Sharjah Islamic Bank's website wins Best Structure Award

Sharjah Islamic Bank has won recently the ‘Best Structure Award’ under the Islamic banks category and received a Certificate of Excellence by Pan Arab Web Awards 2012.

Pan Arab Web Awards was created to recognize excellence in web design, development and web ownership skills to showcase their creativity in a competition for the best website in the Pan Arab Region.

Sharjah Islamic Bank had been entered into the competition with many prominent banks from the region including Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon and Oman. The banks hope their participation will open up a gateway to the global banking community, and allow them to market their services globally and thus foster cooperation with international banks, increase employees’ knowledge and work capacity as well as build greater liaison with customers

Head of Retail Banking Group Jassem Al Bloushi said: “We are honoured to receive this award, which reflects the banks positive approach of keeping abreast of developments in technology aimed to project and promote our services to our clients, and ensuring we reach a wider audience. Development through technology is the future and businesses today are mainly conducted through computers and websites. Therefore we take our website very seriously continually updating it with latest information of our services and have structured it so it’s easy to access”.

He also said that winning the award has many benefits, the main one being that it will enhance the reputation of the bank and enable it to market its services to a more international arena.

The Competition is part of Pan Arab Web Awards Academy which is in association with AYNA, MICROSOFT, BSA and MSN and their aim is to promote banks and financial institution’s websites along with improving creativity in web design and web development in constructing a banking e-world that is easily accessible and delivers banking and financial services.

The competition aims to create a global proactive banking community that encourages communication and interaction in the banking finance sectors as well as providing advanced and latest data along with services to meet customers’ needs.

Sharjah Islamic Bank has been going from strength to strength; it was awarded the Sharjah Economic Excellence Award 2008 for the finance sector of large enterprises. In the same year it was awarded the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Award organized by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and also the Dubai Quality Award organized by Dubai Economic Development Department.

The bank’s most recent awards include being named “Best Islamic Bank in UAE” for the fifth consecutive year by Islamic Finance News; “Best Islamic Bank” in the UAE for 2010 by NY-based Global Finance magazine; “Best Islamic Bank in the UAE” by Asiamoney Magazine, and being named winner of the first-ever Pan-Arab EMEA Finance award for corporate social responsibility.

Islamic banking set to triumph

Adnan Ahmed Yusuf, Chief Executive Officer of Al Baraka Banking Group and Chairman of the Union of Arab Banks, said that the Islamic banking in the Sultanate will spread and will achieve more than 20 per cent of the domestic banking during the next five years.

Adnan Yusuf revealed in an interview with Oman Economic the interest of ABG to enter the Islamic banking sector in the Sultanate but due to factors related to the policy of the group towards the form of ownership, Al Baraka Group is currently considering the possibility of managing a bank in the Sultanate or engaging in Islamic finance if the new banking laws permit so.

Adnan Yusuf said that the Sultanate’s late entry to the field of Islamic banking is a positive factor, as the experience of Islamic banking has reached a state of maturity and the Omani market will benefit from the experiences of other countries that preceded it in this area.

He believed that the conditions of the Arab banking sector, whether Islamic or the traditional one are in good condition as they are not conflicting with what is happening in the international markets. The European countries, despite the crisis they are currently facing, they will be able to get out of the bottleneck, although it takes time to achieve this.

“For the ABG, we are currently available in 15 countries and we have our own policy in the form of ownership. We have our own way of practicing business as it is a must that the bank that we are collaborating with carries the name of the group and that the administration is in the hands of the group and we have the majority stake in the bank’s capital,” he said.

“We have the desire to assume the management of banks, as we have extensive experience in Islamic banking. We now have 450 branches in various parts of the world in 15 countries and 10,000 employees work in these branches in a volume business of $18 billion. We have the option of managing a bank in the Sultanate, but this is not the only option we have, we have another proposals. We now await the new laws, which are about to be issued in the Sultanate after allowing to practice Islamic banking for the first time and we’ll see whether these laws will allow us to exist across the Islamic finance companies,” he said.

“In general, all the options are on the table for us and for the past six or seven years, we have made studies of the Central Bank of Oman and the views of business on the Islamic banking, therefore our relationship is very old and good in the Omani market,” he said.

“I expect the success of this activity in the Sultanate, as it is known that the Omani people are conservatives and always have the desire of having Islamic banks in the country. I think the mistakes and risks will be less as there is the necessary expertise. It can request expertise in Islamic products and can find them easily, especially as some neighbouring countries to the Sultanate such as the UAE has gained much experience in Islamic banking,” he added. Expectations points out that the rate of growth of the global economy in the current year will reach about 3.4 per cent, and this calls for a kind of optimism despite the presence of many of the negative warnings.

What the world needs now is to restore confidence in the ability of the international financial system to take corrective actions sufficient to remove the fears of investors and to stimulate consumer for spending incentives to attract the owners of cash reserves to invest in the infrastructure of the developed economies.

This will help economies in trouble and will make them work to streamline their programmes that have been developed to solve debt and budget deficits.

Oman’s Zadjali Says Islamic Banks’ Guidelines Draft Almost Ready

Oman, whose banking industry more than doubled in five years, is close to finishing a draft rulebook for Islamic banking in the Gulf Arab country, said central bank governor Hamud al-Zadjali.

“We are preparing a rulebook for Islamic banking, and the first draft is almost complete,” al-Zadjali said in a phone interview today. The central bank met with local lenders on Jan. 25 to discuss the regulations, he said.

The guidelines won’t be completed before the banking law is amended by mid-year to incorporate lenders that comply with the religion’s ban on interest, al-Zadjali said. Oman approved the creation of two Islamic banks last year, Al Izz International Bank in October and Bank Nizwa in May.

Shariah-compliant banking will allow lenders in the country, home to almost three million people, the chance to tap growth in the global Islamic finance industry. Shariah financing is expanding as much as 16 percent a year and the industry may be valued at $1.5 trillion by the end of 2012, Raj Mohamed, managing director at Singapore-based consulting firm Five Pillars Pte, said Jan. 18.

Islamic banking assets may account for a 10th of Oman’s industry total within 12 months of starting services, Hilal Al Barwani, vice president of banking supervision at the central bank said Jan. 18. Oman’s banking assets jumped to 17.9 billion rials ($46.6 billion) in November from 7.02 billion rials the same month in 2006, according to central bank data.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dana El Baltaji in Dubai at [email protected]

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Claudia Maedler at [email protected]

Islamic banking draft moots five-member Sharia board

MUSCAT: A five-member Sharia board, exclusive branches for window operation, clear cut segregation of conventional and Islamic banking with separate teams of people and accounts and a 12 per cent capital adequacy ratio are the main highlights of the Islamic Banking Draft Framework (IBRF) presented by the Central Bank of Oman before chief executives of banks in Oman.

CBO has organised a consultative meeting for top officials of banks on January 25 for presenting the draft Islamic banking rules, which the apex bank’s consultants Ernst & Young termed as a ‘unique model.’ The banking regulator is still working on the regulation, and may incorporate changes on the basis of feedbacks from banks, before announcing it. Ernst & Young has advised the CBO on fixing of lending limits, single borrower limit, writing of rule books, procedures for reporting structure for Islamic banks and formation of Sharia board.

Of the five-member Sharia board, three should be experienced Islamic scholars and two should be from relevant field, either a professional in Islamic law or Islamic accounting, chief executive officers of two leading banks, who attended the consultative meeting, told Times of Oman. CBO’s draft regulation also stipulates on separate branches for Islamic banking window operation of conventional banks.

“There needs to be a separate team of people for accounts, information technology, marketing and compliance for Islamic banking line of business. There is also a separate head for Islamic banking. However, the back office support can be common for conventional and Islamic banking.

The whole idea is to create a perception among general public that these are two distinctly different lines of business,” said a chief executive of a bank, who does not want to be named. The draft regulation also insists on a 12 per cent capital adequacy, with a minimum paid up capital of RO10 million for starting window operation.

Another major suggestion for window operation is that funds can be pumped into Islamic line of business by a conventional parent bank, but Islamic banking operation can not transfer money for using it in conventional banking. “This could create problems at the macro-level, at least initially.

For instance, if all banks put together transfer RO1 billion into Islamic banking initially and in case half of the total funds can not be deployed due to lack of demand for credit, then the money can not be transferred back to conventional line of business for effectively deploying in the financial system,” noted another CEO of a bank, who viewed it on a macro economic level.

Another major concern expressed by bankers is the lack of availability of Sharia scholars to become board members of Islamic banking. “Everybody is getting into Islamic banking now. We are talking about 30 Sharia scholars. It is difficult to get people with relevant experience and it is going to be a challenge.

Even the region does not have that many people. This is what we are discussing with the Central Bank of Oman,” noted the official. It is also not clear whether a Sharia scholar can be a member of two boards.

Bankers also expressed their concerns on segregating risk management for Islamic banking line of business from conventional banking. “At the end of the day, risk is the same whether it is Islamic banking line of business or conventional line of business. And therefore, it should be on the parent bank and not separate it for Islamic banking,” noted the banker.

Sources also noted that there will be severe competition, with the imminent entry of two Islamic banks.

Islamic finance industry set for ‘a big leap’ in Oman

MUSCAT: Oman’s First Islamic Finance and Banking Conference opened yesterday with a call to stake holders to take effective steps in promoting Islamic finance in their countries.

Speaking as the chief guest, Darwish bin Ismail bin Ali Al Balushi, minister responsible for financial affairs, said, “with an annual growth of 20 per cent and total assets worth a trillion US dollars the Islamic finance industry is poised for a leap in the coming years and time is opportune to lend it a push.

He said that a study conducted in Oman revealed that 85 per cent of people favoured buying Islamic products and 70 per cent would opt for deposits in Islamic savings account whenever they are made available. This suggests the volume of interest shown by people in Oman in pursuing Islamic finance.”

The conference is organised by Al Iktissad Wal Amal Group (Lebanon) in association with the Central Bank of Oman.Delivering a key-note address, Dr Ahmed Mohamed Ali, president of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), said that the conference provides a good opportunity for business leaders and decision-makers from different countries to interact and offer effective solutions to some challenges facing the Islamic finance industry.

He pointed out that major international agencies — Standard & Poor’s, Fitch Ratings and Moody’s — have given IDB the highest ‘AAA’ credit rating. He said that the IDB had provided total finances of more than $800 billion towards short-term and long-term projects in member countries since its establishment in 1975.

Dr Ahmed said, “The Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Investments and Export Credits (ICIEC) was formed with the objective to enlarge the scope of trade transactions and investment flows among the member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC);

Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD) was established to complement IDB through the development and promotion of the private sector, as a vehicle for economic growth and development in member countries while the Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI).

IRTI was established to help the Bank in discharging its functions in the fields of research and training assigned to it by its Articles of Agreement.” Mohammed Jamil Berro, chief executive officer, Al Hilal Bank, focused on Islamic banking growth by international expansion.

He said, “Al Hilal Bank has 28 branches in the UAE and its revenue crossed Dh1.73 million.” The bank has around 50,000 customers. With 10 per cent Muslim GDP and only one per cent global Islamic assets penetration, the global Islamic finance presents significant growth opportunities.”

Abdel Kader Askalan, CEO, Oman Arab Bank, said, “A central authority on Islamic Finance has to be established under OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) to develop regulatory legislation. Islamic finance has achieved remarkable growth in the past few years in the GCC region with 450 institutions worldwide of which 40 per cent are based in the Arab region.”

“GCC alone takes two-third of the world assets worth $ 700 billion. Islamic finace should be ready to face requirements of globalisations.”

Top Oman Islamic banks to float shares

Oman’s two Islamic banks will float 40 per cent of their shares by June, the Sultanate’s central bank executive president Hamood Sangour al-Zadjali said on Monday.

Both banks, which are currently under formation, were awarded sharia-compliant banking licences last year – Bank Nizwa in May and Al Izz in August – after the Sultanate reversed its position as the only Gulf state which did not allow banks to specifically offer products and services complying with Islamic law.

