Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Microsoft adds headphones to its Surface family

And now, there are Surface Headphones to complete the Microsoft Surface experience.

"Whether you’re in an open work space, a café or on the go, Surface Headphones help tune out or tune in wherever you are. They slip comfortably over your ears to surround you with spectacular sound quality and 13 levels of ambient noise control," Microsoft's Chief Product Officer Panos Panay said in a blog post.

While Surface Headphones are optimised for Surface devices, they will pair with any Bluetooth-enabled device. Two beam-forming microphones on each ear cup, eight microphones in total, offer excellent call experiences. Intuitive on-ear dials provide easy adjustment of volume and noise cancellation.


Surface Headphones are currently only available in the US and the UK.


Sunday, 7 October 2018

Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre launches Islamic Economy Week

The Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai and General Supervisor of the Dubai the Capital of the Islamic Economy initiative HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has issued directives to hold Islamic Economy Week from 27 October to 1 November, 2018.

HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed said: "Guided by the vision of VP and PM of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to transform Dubai into a global capital of the Islamic economy, we have made steady progress in implementing the strategy launched a few years ago to make this a reality.

"I look forward to productive discussions on effective ways of boosting Islamic economy growth and unlocking opportunities to advance sustainable global economic development. We are keen to encourage new creative approaches that can open fresh horizons that unleash the potential of the Islamic economy."

Sheikh Hamdan further said that the Islamic Economy Week promises to generate new ideas to harness the potential of the Islamic economy and its ethical systems to make it a greater force for sustainable growth.

HE Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy and Chairman of the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) said that the launch of Islamic Economy Week is in line with DIEDC’s strategy towards strengthening the status of Dubai as the global capital of the Islamic economy.  Islamic Economy Week is designed to spread the principles and ethics of Islamic economy, while highlighting its pivotal role in overcoming the emerging economic challenges.

He added that the initiative will spotlight the importance of the Islamic economy as a robust and less volatile alternative to conventional economies as was evidenced during the global financial crisis of 2008, which had revealed an urgent need for a more transparent economic system to ensure equitable wealth production and distribution. He also said that Islamic Economy Week supports the vision of Dubai and the UAE for comprehensive and long-term development, which are in line with the principles and ethics of the Islamic economy.

DIEDC directions

The 3rd DIEDC Board of Directors separately met for 2018 to discuss the most recent developments pertaining to the DIEDC 2017-2021 Strategy. In addition, members of the board reviewed Islamic Economy Week’s schedule of activities and approved its events, including the Global Islamic Economy Summit 2018 (GIES 2018) and Islamic Economy Award (IEA). Further, the board reviewed Dubai Airport Free Zone Authority’s Islamic economy strategy that will ultimately boost its role in positioning Dubai as a hub for halal trade.

HE Al Mansouri said: "The initiative to position Dubai as a global capital of Islamic economy has been gaining steady momentum since its launch in 2013, and even more so after the DIEDC strategy was updated in 2017."

He added: "DIEDC has succeeded in implementing its annual plan for 2018, which aims to accelerate the implementation of a number of initiatives listed in the 2017-2021 strategy. Our efforts are in line with the wise leadership’s objectives to achieve the goals of the National Agenda of the UAE Vision 2021 and reach the nation’s centennial as one of the top countries globally. DIEDC recognises the importance of building on the achievements made to date that have contributed to the UAE’s ranking as one of the 10 most advanced countries in some of the leading Islamic economy sectors."

Al Mansouri stressed that DIEDC will continue to cooperate with top institutions and stakeholders in devising mechanisms to accelerate the growth of Islamic economic sectors, especially Islamic finance that is expected to be valued at around US$3.8 trillion by 2022. The innovations will benefit from the flexibility of the Islamic economy, not only in terms of the technology keeping up with its ethics and principles, but also in terms of its ability to invest in smart solutions to serve a greater purpose, such as boosting socioeconomic stability and quality of life.

