JOB VACANCY - Senior Consultant and Researcher

We are currently recruiting a Senior Consultant and Researcher for a 12 month full time (or 4 days per week pro rata) contract based in Glasgow or London. 

The successful candidate will be responsible for leading and undertaking consulting assignments, high-quality research and report writing activities for the organisation as well as supporting other colleagues.

The role will involve effective self-management and delivery of a range of developmental projects and client assignments across our four core work streams. The role will also include operational responsibility such as the management of budgets and resources.

UKIFC Senior Consultant and Researcher Job Specification

Please send your CV and a 300 word summary outlining why you are suitable for the role to umer@ukifc.com by 31st July 2018.

 


UKIFC Senior Advisor Talks to CNBC Africa about Financial Inclusion

According to the World Bank around 2 billion people do not use formal financial services and more than 50% of adults in the world’s poorest households are unbanked. A number of factors significantly affect financial inclusion and through working with policymakers, regulators and development agencies across the globe over several years we at the UKIFC are acutely aware of these.

Financial inclusion typically relates to transactions, payments, savings, credit and insurance products and services that facilitate day-to-day living, helping families and businesses plan for everything from long-term goals to unexpected emergencies. As account holders, people are more likely to use other financial services, such as credit and insurance, to start and expand businesses, invest in education or health, manage risk, and weather financial shocks, which can improve the overall quality of their lives.

UKIFC Senior Advisor, and financial inclusion expert, Modupe Ladipo joined CNBC Africa to discuss financial inclusion in Africa.

Please click on the link to watch the full interview - Keeping track of Nigeria’s financial inclusion strides


UKIFC Deliver an Islamic Finance Course in Edinburgh

The positive convergence of ethical and Islamic finance, coupled with the demand from a wide range of industry stakeholders keen to develop their knowledge and understanding in these overlapping areas, has led the Ethical Finance Hub to launch a unique and flexible executive education summer course offering in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Despite the remarkable recent growth of ethical and Islamic finance there remain few academic or professional courses that provide practically-focused pragmatic training.

The 3 day "Islamic Finance - An Ethical Alternative", an intensive practical Course designed, developed and delivered by the UKIFC, will begin with a comprehensive introduction to Islamic finance, its ethical foundations, core structures, and creation of Islamic banking products. It will then offer practical guidance in creating enabling regulatory frameworks, particularly within a secular context, before exploring the nuances of Shariah compliant asset management. The Course concludes with a session focused on the legal, mechanics and trends within Islamic finance real estate transactions.

The course will take place at Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University Monday 25th June 2018 - Wednesday 27th June 2018. with the 2 day "Ethical Finance and Investment Paradigm" takes place over the following two days.

For further information and to register please click HERE.

 

 


UKIFC Partnership with Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) Discussed on the BBC

Omar Shaikh (UKIFC) and Martin Palmer (Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC)) appeared on BBC Radio Scotland's Sunday Morning with Ricky Ross to discuss a new and innovative partnership between the organisations which aims to promote a major shift in international ethical finance. ARC, UK-based international NGO linking religions with environment initiatives, was founded in 1996 by HRH The Prince Philip and current Secretary General Martin Palmer.

 

The agreement came after a delegation from ARC spent two days in Edinburgh, attending the UKIFC’s 15th Ethical Finance Round Table as well as meeting with representations of the Ethical Finance Hub, Scottish Government, Church of Scotland and others to discuss the possibility of a new faith-consistent investment unit being based out of the Hub in Edinburgh.

ARC has been working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and faith groups from across the globe to explore the development an international faith-consistent investment alliance which seeks to address the challenges and opportunities posed by the SDGs. The UN recognises that traditional aid channels and funds are not sufficient or sustainable sources of finance to deliver the SDGs. The potential of the faiths, however, is significant.

Every religion has values and teachings that accord (in different ways) with at least some of the visions expressed in the SDGs. Faith investments (pensions, endowments and other portfolios) represent at least 12% of the total global capital market an estimated further 30% owned by people who are active followers of the major religions. Until recently, whilst some faith groups had negative screening policies (eg not investing in armaments or tobacco), almost none had proactive / positive investment policies (of what they would actively invest in to support a better future world in the future eg sustainable energy).

