Bank Sarasin-Alpen recognised as the "Best Wealth Manager"at the Islamic Business and Finance Awards 2011

Bank Sarasin-Alpen won the Best Islamic Wealth Manager award at the Islamic Business and Finance Awards 2011 organized by CPI Financial, publisher of Islamic Business and Finance magazine. Rohit Walia, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO of Bank Sarasin-Alpen Group and Mahboob Murshed, Managing Director accepted the award at a ceremony held at the Emirates Towers Hotel, Dubai on 13th December, 2011.

Bank Sarasin-Alpen is a subsidiary of Bank Sarasin & Co. Ltd, Switzerland – an organization which has been known for Sustainable Swiss private banking since 1841. The Sarasin Group is incorporated in the GCC as Sarasin-Alpen.

It was established in the region through its first office in Dubai in 2005 and since then has built a strong presence by expanding its operations to Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and India. Bank Sarasin-Alpen provides a complete range of first class private banking and investment advisory solutions to private and institutional clients in GCC and South Asia.

Bank Sarasin & Co. Ltd launched its Islamic Wealth Management offering from Switzerland in late 2009. Through the offering it provides a full spectrum of Sharia-compliant private banking products and services including estate and succession planning, financing and asset management, including money market and structured products such as Wakala, Murabaha and Maraya.

It also has established an independent Sharia Advisory board comprising eminent scholars such as Sheikh Dr Mohamed Ali Elgari, Dr Muhammad Imran Ashraf Usmani and Dr Monzer Kahf, which ensures that this high-quality offering is fully compliant with Sharia principles. Sarasin’s Islamic wealth management service is based on an intense investment screening process, which incorporates elaborate Sharia monitoring and control procedures.

Rohit Walia, Executive Vice Chairman & CEO, Bank Sarasin Alpen Group

“We are honoured to be recognized as the Best Wealth Manager by the Islamic Business and Finance Awards. We launched our Islamic wealth management services in 2009 to meet increasing client demand. This offering along with our already existing conventional offering has helped us in strengthening our position in the GCC region”.

Fares Mourad, Managing Director and Head of Islamic Finance

“Our relentless focus on client needs was the inspiration behind the development of this offering which combines the highest standards of Swiss private banking with Sharia principles. Many of our clients have expressed an interest in this type of investment approach and we are extremely delighted that our complete range of products and services has been welcomed by clients”.

Sarasin – Sustainable Swiss Private Banking since 1841 –

The Sarasin Group has its roots as a leading Swiss private bank. As an international financial service provider committed to sustainability, the Group is now represented in more than 20 locations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.By end of December 2010 it managed total client assets of CHF 103.4 billion and employed around 1,600 staff. Its majority shareholder is the Dutch Rabobank.

Bank Sarasin-Alpen (ME) Ltd –

Bank Sarasin-Alpen is incorporated as Bank Sarasin-Alpen (ME) Limited in Dubai, Bank Sarasin-Alpen (ME) Limited – Representative Office in Abu Dhabi, as Bank Sarasin-Alpen Qatar, LLC, in Qatar, as Sarasin-Alpen Bahrain BSC in Bahrain and as Sarasin-Alpen LLC, in Oman.

These subsidiaries of Bank Sarasin, Basel, Switzerland provide the complete range of Bank Sarasin’s private banking services. In addition to UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, the bank caters to the requirements of private and institutional clients in the Middle East and South Asia.

Islamic finance momentum gathers pace in Oman

The Islamic finance industry’s newest market, Oman, may be seeing a flurry of activity with new authorizations in Islamic advisory and Takaful following the recent approvals for the establishment of two Islamic banks, Bank Nizwa and Al-Izz International Bank. But to what extent these developments will help entrench Islamic finance as an important emerging component of Oman’s financial services sector must remain a moot point.

Nevertheless, financial institutions are rolling out their mini manifestos on their planned activities in the Islamic banking space targeted in the sultanate. Swiss private bank, Bank Sarasin, and Alpen Capital LLC (Oman), an investment bank, through their joint venture Sarasin-Alpen LLC, Oman, have received approval form the Capital Market Authority (CMA) of Oman to market sukuk and other Islamic capital market products and services to clients in Oman.

At the same time, Alpen Capital LLC itself has also received an Islamic advisory license from Oman’s CMA to provide advisory services in Islamic structures including in mergers and acquisitions (M&As), debt market instruments, equity products and capital market products including sukuk.

Alpen Capital confirmed that it has successfully closed several Islamic advisory mandates in the region and has arranged Musharaka/Murabaha agreements and advised on the placement of sukuk as well as restructured Islamic syndicated facilities for large conglomerates in the GCC. “Alpen Capital has extensive experience in advising on Islamic Finance deals and we have successfully managed many such transactions in the region. We will use this expertise to provide value added services to our clients in Oman”, says Rohit Walia, executive vice chairman & CEO, Alpen Capital Group.