"We look forward to the outcomes of the 4th edition of the Global Islamic Economy Summit. We are at an important phase in the economic transformations that have begun to change the mechanisms of industrial and commercial activities and are significantly impacting global partnerships and cooperation.

"At the local level, Dubai and the UAE continue focusing on economic diversification and accelerating productive sectors that ensure the continuity of growth and sustainability of wealth. This is based on the plan to achieve the optimum economic development by 2071 to enable the country to celebrate its centennial as one of the most economically advanced countries in the world.

"We hope to accomplish this priority with the support of local and international talent and human resources, the adoption of advanced sciences and technologies, as well as the reliance on innovation, environmental sustainability and entrepreneurship. These policies and visions present us with a greater responsibility to enable Dubai and the UAE to attract those interested in the principles and ethics of Islamic economy and create new visions that accelerate the growth of Islamic economic sectors globally. We are confident that our efforts will take us closer to accomplishing the nation’s sustainable development goals, while achieving prosperity and stability for all societies," Al Mansouri said.

HE Essa Kazim, Secretary General of DIEDC, said: "Launching Islamic Economy Week and its innovative events and activities is a continuation of DIEDC’s approach to enhancing the awareness of the Islamic economy locally, regionally and globally. Most initiatives that have been designed with our strategic partners are making steady progress. During 2018, we have witnessed activities and events that have established Dubai as a global reference for innovation in the Islamic economy, especially with the launch of the 2nd edition of the FinTech Hive at DIFC and the International Innovative Platform for Islamic Economy Products (IIPIEP), as well as the Islamic Economy Fiqh* Forum that presented important recommendations to develop and globalise Islamic economic standards."

HE underlined the significant surge in the interest of international financial institutions in the Islamic economy, in a manner consistent with the growing culture of responsible investment around the world. As immediate outcomes, he noted, the principles of the Islamic economy are being largely recognised by new markets, while opening up new opportunities for youth in innovative sectors and guiding their choices towards a system that has proven its resilience in protecting wealth and providing sustained stability.

Kazim added: "DIEDC’s initiatives for financial institutions and investors seek to provide more growth opportunities in areas that had previously faced major challenges due to conventional financial ruling standards. The centre is working hard to unify these standards globally and is committed to closely collaborating with partners towards building an infrastructure for the Islamic economy, and an environment capable of addressing economic challenges around the world. Standardisation will also help investors achieve high growth at sustainable rates, as well as strengthen Dubai’s position as the global capital of the Islamic economy and a key attractive destination for investors from all over the world."

HE Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of DIEDC, said: "Since early 2018, DIEDC has achieved several accomplishments that have contributed to the expansion of its international and regional presence. Increasingly, more and more institutions around the world are looking to benefit from the centre's experience as a global model. This is evidenced in the cooperation agreements that are being signed such as the MoU inked with The State Bank for Foreign Economic Affairs of Turkmenistan (TFEB) for the exchange of experiences and best practices in Islamic economy."

He added: "The centre's efforts over the past years, as well as the commitment of our strategic partners to the development of an institutional framework that stimulates the growth of the Islamic economy and facilitates the development of halal industry standards have resulted in the increased contribution of the Islamic economy to Dubai's GDP from 7.6% in 2014 to 8.3% in 2016. These results are a qualitative addition, not only to the development of the Islamic economy in Dubai but also to the successful journey of the UAE towards sustainable development as part of its post-oil economy vision. We are keen on supporting the nation’s drive to boost productive sectors and develop strategies that encourage responsible investment, entrepreneurship and innovation."

Al Awar indicated that during the remaining months of 2018, DIEDC will continue to implement its operational plans to strengthen Dubai’s position as the global capital of the Islamic economy. In cooperation with its strategic partners, DIEDC will also seek to accelerate the completion of activities listed in its 2017-2021 strategy and continue to explore the implementation of creative initiatives that contribute to the growth of Islamic sectors in the UAE and abroad.

