Islamic finance covers many areas and in this exercise The Banker did not want to exclude any Islamic financial institution. Clear definitions of what constitutes a non-bank institution need to be improved but we wanted to include not only investment banking operations and Islamic investment companies, as distinct from banks, but also Islamic insurance operations.

These types of institutions are excluded from The Banker’s Top 1000 World Banks listing but in the Top 500 Islamic Financial Institutions listing, the objective was to chart all Islamic institutions, whatever the product. Hence we include Top 25 listings of investment banking activities and Islamic insurance (takaful).

Of the 525 institutions assessed for the Top 500, 115 fell into the category of investment bank, investment company or asset manager. Among the Top 25 below, 20 come from the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, showing the strength of the Gulf institutions in this area. But definitions can again be a problem and some would argue whether the leading player listed, Saudi Arabia’s Al Rajhi Bank, is more a commercial bank than an investment bank. Also at this stage, we do not have the specific figures to reflect HSBC Amanah’s sizeable investment banking role. The Top 25 shows that Bahrain has the largest number of leading Islamic investment banks, with nine, and Kuwait has six 100% sharia-compliant investment houses. While most of the Top 25 are well-established outfits, they remain relatively small, as their figures suggest, compared with many foreign-owned or conventional investment houses operating in the region.

In the insurance sector, the Top 25 is dominated by Brunei’s Takaful IBB Bd, which claims $31.5bn in sharia-compliant assets (SCAs) in the insurance area. Nothing comes remotely close to the Brunei giant; Iran Insurance Company is in second place with SCAs of $1.5bn and Malaysia’s Syarikat Takaful Malaysia Bd coming in third with $825.8m. Again, the GCC companies figure prominently, providing 12 of the Islamic insurance institutions, led by Saudi Arabia’s Company for Cooperative Insurance. In this market, the leading players are more widely spread, with institutions coming from as far afield as Senegal, Sudan, Bangladesh and Tunisia. Although the Islamic firms are growing, many remain pitifully small.


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