Graham Burnside attends Responsible Finance and Investment Summit in Zurich

Our Advisory Board Member, Graham Burnside was invited to speak at the RFI Summit in Zurich on 3rd & 4th May 2017, on financial inclusion and accessibility, and efficiency through FinTech. During the session, Graham also discussed whether by opening finance to Muslims, impact investing can have a broader social impact.

Graham is an expert in banking and finance law, specialising in particular in structured finance and capital markets. He is considered the Scotland's leading expert, having structured and documented the first (and so far only) Islamic mortgage products operating under Scots law and the first fully Sharia-compliant commercial real estate financing in Scotland.

The Responsible Finance & Investment Summit (RFI Summit) is an initiative of the RFI Foundation and Swiss Arab Network to build awareness of shared values that can bring socially responsible investing (SRI), environmental, social and governance (ESG) and Islamic finance together to increase their positive impact.

During the Responsible Finance & Investment Summit key stakeholders within responsible finance were brought together to build connections for new growth opportunities and more measurable impact. The RFI Summit played a vital role in connecting representatives from across the responsible finance industry to build on the growing cooperation between SRI, ESG and Islamic finance.

UKIFC Features in IIBI's New Horizon Magazine

The UKIFC features twice in the most recent edition of The Institute of Islamic Banking and Insurance's (IIBI) New Horizon magazine as issued on 4th May 2017.

Please click on the images below to download the articles:


For more information on the IIBI please click HERE.

Need funding for a startup in the UK? Don't bother with banks

As published by Alicia Buller in 29 March 2017

The British Muslim startup landscape is booming. Each passing month sees the launch of new and enterprising businesses, from fine dining to prayer apps to celeb lipsticks. Despite the success of some individual businesses, many entrepreneurs say that gaining access to startup funding remains their biggest challenge.

The UK government has recognised the value of the Islamic economy by setting up directives to promote the industry, but the options for Muslim entrepreneurs at the seed-funding stage remain limited.

“The UK government’s initial policy objective for Islamic finance was to promote financial inclusion,” said Omar Shaikh, Executive Board Member at the UK Islamic Finance Council (UKIFC), “but there remain various gaps in government- and local council–backed financial initiatives which are not sensitive to, or do not understand, the need to provide a Shariah-compliant alternative. For example, we still don’t have Islamic student loans.”

He added that early-stage startup venture capital is not generally the remit of high-street banks, and therefore, “big society vehicles” are the bodies that should be tasked with supporting entrepreneurship.

UK Omar Shaikh UK Islamic Finance Council UKIFC

Photo: Omar Shaikh, Executive Board Member at the UK Islamic Finance Council (UKIFC)

“But if you look at the support provided to start-ups via institutional frameworks, be it government funding or city councils, they typically have some interest-bearing financing option like soft loans or preference shares,” he continued. “That makes it more difficult to access for Muslims, because there is a considerable aversion towards engaging with interest-based products.”

“In the UK, I’ve come across very few initiatives, but they’re more specific. We’ve seen real estate and other very specific types of funds established, but they are not your traditional VC-type player that goes out to the open market. One or two attempts have been made in the past, but they’ve been very localised.”

According to Shaikh, In the face of limited financing options, entrepreneurs are refinancing their own houses with Home Purchase Plans to get their businesses off the ground. “Select people are refinancing their existing property. That’s the only institutional capital that the Muslim community can get their hands on. They are taking equity out from their property by refinancing it in an Islamic way”.


He also suggests looking at crowdfunding options and approaching all the mainstream VC players who are in the market. “Never give up,” he advises. “You can take equity-based financing, and that complies with Shariah.”

Hassan Waqar is a part-time university student and the founder of Ummah Finance, the UK’s first fintech financial services provider. His is a familiar story for entrepreneurs who want to get into Shariah-compliant businesses. “I’m a Muslim, and I’m launching my own business that mainly targets Muslims across the UK, but I am finding it difficult to gain the funds for my venture as investors are not up to speed on the strength of the industry.”

Waqar added, “It’s up to us as Muslim entrepreneurs to jump these hurdles and make the Islamic economy grow. If we want to succeed, then we need to start putting in the hard work, and results will pour in.”


Imran Kausar, founder of London-based halal-food brand Haloodies, agrees that lack of knowledge and awareness of the halal market in general can be a hurdle for Muslim startups: “Muslims are only 5 per cent of the UK population, so [they] can be too niche for some investors seeking rapid scale.”

