Birmingham leading the way on Sharia finance
Birmingham has broken the London monopoly on providing professional services to support Islamic finance, an advisor at UK Trade and Investment has said.
Steve Cunnane, of UKTI, spoke at an event arranged by professional services group Birmingham Forward, and said the city is leading the field in terms of support to Sharia finance.
Birmingham is the home of the Islamic Bank of Britain, as well as a huge target audience for Islamic financial services, and professionals are keen to promote it as a business opportunity for the city.
Birmingham Forward will be leading a trade delegation to the Islamic Finance Conference in Bahrain in December to talk up the city.
Mohammed Nazir, of the Birmingham-based Nazir Associates consultancy, said: “Sharia finance has well and truly arrived.
“Several law firms have won work from the Middle East, Islamic mortgages are now available from not just the Islamic Bank of Britain but also Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds TSB and West Bromwich Building Society. Deutsch Bank decided to locate its Islamic Finance unit in Birmingham last year.
“Birmingham’s reputation as a low cost centre for Sharia finance is growing. Aston University’s considering running an MSC programme and an academic chair in Islamic Business at its Business School,” said Mohammed Nazir.
“Our challenge now is to bring it all together – a central body coordinating it all which we hope to sort out either in our next seminar in October or at our next conference in March. Those interested should contact me.”
Graham Nicoll, deputy chairman of Birmingham Forward and regional centre head at Barclays Wealth added: “Sharia finance may initially sound complex but it’s based on good old-fashioned principles which I’d judge that a wide range of investors would put on their tick-list when considering how best to build and protect their wealth.
“It’s all about making sound investments regulated by a formal contract (an Islamic Integrity Agreement) and where the profits are shared.
“No interest-bearing loans are allowed in any Sharia-financed venture,” he added. “We’re now considering how best to set up a steering group to build a skills base and investment base.”
“Birmingham’s setting the standard,” said Mike Loftus, head of Locate in Birmingham.
“The professional services firms are joining forces to present their collective talents as a city region rich with intellectual capital.”