Central Banks have failed to abide by Standards that are pillars to the economy. IFSB for example are working in line with Regulators in an attempt to bring together uniformity and good guidelines in the IB sector. The pandemic is placing enormous strains on corporate cash flows as business operations have temporarily ceased.

Banerjee et al (2020) estimate that 50% of firms in 26 advanced countries do not have enough cash to cover total debt servicing costs over the coming years. Some guidance for governance during the pandemic included:

  • Board & executive directors are recommended to implement crisis management plans. Such crisis management plans should cover reporting practices and governance issues.
  • Boards are recommended to emphasise stakeholders’ needs and ensure transparent reporting of transactions arising due to the pandemic (moratorium payments).
  • Boards are recommended to emphasise ethical considerations while developing strategies to handle the pandemic.
  • Sharia boards are advised to develop pro-active measures to ensure sharia compliance.

Some opportunities for IFIs included:

  • Social safety net – IFIs need to develop fiscal plans for a sustainable future.
  • Islamic Social Finance tools – e.g. Qard Hassan, Sukuk, Waqf, Zakaat are available for IFIs
  • Fintech (Mobile banking, Sharia compliant crowdfunding, Islamic micro finance & smart contracts).

Omar Shaikh delivers virtual lecture to World Muslim Communities Council

UKIFC Managing Director Omar Shaikh delivered a virtual lecture with the World Muslim Communities Council, on Saturday 5th December 2020. Entitled "Moral Economy and Green Recovery After Covid-19: Islamic Awqaf and Finance", the lecture affirmed that Islamic finance is moral financing and a means to carry out community activities and achieve human happiness. 

He added: “Islamic finance is a financing product that has a clear structure and focuses on alignment and avoids usury, because it is a green economy that achieves recovery with returns, social benefits and blessings in money, as well as it provides solutions to global challenges.”

He explained that in the face of the outbreak of the epidemic, we must seize opportunities for Islamic finance and endowments, as there are several challenges facing financing operations and traditional bank shares such as supply chains. He is stressing that the demand for products for the benefit of societies has led to an increase in profits and reduced costs for banks.

He called for a focus on ethical economics and sustainable banking through investment in markets and Sharia governance, as well as on sustainability goals by contributing to the eradication of poverty and achieving gender equality, by harmonizing Islamic finance. He is calling for rebuilding a new system of Islamic finance based on human welfare and serving the society.

During the lecture, Omar pointed out the experience of the countries of Scotland and the United Arab Emirates in being among the first countries that cared about the happiness of the individual to achieve emotional intelligence.

The World Muslim Communities Council is an international non-governmental organization, headquartered in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi.