That there is a need for microfinance in predominantly Islamic countries is taken as a given by most, yet providing sharia-compliant microfinance seems to be beyond many financial institutions. So what can be done? James King investigates.
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Bursa Malaysia is the leading global centre for Islamic capital markets. Its chief executive tells James King that the exchange is still looking to innovate, with expanding the borders of Islamic finance a key priority.
After a false start, Islamic banking has become the fastest growing segment of the Pakistani banking industry, with the full support of the government. Apart from the ever-present challenge of liquidity management, most local Islamic bankers agree that their most important task now is to build awareness in the country.
The growth of 'hard' currency sukuk issuance is pushing the market to the next level, as new issuers and new investors flock to the sharia-compliant finance space to capitalise on the growth prospects of emerging economies in the Gulf and Asia.
The past year has seen a number of firsts in the Islamic finance industry, including the first sovereign sukuk from the West. This represents a huge step forward for an industry previously considered niche. Islamic players now must consolidate on these gains by broadening their product offerings, expanding their customer bases and targeting new levels of interoperability with global markets.
While the growth in Islamic finance slowed down in 2013 for some smaller, less-developed markets, others such as Malaysia and the Gulf countries, saw strong results.
Though the recent story of Islamic finance is largely a successful one, the sector's relative lack of maturity means that some shortfalls do exist. One of these – the supply-demand mismatch regarding small and medium-sized enterprises – has left a potentially lucrative hole to fill.
The increasingly international outlook of the Islamic finance market place is providing new growth opportunities for Islamic banks and, according to Standard Chartered Saadiq, Malaysia's chief executive, Wasim Akhtar Saifi, is also offering much-needed solutions to the industry's longer term liquidity management problems.
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