One of the key reasons for the investment and development of the Islamic finance market in London is to ensure that the finance markets and industry is able to keep pace with the emerging and dynamic markets in the Muslim centred Middle East region (Dubai and the UAE included).
THE ISLAMIC FINANCE INDUSTRY
There are other reasons Islamic finance has really surged ahead in London, and they include the importance of financial inclusion and providing access to funding and finance to those looking to invest in the economy without compromising their beliefs.
The UK is not the only country that is fast developing its Islamic finance reputation, regulation, and provision. Most European countries also offer Islamic finance products and services to individuals and companies.
What has become clear is that Islamic finance has enabled many people from diverse backgrounds to trade, invest and operate a business in the West. This can only be a good thing for the economy and when it comes to financial inclusion.
INTEREST, PROFIT SHARING AND RISK MANAGEMENT
Many Muslims only use the Islamic finance system so that they do not have to pay interest and can trade and deal with any income, savings, investment strategy, and asset they own in a Sharia compliant way.
The result is that the Islamic finance industry is booming and entering the mainstream finance industry.
Islamic finance has opened up and increased the scope of investment options for investors wanting to raise or build capital, property and other assets.
In addition, the profit and risk sharing element of Islamic finance transactions and contracts are growing in appeal to a much wider audience. The first Islamic finance bank launched in the UK in 1982 - the Al Baraka Bank. Since then the Sharia compliant market has seen growth on a huge scale with Islamic finance products available in trade finance, project finance and real estate.
The Islamic sukuk (bond) market in the UK started around 2007 and has continued to grow. In 2014, the UK government was the first to issue sovereign sukuk.
UNDERSTANDING ISLAMIC FINANCE - KNOWLEDGE MATTERS
Many financial experts and researchers have become knowledgeable about Islamic finance and how it operates. In order to offer financial services and products that are Islamic finance and Sharia compliant, there needs to be a good depth of understanding relating to Islam and its principles and rules.
Islamic finance has proven to yield competitive and attractive rewards, and Islam's core underlying principle relating to social justice and equity is becoming more attractive to Muslim and non-Muslim customers alike.
The focus on risk sharing and collaboration between the parties means transactions are more transparent and fair. This in turn creates more stable investment options in volatile markets and economies.
UK LEADING WESTERN ISLAMIC FINANCE CENTRE
A recent report from The City UK has stated that the UK is the leading Western centre for Islamic finance. In 2021, the Islamic finance banking asset market was said to be worth approximately $7.5bn.
In addition to general Islamic finance products, Islamic fintech is also growing rapidly in the UK and Europe. The strong regulatory support from the UK government has led to an increasing number of Sharia compliant fintech services.
The UK has also been able to reach attract a large number of professionals with Islamic finance knowledge and expertise.
The growing Muslim population in the UK, the vast majority of whom are young professionals with capital, further strengthens the UK's resolve to continue developing its Islamic financial services market.
LONDON STOCK EXCHANGE
The London Stock Exchange (LSE) is one of the leading exchanges for sukuk listings.
In addition, The UK has become one of the world's biggest providers of Islamic finance education. There has been a recent surge in the number of Islamic finance courses and qualifications available to those wanting to expand their knowledge and work in this field.
What is driving this demand for Islamic finance services is private sector initiatives. This coupled with support from government policy and compliance rules has provided a solution for those investors and businesses looking for financial services that are compliant with Islamic finance rules.
If the UK wants to continue to strengthen its position and status as a leading international centre for Islamic finance then it needs to continue to invest in the Islamic finance market.
This will require the development and progression of the right financial infrastructure and ecosystem to support the industry. It is forecasted that the Islamic finance assets under management are likely to double over the next decade.
The UK is well placed to grow its Islamic finance market and offerings. However, this must be done in line with Sharia rules relating to finance without cutting corners and innovation which could lead to non-compliance. More investment needs to be made in research relating to how Islamic finance operates so that any investor is reassured that their Islamic values are not being compromised during financial transactions.
The growing confidence in the Islamic finance market in the UK has attracted investments in regeneration projects and infrastructure - thereby directly benefiting society as a whole.