Islamic Economy Week agenda

Islamic Economy Week was conceptualised five years after the launch of the Dubai: The Capital of Islamic Economy initiative.  It will run from 27 October to 1 November. Event activities will utilise a 360-degree approach to cover a spectrum of aspects that highlight Dubai as the global reference for innovation in the Islamic economy sector.

The event hosts the 4th Global Islamic Economy Summit on 30 and 31 October at Madinat Jumeirah, during which the 6th Islamic Economy Award (IEA) ceremony will be held. It will also feature the first Islamic Creative Economy Competition (ICEC) and the Global Islamic Business Award.

The summit is held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the summit is organised by DIEDC and the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in collaboration with Thomson Reuters as a strategic partner.

The flagship event will bring together influential policymakers and experts to address the greatest challenges and opportunities in Islamic economy. It will focus on the importance of trade opportunities, social development and ethical business investment.

The 6th IEA ceremony, organised by DIEDC in partnership with Thomson Reuters under the directives of HH Sheikh Hamdan, will take place on the sidelines of GIES 2018.

The first-of-its-kind Global Islamic Business Award will honour companies that serve not only its shareholders, but also its employees, customers, and the community at large, in accordance with Islamic values. Led by the Department of Economic Development in Dubai, the award is distributed based on the criteria of the Islamic Business Excellence Model developed by the Global Islamic Business Excellence Center. The model translates Islamic values into corporate governance practices and management enablers to create sustainable benefits for all stakeholders.

HE Sami Al Qamzi, Director General of the Department of Economic Development in Dubai and Vice Chairman of DIEDC, said: “The Global Islamic Business Award facilitates the integration of Islamic business excellence standards into economic activities across all sectors, while boosting competitiveness amongst organisations in shaping them to become exceptional sharia-compliant organisations.”

He noted that the award further enhances corporate social responsibility as a core priority for companies, and empowers societies by increasing societal happiness through contributing to sustainable development. In doing so, it embodies Islamic values. The award also aligns with the Dubai leadership’s drive to raise awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) through encouraging entities to do more than merely organise charity activities as part of their CSR mandates.

Islamic Economy Week will see the launch of events that disseminate the culture of Islamic economy and empower attendees with skills relevant to their sector. The event lineup includes:

- First Emirates International Accreditation Center’s pilot global assembly meet of halal certification bodies

- First joint DIEDC and Securities and Commodities Authority roundtables series at Nasdaq Dubai

- Session on international halal standards and schemes benchmarking for halal auditors by Halal Academy

- Mosques of the World exhibition at Jumeirah Grand Mosque

- Tawaaf exhibition at Alserkal Cultural Foundation by Dubai Culture

- Session addressing funding challenges in the next phase of Belt and Road Initiative at Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart University

- A Music of the Spheres Islamic geometry workshop by Dubai Culture at Re: Urban Studio

- An Islamic Fintech – Innovations in Sustainable Finance workshop by Heriot Watt University

- A session on halal logistics in theory and practice by Karavan Management Consulting at Dubai Airport Freezone (DAFZA)

-A session on the State of the Global Islamic Economy in 2018 at Dubai International Financial Centre

- Halal Expo by Orange Fairs at Crown Plaza Dubai on Sheikh Zayed Road

- Islamic Economy: A new dimension in business excellence by the Department of Economic Development

- Digital Financial Inclusion: Morality, Risks and Regulation at the Etihad Museum

- A pitching skills workshop and a culture of innovation workshop by the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center and Sajory respectively

- Sharia Governance in the UAE by the Sharia Departments Forum at Etihad Museum

- A Design a Memorable Brand for the Islamic Economy workshop with Peter Gould by Dubai Design & Fashion Council at Dubai Design District

- Social Entrepreneurship Priorities Across Islamic Economies session by GoodforceLabs

- Islamic Fin-Tech Entrepreneurship, a networking event by FinTech Hive at DIFC

- Role of Culture in Driving Global Innovation by Dubai Future Academy

Al Awar pointed out that the innovative activities planned for Islamic Economy Week will enhance the role of Islamic economy, increase its momentum, and highlight how to benefit from the opportunities it offers.