His advice is for UK companies to work around these challenges together, seeking investors from Muslim countries and tapping capital sources that can understand Shariah rules and appropriately value the Muslim markets.

“Utilising platforms that can enable increased sharing of knowledge, experience and capital would also help; for example, angel investor events, entrepreneur forums and Muslim-focused crowdfunding sites can all play a role.”

UKIFC hosts impact investing round table

The 12th Edinburgh Ethical Finance Round Table once again took place in the offices of Maclay Murray & Spens LLP. Picking up on themes from the previous meeting, the topic was Impact Investment and how its outcomes can best be evaluated.

Amanda Young, who heads the Responsible Investments team at Standard Life Investments, gave the first presentation. Outlining the history of the ethical investment movement over the past 25 years she indicated how this had moved from purely negative screening to an active scrutiny of the social/environment returns from investments alongside the financial ones. Currently the main barrier to larger scale involvement from mainstream investors is the limited size and scale of investment opportunities, but she saw encouraging trends which should help to counter this – government pressure on businesses to report on these issues and at an international level the increasing acceptance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals were examples of important factors. Standard Life Investments’ own approach involves building an “impact stock universe” from its overall “buy” list of around 150 stocks. She emphasised that key factors were measurability and intentionality – evaluation of these is very much a developing process but there is a continuing focus on seeking to refine this.

The second presentation was given by Celia Tennant, CEO of Inspiring Scotland, which deals exclusively with philanthropic impact investment. Celia indicated that their focus was almost entirely on social impact, their process starting from identification of a social need around which they then raise funds and seek to identify a portfolio of the best placed third sector bodies to tackle the issue. The aim of venture philanthropy is to make an impact and share the outcomes and accordingly evaluation and measurement of these is essential, for which they use both internal and external assessors. To date Inspiring Scotland has donated over £100m to the Scottish voluntary sector spread over 300+ organisations.

A general discussion followed, focusing initially on the issue of whether a sufficient scale of qualifying businesses to allow impact investment to “go mainstream” is likely to emerge. The view on this was cautiously optimistic, pointing to the faster than expected rate of change in for example the development of electric cars and the growth of Green Bonds. Amanda Young did however see a considerable challenge in building platforms which would allow retail investors easy access to impact investment. On the question on measurement there was general recognition that this imposed onerous requirements on businesses but was nevertheless essential for development and signs were that mainstream organisations were increasingly accepting the requirement. There was consensus that continued focus on agreeing common approaches to evaluation and transparency of outcomes was essential and it was noted that the UK is leading internationally on measuring environmental impact.

The meeting concluded with a brief update on the Ethical Finance Hub project from Julian Parrott of Ethical Futures. The main recent development was securing premises at the Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University. The next crucial step was achieving confirmation of continued financial support from Scottish Government and it was hoped that this would be confirmed within the next month.

UKIFC Promote Public Lecture in Islamic FinTech at UEL

The UKIFC is delighted to be supporting the University of East of England public lecture on Islamic finance which this year will be themed around the Shariah and regulatory aspects of FinTech.

FinTech is disruptive. Existing regulations do not fit well with new products. "Islamic" FinTech adds the requirement of Shariah compliance to the legal complexity of financial innovations. Islamic jurists and Shariah standard setters have not yet systematically dealt with issues such as "cryptocurrencies," risk mitigation in crowdfunding, smart contracts, or the status of decentralised autonomous organisations (DAOs). Is there a need for "Shariah sandboxes" to reduce Shariah non-compliance risks for innovators?


Date / Time:

6:30-8:00pm, Wednesday February 22, 2017


University of East London

Main Lecture Theatre, University Square Stratford

No 1, Salway Road, Stratford, London E15 1NF (five minutes walk from Stratford tube station)


Prof. Volker Nienhaus

Dr. Volker Nienhaus was a Professor of Economics at the University of Bochum and President of the University of Marburg. Currently, he is Adjunct Professor at the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF) in Malaysia, consultant to the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB) and a member of the International Advisory Panel of the World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF).