‘Bank Nizwa will issue an initial public offering of 40 per cent of its capital of RO150 million ($389.61 million), while Al Izz International Bank will issue 40 per cent of its RO100 million capital by June this year,’ Zadjali told reporters on the sidelines of an Islamic finance conference.

Bank Nizwa has picked Oman Arab Bank as the issue manager for its IPO, an Omani banking source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information is not public.Al Izz has not mandated anyone to lead its offering, the source added.

Conventional lenders are also allowed to establish Islamic banking windows in the non-Opec oil producer.Both Bank Muscat and National Bank of Oman have said they would do so, while Standard Chartered is considering whether to offer sharia-compliant services.

Islamic banking conference set

MUSCAT — The Sultanate’s first conference on Islamic banking and finance will be held next week in co-operation with the Central Bank of Oman (CBO).

The two-day conference, due to be held at Al Bustan Palace Hotel on January 23 and 24, will be organised by Al Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group.

The opening ceremony of the conference will be presided over by Darwish bin Isma’eel al Balushy, Minister Responsible for Financial Affairs.

The conference will tackle key issues on the Islamic financial industry, including policies and regulatory perspectives of Islamic finance, the growth of Islamic banking and its international propagation, Islamic finance and capital market activities, the supervisory and regulatory role of the Sharia code and socio-economic accountability.

Conference is also to consist of sessions revealing the latest research and studies accomplished by a group of prominent specialists, academics and senior staff in the financial and Islamic banking sectors, from diverse regional and international leading organisations and corporations in the industry.

The conference will bring together around 400 participants from various Arab and Islamic countries, including representatives of foreign banks and investment firms and commercial and consulting firms and a number of Sharia panels in the Arab and Asian countries.

Speakers include Hamoud bin Sangour al Zadjali, CBO Executive President, Sultan bin Nasser al Souwaidi, Governor of the Central Bank of the UAE, Ra’ed Charaf Eddine, First Vice-Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, Adnan Ahmed Youssef and Chairman of the Union of Arab Banks. — ONA

Event to shed light on latest trends in Islamic finance

MUSCAT: Under the patronage of Darwish bin Ismail bin Ali Al Balushi, minister responsible for financial affairs, the Sultanate of Oman will host the first ‘Islamic Finance & Banking Conference’, from January 23 to 24, at Al Bustan Palace Hotel, here.


The event, organised by Al Iktissad Wal-Aamal Group, in collaboration with the Central Bank of Oman, will highlight key issues relevant to the Islamic finance industry, which includes policies and regulatory perspectives of Islamic finance, Islamic banking growth and international expansion, Islamic finance and capital market activities, supervisory and regulatory role of Sharia boards and the socio-economic accountability of Islamic finance.

Prominent speakers who will speak on the latest trends in the sector include Hamood Bin Sangour Al Zadjali, executive president of the Central Bank of Oman; Sultan bin Nasser Al Souwaidi, governor of the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates; Raed Charafeddine, first vice-governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon; and Adnan Youssef, chairman of the Union of Arab Banks.

Dr Ahmad Mohammed Ali, president of the Islamic Development Bank, will be heading a high-level delegation. He will deliver a keynote speech at the conference’s opening ceremony.

400 participants

Conference sessions will reveal latest research and studies accomplished by a group of prominent specialists, academics and senior staff in the financial and Islamic banking sectors, from diverse regional and international leading organisations and corporations in the Islamic financial industry.

About 400 participants will gather at the event from various Arab and Islamic countries including Islamic and commercial banking leaders, fund managers, Sharia and legal experts, representatives of foreign banks and investment firms and world-level consultants, in addition to a large number of participants interested in Islamic banking. The conference is sponsored by Al Ahli Bank, Oman, Diamond sponsor, among others.

Agha & Co/Agha & Shamsi Win “Best Islamic Law Firm of 2011” Award

UAE based law firms; Agha & Co/Agha & Shamsi (the “Firms”) were awarded “Best Islamic Law Firms of 2011” by the Global Islamic Finance Awards (GIFA).

The awards, which were presented at the Oman Islamic Economic Forum (OIEF) by his Excellencies the Ex-Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi and H.E Yaseen Anwar, Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, recognize and honor institutions and individuals for their commitment to excellence as well as contribution to the development of the Islamic finance industry.