The UKIFC will join ARC’s steering group meeting at the UN office in New York on March 26 2018. The aim of the meeting is to discuss the purpose and structure of the proposed faith-consistent investment alliance and whether and how it might operate from three global centres, which might include the Edinburgh Ethical Finance Hub and possibly a centre in Zug, Switzerland.

ARC will also work with the UKIFC and the Church of Scotland to support the  development of shared values framework, to be launched in autumn 2018, by bringing in other faith groups to ensure the values are widely ratified.


15th Ethical Finance Round Table Focuses on Millennial Perspectives in Finance  

The latest Edinburgh Ethical Finance Round Table took place for a second time in the offices of Baillie Gifford. The topic for the meeting was the attitude of the millennial generation to finance and their potential influence on investment decisions. In a departure from the established format the meeting featured presentations from four speakers

Iona Bain

The first presentation was given by Iona Bain, a freelance financial journalist who has established a leading media profile in this area, not least as founder of “Young Money Blog”. Her own view was that “millennial” was something of misnomer and in danger of becoming little more than a marketing concept, but nevertheless had become the established term for those in the 20-35 age group. While she questioned whether this generation is truly more entrepreneurial that its predecessors, there was no doubt that technology had changed attitudes and this age group very much wished to handle its finances by smartphone. So far this was largely confined to bank account operation as “fintech” was still not a widely understood term - this was likely to change however. She did consider that her generation was driven more by its ideals and social goals than purely questions of income and the fact that the general expectation was now to change job every three to four years meant that traditional pension structures etc were not well aligned. One particular concern to her was the apparent investment gap between men and women even in this age group, which in her opinion risked a “gender prosperity gap” developing.

Laura Westring

The second speaker was Laura Westring who, following a career with the EU, was now Head of Communications at “FutureX”, founded last year to support young entrepreneurs and early stage businesses in Scotland. Her main reason for returning to Scotland had been the substantial growth in business start-ups, particularly in the area of fintech – Edinburgh now hosts the largest technology start-up hub in the UK. One important change in attitude which she had detected was that start-up business owners and their funders were less interested in the old model of building up the business with a view to an early exit than in maintaining control and involvement through alternative financing routes such as crowdfunding. Another significant development was the growth in promoting staff retention and commitment by providing opportunities for investing in the businesses concerned. In some cases, if entrepreneurs can show a convincing early track record they can hand pick their investors for their attitude and commitment to the business in question. One important aim of FutureX is to bring together entrepreneurs who might otherwise consider themselves competitors with a view to learning from each other and sharing ideas from which they can all benefit.

In response to a question from the floor as to whether she thought millennials are more “ethical” than previous generations, Laura responded that while that might be debatable she did think they were more open to risk-taking, due to the decline in job security and long term employment.

Dave Gorman

The next speaker was Dave Gorman, the Director of Social Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Edinburgh. He set out the background to the University’s “Responsible Investment Policy”, which had been in place since 2013, with the practical consequence that investment decisions were now driven as much by “ethical” questions such as supply chains as by purely financial considerations. An annual survey was conducted with the student body, which generally produced around 4,000 replies. One general change of mindset he noted was moving on from identifying problems to focusing on solutions. Ideas about the purpose of investment had also widened and could be tied in with the University’s own work – e.g. social enterprise investment being linked with teaching and research projects.

Graham Burnside in the Chair introduced the final part of the meeting by summarising briefly the current inter-faith finance project taking place between the UKIFC and the Church of Scotland, seeking to agree a framework of shared values in the area of finance and economics and to move on from that to develop a practical financial product reflecting these values.

Martin Palmer

This then led into a final presentation from Martin Palmer, the Secretary General of The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), which works with all of the major faiths. Martin emphasised that the ARC’s work was not about inter-faith dialogue as such, but rather bringing the diverse faith groups together to work on non-religious issues, particularly on investment and environmental matters. Over 75% of faith groups now have negative screening processes in place but until very recently almost none had any positive investment policies. ARC was now working to create a “Faith Consistent Investment Alliance” to encourage and develop moves in this direction. Another important recent development is that the ARC and its associated faith groups are working with the UN on promoting its Sustainable Development Goals.


'How Ethical is Islamic Finance' Thematic Workshop a huge success!