The Hon. Mr. Justice Cranston

High Court Judge, Queen’s Bench Division


Event is free and on first come, first served basis. For enquiries, please email

UK’s largest Islamic retail bank opens its first office in Scotland

Al Rayan Bank has opened an office in Glasgow, establishing its presence as the only wholly Sharia compliant retail bank in Scotland and further cementing the country’s reputation as a hub for ethical finance. The office will be officially opened this evening by Al Rayan Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Sultan Choudhury, and Chief Commercial Officer, Keith Leach, together with key members of the Bank’s executive team.

Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Keith Brown said: “Al Rayan Bank’s welcome decision to expand its operations into Scotland for the first time highlights the real opportunity offered by ethical finance. This announcement reflects Scotland’s growing profile in ethical finance, building on last year’s successful Global Ethical Finance Forum and the work being done by the Edinburgh-based Ethical Finance Hub. I wish them all the best for a successful future in Scotland.”

Scottish customers will now have access to the UK’s largest range of Islamic retail banking products. This includes Sharia compliant home and property finance products that are tailored to the Scottish market; savings accounts; current accounts and business banking. In addition, the Bank accredits Sharia compliant pensions and investment products, which are provided by third parties.

Although specialising in Islamic finance, Al Rayan Bank is an inclusive bank which welcomes customers of all faiths. Throughout the UK, non-Muslim customers are increasingly choosing it as their bank of choice. The Bank estimates that 94% of all Fixed Term Deposit (FTD) savings customers who have joined the Bank this year were non-Muslim. These customers are attracted, not only by the ethical nature of Islamic finance, but also by Al Rayan Bank’s consistently table topping expected profit rates.

Sultan Choudhury, CEO, Al Rayan Bank, said: “Al Rayan Bank is committed to being an inherent part of the communities that we serve. We have many Scottish customers, who in the past have managed their accounts through our online and telephone banking channels, so it’s with a real sense of pride that we can now welcome existing and new customers to our first permanent office in Scotland.”

Scotland has a proud heritage in ethical finance, and the new office is co-located with the Islamic Finance Council UK (UKIFC), a well-established advisory and developmental body that specialises in promoting and enhancing the global Islamic and ethical finance industry. Omar Shaikh, Board Member, UKIFC, said: “We welcome Al Rayan Bank to our Glasgow offices, and look forward to working in partnership with them. We believe that Al Rayan Bank’s new office is great news for Scotland, as the Bank provides consumers with a competitive, ethical alternative to traditional banking.”

The new Glasgow office forms part of Al Rayan Bank’s national branch and office network, which is strategically located throughout major cities in the UK.

Al Rayan Bank is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority, regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority, and is a member of Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Omar Shaikh Participates in UN Event in Turkey

UKIFC Advisory Board member Omar Shaikh was invited to participate in a prestigious panel on Islamic finance and impact investing at the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Istanbul International Centre for Private Sector in Development's (IICPSD) 7th Bosphorus Summit which took place on 29th November 2016.

IICPSD is one of six UNDP global policy centres with a special mandate to focus on the role of the private sector in development. Recently UNDP IICPSD and IDB established the Global Islamic Finance and Impact Investing Platform (GIFIIP) to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

Omar was able to share insights on Islamic finance and social impact while moderating the "Towards an Islamic Finance and Impact investing Ecosystem" panel session. The panel brought together the experience of practitioners and investors focused on scaling up Islamic finance for impact investing. The discussions sought to identify future directions for a global Islamic finance and impact investing business ecosystem in support of the Sustainable Development Goals. Speakers for the sessions were:

  • Kıvanç Çubukçu, Project Manager, Kois Invest, Belgium
  • Prof. Abdul Ghafar Ismail, Head of Division, Islamic Banking and Financial Economics & Islamic Research and Training Institute, Islamic Development Bank, KSA
  • Hussam Abu Issa, Vice President, Salam International, Qatar
  • Aamir Abdul Rehman, Managing Director, Fajr Capital, UAE
  • Dr. Serdar Sümer, CEO, Aktif Bank, Turkey
  • Babur Tolbayev, CEO, Mol Bulak, Kyrgyzstan
  • Ufuk Uyan, General Manager, Kuveyt Türk, Turkey

The Honorary Opening Speech was delivered by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of the Republic of Turkey. 

UKIFC and ISRA conference on Shariah Goverenance

Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan and leading international shariah scholars and industry experts convene in London (Oct16)

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Digital Banking - Fintech future for Islamic finance

UKIFC Board Members join ADIB CEO at RFi Group digital banking event in Dubai.

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