The awards were made based on an objective proprietary methodology. Candidates were nominated in the first quarter of 2011, and after deliberation over the following six months, the winner was picked from among the nominees.

Professor Humayon Dar, the CEO of Edbiz Consulting and the Chairman of the Conference noted “The awards reflect the dual recognition of excellence in practice of the winner’s respective field and a demonstrable commitment to the cause of strengthening the Islamic finance industry.

Agha & Co/Agha & Shamsi were distinguished as being the first ever Shari’ah compliant firms that, simultaneously, demonstrates excellence in the practice of law.”Oliver Agha, Founding Partner of the Firms, accepted the award and stated,

“What we value most is that the award, apart from recognizing excellence in the practice of law, focuses on those entities that evince a genuine commitment to Islamic finance. We are very serious about promoting genuine Islamic finance as reflected in our circumscribed mandate.”

“We hope that more stakeholders in the industry focus on the growth of the Industry along ethical lines rather than just growth for the sake of only monetary gain (Islamic law/Shari’ah dictates that principles come before profit).”

About the Agha & Co/Agha & Shamsi

Agha & Co/Agha & Shamsi (the “Firms”), the world’s first Shari’ah-compliant firms, have been founded to develop a premier law practice that combines honed international transactional skills and deep Shari’ah knowledge with the response time of a top New York or London firm.

With its own Shari’ah Board of scholars including Sheikh Abdul Sattar Abu Ghuddah, Sheikh Mohamed El Gari, Sheikh Esam Ishaq and Professor Azeemuddin Subhani , the Firms work to develop the cause of “genuine” Islamic finance, as well as to provide a one-stop shop world-class level Islamic dispute resolution and transactional counsel on modern complex matters, seamlessly harmonized with and weaved into Shari’ah principles.

The Firms have a blue-chip clientele and are on the panels of the leading Islamic/regional/international corporate institutions including, for e.g., Al Baraka Islamic Bank, Al Hilal Bank, First Gulf Bank, Deutsche Gulf Finance (joint venture between Deutsche Bank and the Al Rajhi Group), Tamweel PJSC and Amlak Finance, as well as leading Saudi corporate and general manufacturing entities Agha & Co/Agha & Shamsi are members of the International Society of Primerus Law Firms.

FWU Group awarded ‘Best Takaful Company’ at GIFA 2011

FWU Group, a leading global Takaful company, was awarded the best “Takaful Company of 2011” at the Global Islamic Financial Awards 2011 event, which took place during the Oman Islamic Economic Forum 2011 held in Al Bustan Ritz Carlton Hotel, Muscat.

The event was attended by prominent regional and global industry leaders and dignitaries, including  Yaseen Anwar, Governor of State Bank of Pakistan; Abdulaziz Al-Hanai, vice president of IDB; and Tun Abdullah Badawi, former prime minister of Malaysia.

Commenting after the awards ceremony, Manfred Dirrheimer, chairman and CEO of FWU Group, said: “Our leadership position in the industry is attributed to the successful and long-term strategic partnerships we have developed with local Takaful partners and the distribution agreements with major banks in each market.”

According to Dirrheimer, FWU Group’s unique business model, best product and process innovation, support and full after-sales service including training and customer risk profiling, were the key service quality parameters which helped the group win the award.

“We are honored to receive this award in Oman, a country that presents tremendous opportunities for Islamic finance,” said SohailJaffer, partner and head of International Business Development at FWU Group.”

The efforts deployed by the Sultanate are very encouraging, and the potential is promising. We foresee a bright outlook for the Takaful industry, and we look forward to replicating our successes in Oman and the entire region.”

FWU Group, which received 12 awards in the past and was recognized for its global Takaful expertise, specializes in white label Family Takaful unit-linked investments and offers its bank distribution partners a customized innovative Takaful product family, including savings, education, and marriage plans.

Banks are offered an open-investment architecture where they can incorporate their own Shari’ah-compliant funds into the investments universe. The company also provides a proprietary quantitative investment model for the monthly fund selection and allocation.