Muslim World

Islamic banks in London reject Brexit fear

Zak Hydari, the chief executive of Rasmala. Reem Mohammad. Image from The National
Zak Hydari, the chief executive of Rasmala. Reem Mohammad. Image from The National

London, (IINA) – Islamic banks and asset managers based in London have played down the impact of the UK vote to leave the European Union, amid wider fears the move could spell an exodus from the world’s financial capital, The National newspaper reported.

The Brexit fallout risks undoing the years of work the UK has spent building its standing as the western hub for Islamic finance. David Cameron, the British prime minister, in 2013 told the World Islamic Economic Forum that he wanted London to “stand alongside Dubai as one of the great capitals of Islamic finance anywhere in the world”. In 2014, the UK government issued a £200 million Sukuk, the first such sovereign bond issued by a country outside the Islamic world.

At the same time, some specialists in the field believe the current fears are overstated. The UK-listed Asset Manager Rasmala, which operates several Shariah-compliant funds, has downplayed the possible effects on the Islamic finance sector of the decision to leave the EU, while the Bank of London & The Middle East (BLME) said it is “open for business as usual” following the vote.

The exit of the UK from the EU would likely mean that London-based financial institutions lose “passporting” privileges, which allow them to access the single market without restrictions. Those rights were cited by many campaigners as one of many reasons for Britain to remain a member of the EU.

But Zak Hydari, the chief executive of Rasmala, said that this is not of great importance.

“European passporting has not been of significant importance to domestic Islamic banks in Europe since their operations are typically confined to the home market and are not typically pan-European,” Hydari said in an interview. “As a result, deposit taking should not necessarily be affected by Brexit.”

Rasmala targets Gulf investors, offering conventional and Sharia-compliant investment products. Rasmala’s thinly traded shares have dipped since the Brexit vote, from 97.5 pence on June 23 to 94.5 pence on Thursday afternoon on London’s AIM (London Stock Exchange’s international market for smaller growing companies).

Hydari said that he had not seen a big impact on investors’ attitudes following the Brexit vote. “At this early stage, investors who are typically Gulf-based have not yet expressed significant concerns since markets like the UK are considered fundamentally robust and transparent and therefore remain attractive in the long-term.

“Some Gulf investors may indeed consider the recent currency movements as a potential buying opportunity,” he said. Hydari noted that he does not see the UK’s standing in Islamic finance being reduced.

“Since the early 2000s, the UK’s Islamic finance ambitions have been driven by the development of a strong legislative framework that allows for Islamic finance to operate on a level playing field. This does not change as a result of Brexit,” he said. “The UK’s aspiration to be the leading non-Muslim majority Islamic finance hub will mirror the ongoing status of London as a global conventional financial centre.”

The Shariah-compliant BLME said that it planned to continue its operations in the UK capital despite the Brexit vote.

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