We are pleased to announce that our Thematic Workshop with the International Shari’ah Research Academy for Islamic Finance (ISRA) in association with K&L Gates had a great turnout and was a huge success. There was a lot of passion, energy, provocation and engagement with the topics. More details about the thematic workshop will be published soon.


UKIFC facilitates inaugural APPG meeting

The UKIFC facilitated the inaugural All-Party Parliamentary Group on Islamic finance meeting on Monday 20th November.

The meeting was hosted and chaired by Lord Sheikh, Baron of Cornhill and co-chaired by Baroness Uddin. The meeting was dutifully attended by key stakeholders from the Islamic finance sector, including practitioners, experts, academics, financial institutions, law firms and Shariah scholars. Amongst others were representatives from the UK Department for International Development (DfID).

The meeting raised a number of discussion points, and it was fascinating to hear from tenured industry leaders about the challenges that they face. Lord Sheikh was keen to capture the issues and proposed solutions, then raise them with the appropriate government departments to see how the issues can be best addressed.

 

 


UKIFC's Ethical Finance Round Table explores the role financial institutions can play in meeting UN SDG's

The 14th Edinburgh Ethical Finance Round Table took place on Monday 13th November 2017 for the first time in the offices of Baillie Gifford, who will be hosting the series for the next 2 years.  The topic for the meeting was the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the role the financial sector can play in making them a reality.

The first presentation was given by Fran van Dijk, one of the founding partners of One Stone Advisors, who are leading consultants in the field of sustainability, operating principally in the UK, Scandinavia and the Netherlands.  Fran reported that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have increasingly become a focus area for their clients in recent times, both seeking to map their own strategy against the SDGs and, in some cases, going beyond that to seek to link and adapt their strategies to make a positive contribution to meeting the goals.

A major challenge in achieving the SDGs by their target date of 2030 will be finance, much of which will have to come from the private sector.  However that will bring many opportunities too both in generating revenue from change (estimated at a possible $12 trillion) and in creating jobs (estimated at a possible 380 million).  Fran then gave a number of examples of businesses which together or in partnership were actively contributing to progress – these included Triodos Bank, BNP Paribas, which was developing the "Solactive" index, and the World Benchmarking Alliance lead by Aviva, which was seeking to develop a comprehensive SDG benchmark over the next 3 years.

The second presentation was given by Lee Qian of Baillie Gifford, introducing their "Positive Change Fund" in which he played a leading role. The strategy of the Fund is to invest solely in companies making a positive contribution to social or environmental challenge, while continuing to deliver attractive returns. The Fund had only recently been launched and currently stood at a level of £12 million but it was hoped in time this could reach a value of up to $10 billion.

The view underlying the investment strategy was that companies in this category will prosper in the long-term, so this is very much a "patient capital" approach.  The management of the Fund operates by way of intensive internal analysis, focusing on the intention, business practices and product impact of the companies in question.  The SDGs form a useful framework for measuring the last of these aspects and also provide a means of communicating and reporting on the impact achieved to investors.

The discussion was then opened to the floor.

One question which was raised was whether there was a danger of the SDGs becoming merely a "box ticking" exercise or whether they were actually stimulating new investment.  In response, Fran van Dijk agreed that it was essential that the impact of investment should be closely assessed against the SDGs – in her view the forthcoming Aviva benchmark should help in this.

It was noted that as yet the UK was one of the countries which had not yet formulated its policy in relation to SDGs and it appeared that the government was seeking contributors to put together chapters on each of the individual Goals.  It was suggested therefore that it might be a suitable project for the EFRT to collaborate on one of the chapters in question.

There was some comment that for certain sectors the SDGs may appear to be framed in too general and high level way.  Nevertheless the view of the presenters was that they could still form a very useful starting point for any company's strategy.


UKIFC External Shariah Audit Report highlighted by The Telegraph

UKIFC Advisory Board Member, Omar Shaikh was quoted by The Telegraph in London on 15th October, in an article entitled "Can the UK make the most of sukuk, the Islam-compliant bond?". The article briefly explores the history of sukuk and the 2014 UK issuance. The article also reflects on the application of English law of contracts and the Dana Gas case, currently being heard in London. The article picked up on our External Shariah Audit report, citing that since its publication, the Central Bank of Bahrain, State Bank of Pakistan and the Central Bank of Oman have introduced or implemented these standards.

Click here to read the article.

Click here to access our External Shariah Audit report.