He said, “The centre is keen to celebrate the increased uptake of the Islamic economy culture and the strengthening of Dubai’s position as a global capital of Islamic economy. The Week has attracted many strategic partners that seek more sustainability for economies and will encourage others to move towards a better alternative. Islamic economy, which represents the most sustainable economic system, has become an urgent need to ensure socioeconomic stability. This makes our commitment at the centre even stronger in our continued efforts to expand the socioeconomic impact of its culture through innovative activities.”

The ICEC, designed by Dubai Culture in cooperation with DIEDC, will highlight creative ideas that redefine the relationship between culture, trade and technology. The competition will seek to encourage artists, innovators and entrepreneurs in expressing their artistic and creative vision. The winners of both the IEA and ICEC will be announced during GIES 2018.Saeed Al Nabouda, Acting Director General of Dubai Culture, said: “The competition aims to support startups in the Islamic economy space as a top priority, and to provide them with an appropriate platform to market their products and services. In doing so, it enhances awareness for Islamic economy and enables these startups to sustain their business. Through the award, we are confident we will step up our contribution to positioning Dubai as the global capital of Islamic economy, and a pioneering supporter of innovative solutions.”

*Fiqh (فقه‎) refers to the theory of Islamic law.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

BNM releases guidance on value-based intermediation for Islamic finance

The central bank of Malaysia, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), has issued guidance documents to encourage the nation’s Islamic financial institutions to adopt a value-based system. The aim is to generate positive social impact, while helping to propel the industry into a new growth pathway.

The documents discuss the implementation of a value-based intermediation (VBI) system, creating a financing and investment framework, and a VBI scorecard. These documents build on the Strategy Paper on VBI which it released in July 2017.

Bank Negara Governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus said the industry in Malaysia has been taking concrete steps to drive strategies to increase the positive impact of finance on society with the support of the central bank.

"The commitment to adopt VBI is a significant step by the industry to clearly identify Islamic finance with sustainable practices, as it should," she said in a keynote address at the Global Islamic Finance Forum 2018 (GIFF2018) in Kuala Lumpur.

Islamic banking assets take up 30% of all banking assets in Malaysia, but the growth rate has since slowed, signalling the need for a fresh direction. Themed Beyond Profit, GIFF2018 encourages the banking industry to progress from shari'ah-compliant banking towards a more holistic practice of shari'ah-based financing that generates a positive impact on the economy, community and environment.

"The Islamic finance industry today faces a strategic choice - to either continue on a path that largely ignores the stark social and environmental realities that confront humanity, or to thoughtfully chart a new path that fully embraces the idea and philosophy of finance beyond profits.

"The latter will be an unfamiliar path in many respects, but one that is far closer to the fundamental premise of Shariah on which Islamic finance is based upon,” Nor Shamsiah said.

She said it will require a rethinking of the concepts of value and risk, and human capital needs. Rethinking value will have a significant impact on how Islamic banks make decisions, and to the banking portfolios. For example, expert advisory services to help borrowers mitigate the environmental impact of projects would then be a larger part of a banking portfolio.

On the rethinking of risk, Nor Shamsiah said non-traditional forms of risks such as social, political and environmental risks are business threats, and there are material benefits to managing these risks." As natural stewards of sustainable finance models, Islamic financial institutions are well placed to develop richer perspectives of social and environmental risks," she said.

As for human capital, she said there has to be concerted focus to build the skillsets to implement sustainable financing including at the management levels. This includes engineering and technical skills in the design, construction and assessment of technology; science skills; and monitoring skills.

Dato’ Adissadikin Ali, President of the Association of Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions Malaysia (AIBIM), the organiser of GIFF2018, said nine of the 27 Islamic financial institutions in Malaysia have adopted the VBI system.