The CMA has also given a Takaful license in principle to Al-Madina Gulf Insurance, provided the company converts into a publicly-listed company. Al-Madina according to its promoters plans to become a full-fledged Takaful operator providing general and family Takaful products.
However, the biggest impact on the nascent Omani Islamic finance sector may come from BankMuscat, the sultanate’s largest bank by far with assets worth over $15 billion and with a strong presence in Corporate Banking, Retail Banking, Investment Banking, Treasury, Private Banking and Asset Management. Bank Muscat also has the largest reach in Oman with over one million customers and the largest network of 129 branches.

It already offers a limited number of Shariah-compliant structured products and is confident that it can roll off several products as and when required. BankMuscat is also training some 250 staff in Islamic finance through bespoke courses.

BankMuscat is also active in the syndicated Murabaha sector, for instance. The bank, two years ago, even took out a 21.33 percent equity stake in Gulf African Bank (GAB), the first Islamic bank in Kenya. This was done through its associate Bahrain-incorporated BankMuscat International (BMI) Bank BSC in which it has a 49 percent equity stake and which already officers Islamic financial products and services. In fact, Ahmed Mohamed Abdullah Al-Abri, Chief Operating Officer of BankMuscat is a member of the Board of Directors of GAB and BMI Bahrain.

The bank has welcomed the royal directive issued in May this year by Oman’s absolute ruler, Sultan Qaboos, paving the way for the authorization of the country’s first standalone Islamic bank and for other interested banks to set up dedicated Islamic banking windows. It sees this as a major new niche opportunity not only for the bank but also for the Omani financial services sector; and expects demand for Shariah-compliant financial products to increase over the next few years in line with Islamic banking demand dynamics in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and the UAE.

However, it is not clear whether BankMuscat will confine its Islamic banking activities through a dedicated window or whether it may eventually spring off the window by apply for a separate dedicated Islamic banking license.

Following the royal decree on Islamic banking, the Central Bank of Oman issued a landmark circular to all licensed banks operating in the Sultanate regarding Islamic banking. “As licensed banks are aware,” says the circular, “it has been decided to license conduct of Islamic banking in the Sultanate through exclusive Islamic banks and windows of existing licensed banks.”
Considering the process of evolution and stage of Islamic banking in many jurisdictions, consistent with the broad approach generally adopted by the CBO in regulation and supervision and in order to be compliant and at the same time provide reasonable operational flexibility for the development of this new line of business, the circular further outlines the regulator’s approach to Islamic banking under the country’s banking Law.

“The central bank,” says the circular, “deems Islamic banking as one way of doing banking business under the banking law, subject, of course, to the overwhelming requirement of Shariah compliance. It will follow therefore that the provisions, as stated, respectively, in Articles 50 and 52 of the banking law on the use of word of “bank” or “banking” and licensing required from the central bank for doing “banking business” as enumerated in Article 5, shall remain applicable except that Islamic banks and Islamic banking windows, so authorized, shall be Shariah compliant and shall conform to other applicable requirements under the Banking Law and other laws.”

Nevertheless, Oman’s entry to Islamic banking has important implications for the Omani banking sector, the region and beyond. Omani banks that eventually become involved in Islamic banking could be an important bridge between the GCC and countries such as India and East Africa, two regions with which Oman has traditionally had close political, trading and kith and kin links.


Bank Sarasin urges stronger focus on Islamic Financial Planning

WAM Abu Dhabi, 18 April 2011(WAM) – In its second annual Islamic Wealth Management Report, Bank Sarasin urged the Islamic banking community to take a stronger focus on Islamic Financial Planning. Bank Sarasin also calls for the industry to move forward by developing the Sharia framework, diversifying products and differentiating its offerings.

Islamic Financial Planning, a religious obligation requested in the Qu’ran, involves the acquisition, preservation and philanthropic distribution of wealth. It is a religious duty that Muslims must have a will, so proper Estate Planning is required, often including a trust structure.

Bank Sarasin’s Islamic Wealth Report 2011 provides investors with an in-depth overview of developments in the Islamic Wealth arena in 2010 and explains how best to manage assets according to religious requirements. This approach exemplifies Bank Sarasin’s aim to minimise risk and maximise opportunities for its clients, a key objective in today’s volatile markets.

This year’s Report opens by explaining the required approach to Islamic Financial Planning before focusing on the key areas of philanthropy, the family office service, mutual funds and Sukuk, before concluding with an insight into Bank Sarasin’s current economic outlook for 2011. The Report also notes that the Islamic requirement to distribute part of acquired wealth is driving philanthropic giving in the GCC region (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman). Annual philanthropic giving in the GCC is already estimated at as much as USD 50 billion.