The 2nd Global Ethical Finance Forum a huge success!

 The UKIFC worked with Middle East Global Advisors (MEGA) as Strategic Partner to the 2nd Global Ethical Finance Forum (GEFF) 2017, supported by Scottish Government and HM Government, and was hosted at the RBS Conference Centre in Edinburgh. Building upon the legacy of the inaugural Forum held in September 2015, the theme for GEFF 2017 - “Ethical Finance: Merging Profit & Purpose”, was in line with the Forum’s aspiration to serve as a platform of convergence and collaboration across the responsible finance universe, and to forge a vision for a more inclusive and sustainable financial system.The forum was attended by over 300 delegates from world-renowned organisations such as the Scottish Government, RBS, Standard Life Investments, Columbia Threadneedle, IDB, Cameron Hume Limited, Impax Asset Management, SEDCO Capital, Astana International Financial (AIFC) Authority, Vigeo Eiris, The Big Issue, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Hermes Investment Management, Global Alliance for Banking on Values and many more.

 

Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment & Cities, Keith Brown MSP, addresses the delegates. Credit: Ian Jacobs

Day One: Reflecting on the aftermath of the global financial crisis and highlighting the need of establishing a sustainable financial system, Keith Brown MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Economy, Jobs & Fair Work, Scottish Government, said, “In the ten years following the global financial crisis there has been something of a re-alignment in attitudes among bankers and investment managers and among customers and shareholders. [...] Interest in establishing an alternative, sustainable, responsible and ethical financial system continues to grow as does interest in developing a more long-term and responsible form of economic development.”

 

Omar Shaikh, Advisory Board Member of UKIFC welcomes the audience to Edinburgh
Credit: Ian Jacobs
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Speaking on behalf of the UKIFC and explaining how Scotland poses as a fitting backdrop to host the narrative due to its strong heritage in ethical finance, Omar Shaikh, Advisory Board Member said, “Globally the city is a leading financial hub and within this, Edinburgh is a key location for asset management and banking. With Scotland’s proud heritage in prudent finance through the mutual life companies, origins of the savings bank movement, I believe that Scotland presents a natural place to convene and host this international dialogue which is pertinent now more than ever.”

Stressing on the massive opportunity that lies for mainstreaming ethical finance, Lord Sheikh, The Baron Sheikh of Cornhill and Patron of the UKIFC, said, “A fundamental part of the UK’s economic success strength stems from bilateral trade. This will be more important than ever before as we embark on a new era for our country post-Brexit. In particular, I believe that we must now seek greater economic and trade ties with our friends from across the globe and forge new trading agreements. In this context, the APPG believes that Islamic and ethical finance can offer a gateway to building new relationships and accessing new markets.”

 

Deputy Governor of State Bank of Pakistan, Jameel Ahmad addresses the delegates. Credit: Ian Jacobs

Day Two: In an exemplary keynote address and what was possibly a fitting case study, Jameel Ahmad, Deputy Governor, SBP, took the audience on Pakistan’s journey to embracing financial inclusion, wherein he spoke about responsible finance and its pre-requisites and cited some informative statistics highlighting Pakistan’s global recognition in embracing financial inclusion. He further expanded on State Bank of Pakistan’s impressive strategic approach towards responsible finance, in particular strengthening the framework for microfinance consumer protection and the national financial literacy programme being rolled out. He also took into account the obstacles that may pose a hindrance in achieving the goal of effective financial inclusion.

In a powerful and fitting closing keynote address, Nigel Kershaw, Chair, The Big Issue, said, “There is a lot of talk about ethical finance and in particular ESG and social impact because it’s talked about primarily by people involved in the financial sector. I believe the democratisation of capital is extremely central to what we do. Quite often, the discussion is top-down supply and product-led and for me, it often misses one of the most important social outcomes that is quite often forgotten – that’s the opportunity for ordinary people to invest and save in creating a better place to live for themselves, their families and the community around them. It’s not about mainstreaming ethical finance, it’s all about bringing the mainstream to us.”

Following the welcome and keynote addresses was the Plenary Session on the interplay between ethics, faith and finance which witnessed leading experts deliberate on how ethics should redeem its integral role within finance, beyond being just a convenient addendum.

Click on the links below to see press releases from the forum.

Credit: Ian Jacobs