"It is on a voluntary basis, and the form and manner will differ between the institutions," he said.


Read the Suroor Asia blog post on VBI discussions at GIFF2018.

INCEIF partners WWF-Malaysia to bring sustainable financing to next level

INCEIF has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with environmental conservation organisation WWF-Malaysia to jointly develop and promote sustainable financing. Both organisations plan to formulate environmental and social sustainability policies, standards and strategies relevant to Malaysia.

Source: INCEIF. Associate Professor Dr Baharom Abdul Hamid, INCEIF, Professor Dato' Dr Azmi, Thiaga Nadeson and Dr Keith Lee, Sustainable Finance Engagement Manager, WWF-Malaysia.
Source: INCEIF.

The Paris Agreement and the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) are driving convergence in multiple aspects of responsible finance, including sustainable, responsible and impact investing (SRI); environmental, social and governance (ESG); and Islamic finance. Environmental and societal concerns are coming to the forefront of the global discussion, making the INCEIF and WWF-Malaysia partnership apt and timely. 

It is hoped that with WWF-Malaysia’s unique positioning on sustainable finance, informed by its knowhow in science, conservation and environment, combined with INCEIF’s expertise in Islamic social finance instruments, will lead to financial mechanisms which protect and encourage critical ecosystems that form the basis for a sustainable economy and prosperous society.

Professor Dato’ Dr Azmi Omar, INCEIF's President & CEO said: “At INCEIF, we have come to realise that our winning strategy towards promoting the development of Islamic finance is by establishing effective collaborative partnerships. INCEIF is proud to add WWF-Malaysia as one of our partners in the joint effort to build a better society. The collaboration aims to promote the better way financing and investments are made, bringing them in line with international commitments like the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and its 17 goals.”

The objectives of this collaboration are to strategically develop and promote sustainable financing and to exchange relevant experience, technical advice and analysis on environmental and social sustainability aspirations, policies, standards, strategies and risks relevant to Malaysia. The collaboration with WWF-Malaysia is vital in ensuring the robustness of the Value-based Intermediation Assessment Framework (VBIAF). WWF-Malaysia has the expertise in science, conservation, environment and finance which enables the taskforce to help financial institutions reduce their impact on the natural world and develop financial mechanisms which protect and restore critical ecosystems that form the basis for a sustainable economy and prosperous society.

INCEIF is part of the VBIAF taskforce that was formed to spearhead the strategic development of VBIAF. The taskforce is chaired by INCEIF and co-chaired by the Islamic Banking and Takaful Department of Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM).

At present, especially in Malaysia, the mainstream financial sector does not sufficiently manage ESG risks or incentivise sustainability improvements in key commodity industries, such as the palm oil sector. The finance sector ends up fuelling resource conversion that does not take into account limits on our natural resources and the livelihoods that depend on these resources.

“Islamic finance must take the lead in promoting green finance where responsible and impact financing are being embraced in pursuit of values beyond financial motivation,” Dato’ Azmi said.

According to WWF-Malaysia, the finance sector has a key role to play in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN SDGs, as it has the ability to influence business strategies and supply chains, to reduce their threats to the environment and provide financial mechanisms that protect and encourage sustainable ecosystems.

“The exchange of relevant experience and technical advice between WWF-Malaysia and INCEIF, will further our aspirations for Malaysia to be the leader in sustainable finance in Southeast Asia,” said Thiaga Nadeson, Head of Markets and Education, WWF-Malaysia.

To date, INCEIF has been awarded a research grant by the then Ministry of Energy, Green Technology and Water of Malaysia (now known as Ministry of Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change) to conduct a comprehensive feasibility study on innovative financing, investment platform and business models for renewable energy and energy efficiency in Malaysia.

