Stuart Hutton - July, 2015
Whilst attending the IFN Europe conference in Luxembourg in July, there were a number of points raised to take away, over and above the usual figures and facts shared.
The one that struck a chord with me was the need to reclaim the ‘brand Islam’ back into Islamic Finance and not allow those setting out to taint this ‘brand’ to ruin it for others. Whilst I completely understood this desire and have always stood right behind the transparency that Sharia compliance offers our industry, I just wonder if that is too big an ask?
Many talk about the modernisation of Islamic finance and banking in terms of ethical or even participative, to attract the wider market place, almost avoiding the religious context and here lies the slight dichotomy.
Islamic finance is what it is because of the moral foundations it was built on and these must not change. Whether it is the avoidance of uncertainty and screening out areas that are haram (forbidden), or if it is to promote positive growth of entrepreneurship and the improvement of the society we are in. Islam stands for many good things in the world we live in today and so when we do read about the hatred that exists; we would all do better to fight this with a more positive attitude.
A recent article by Joy Abdullah put forward the point that a business strategy based on delivering a particular brand experience can create a competitive advantage next to impossible to replicate. He went on to mention that this uniqueness is based upon the qualitative experience. It is about the engagement within the industry that will make the greatest impact, to demonstrate the value-benefit and this, of course, is partly down to the people involved.
This is where the opportunity lies if we are to succeed. It would not work to go and ‘claim back’ the ‘brand’ Islam, but actually show that its true meaning has never gone away. Showing this industry what it truly means in finance, its positive and supportive thinking and why it is growing at such a fast pace. With high quality practitioners, working on a long term view to add the true value, we will all benefit to a change in the way we see finance and banking work.
At this time of generosity, reflection and celebration, I wish all Eid Mubarak and hope for a bright future for our industry.