INCEIF is also embarking on a research consultancy for the Malaysian Technology Development Corporation (MTDC), a wholly owned institution by Khazanah Nasional, to examine the transformation of technology-based small-medium enterprises (SMEs) from laboratory idea to commercialisation. The findings from the study can be used for policy development by MTDC towards establishing sustainable technopreneurs at the SME level.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

The challenges around value-based intermediation in Islamic finance

Top management of Islamic finance institutions should set the tone on value-based intermediation (VBI), said panelists at the Value-Based Intermediation: The Islamic Perspective session during the  Global Islamic Finance Forum 2018 (GIFF2018).

According to Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM), VBI refers to intermediation that "aims to deliver the intended outcomes of shari'ah through practices, conduct and offerings that generate positive and sustainable impact to the economy, community and environment, consistent with the shareholders’ sustainable returns and long-term interests".

BNM Governor Datuk Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus shared in her keynote that an International Finance Corporation survey of global banks had showed that around 86% of respondents which integrated social and environmental risks in their business have yielded positive business results.

The VBI system is also aimed at helping the Islamic banks to explore new opportunities for sustained growth as its rapid growth rate in Malaysia has declined from double-digit growth in 2011 to 8% in 2016.

The sustainability agenda needs to be incorporated into the shari'ah governance framework in Islamic financial institutions, said Professor Datuk Dr Azmi Omar, President and CEO, INCEIF.

Speaking after a panel titled Roadmap to Sustainability at GIFF2018, Professor Azmi said the move would push the sustainability agenda up to the board level of these institutions, and compel them to adopt an agenda that goes beyond profit.

"The key thing is that you need the support of the board. In some banks, the board may not fully embrace it. They are looking at the dollar and cents. So you need to get the board support, and you also need the nudge from the regulators," he said.

Dato' Mohd Redza Shah Abd Wahid, CEO of Bank Muamalat Malaysia said that if the CEO or the board do not embrace VBI, it will not happen. "If you don't know, ask. Don't do it alone. This is a journey of Islamic finance, you need to change finance for finance to change,” he said at a panel.

Azmi added that Islamic financial institutions are encouraged to regard a sustainability agenda as an opportunity for innovation, rather than an initiative that will affect their bottom line. For instance, he said they are encouraged to work with companies that do not fully meet the sustainable criteria by assisting them in their progress, rather than automatically rejecting their financing requests.

Dr Adnan Chilwan, Group CEO of Dubai Islamic Bank said banks or financial institutions should also consider the customer's standpoint when implementing VBI strategies.

"The first step for customers is for them to think about the proposal and plan a business that is going to create value for society. It will fall under the bank's VBI scorecard," he said.

He also said that some jurisdictions would support VBI-based proposals, while others might need time to study it. He shared that most of the Islamic finance markets under the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) were embracing the VBI concept, which is also being accepted by conventional financial institutions.

Dato' Redza said executing VBI strategies was not a challenge, particularly if a regulator is sponsoring the concept along with setting out the guidelines, such as BNM. BNM issued three documents with the help of INCEIF to facilitate VBI adoption the same day - an implementation guide, an impact assessment framework, and a scorecard. The latter two are consultative documents, for which feedback is solicited. Implementation is on a voluntary basis.

"If you don't have that (support), you have to battle the board, stakeholders and the most important people - your staff," Dato' Redza pointed out.

Redza also said institutions should inculcate a culture of thinking of the community amongst bank employees. He said that one way to engage employees is to communicate the methods of balancing a staff's key performance indicators (KPI) against the positive impact on society at large.

Dr Chilwan also said VBI was a natural extension of what Islamic finance has been doing all this while. “VBI is also about how you can merge it with pure commercial indicators, how you can create value for society and in the process, make profit,” he said.

He added that VBI approaches must consider how Islamic finance institutions can create an environment that could support entrepreneurs, small and medium sized businesses through various initiatives, and ensuring financial inclusion.

"Why (do) you need VBI - you need to do it because we want to create a population that is financially independent. And that independence does not come from financing alone, but through training and empowerment," he said.

Dr Chilwan added that VBI was essentially a "marriage" of environmental and social governance (ESG), corporate social responsibility (CSR) and socially responsible investments (SRI).

Sheikh Nizam Yaquby, a member of the ISRA Council of Scholars (COS) said the VBI concept was not new as Islamic finance is built on shari'ah concepts that emphasise ethical practices and environmental awareness.

But practical implementation could be difficult, he warned. He said, "When you put virtues and values to numbers, amounts and contracts, you will have a great deal of issues to tackle."

Redza also said Islamic banks who were new to VBI should be aware that VBI was not limited to scorecards or credit processes. This is because there are existing instruments that can be used to meet VBI goals. He said banks could incorporate zakat and wakaf approaches into the practice of VBI.

Dr Ioannis Ioannou, Associate Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship in the London Business School, said regulation of this sector can bring about the creation of common best practices. "As a society, we want to bring all of them to at least the best minimum standards, and then, give the space to the best ones to innovate," he said.

Nine of the 27 Malaysian Islamic financial institutions have pledged to adopt VBI. Two innovative products – rent-to-own housing loans and cheaper financing for green hybrid vehicles – have already been introduced.

The two-day GIFF2018 was organised by the Association of Islamic Banking and Financial Institutions Malaysia.


Read more about BNM's guidance documents in a Suroor Asia blog post.

Read BNM's October 2018 documents on VBI

Download BNM's Value-based Intermediation: Strengthening the Roles and Impact of Islamic Finance strategy paper, dated March 2018

AI to play a significant role in sustainability

Over 50% of the world's asset management companies are adopting artificial intelligence (AI) to measure a stock's performance and company's sustainability. Omar Selim, CEO of Arabesque Asset Management, says the trend is likely to strengthen at a Global Islamic Finance Forum 2018 session titled Technological Disruption Impacting Sustainable Finance.

Within the financial sector, AI offers practical and accurate analysis for investors compared to existing annual or quarterly tools available in the market, he said. He added that Malaysia is one of five countries in Southeast Asia which have taken the lead in adopting AI for the market.

Omar said big data was the future as information becomes more complex, with a growing number of companies looking for data to support religious, ethical and social value-based investments. 

Arabesque Asset Management's S-Ray diagnostic tool analyses the sustainability performance of some 7,000 of the world’s largest listed firms using self-learning quantitative models and data scores.
The tool analyses over 50,000 data sources in 15 languages, looking for data points based on the core principles of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) score on financial materials of listed companies.

In the Islamic finance sector BIMB Investment Management has been working with Arabesque to analyse data for a better understanding of companies and their performance. Last year, the Malaysian bank and Arabesque launched two funds using S-Ray, namely the BIMB-Arabesque i Global Dividend Fund 1 and the BIMB Arabesque Malaysia Shariah-ESG Equity Fund.
Omar acknowledged that governance may be questioned, but the algorithms and S-Ray's AI architecture have been audited by external auditors and governed by a board backed by the UN Global Compact. His team checks data points for reliability and credibility, and is inclined to analyse negative news as positive news can be manipulated.

Malaysia's Tan Sri Dr Zeti receives Royal Award for Islamic Finance

Source: Bank Negara Malaysia. Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz (second from left) receiving the Royal Award for Islamic Finance from HRH Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, the Sultan of Perak and the Royal Patron for Malaysia's Islamic finance.
Source: Bank Negara Malaysia. Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz (second from left) receiving the Royal Award for Islamic Finance from HRH Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah (centre), the Sultan of Perak and the Royal Patron for Malaysia's Islamic finance.

HRH Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, the Sultan of Perak and the Royal Patron for Malaysia’s Islamic finance initiative has conferred the Royal Award for Islamic Finance 2018 to Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, currently part of the Council of Eminent Persons advising the Malaysian government, on the sidelines of the Global Islamic Finance Forum 2018 (GIFF 2018) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Dr Zeti was honoured with the award for her achievements and exceptional leadership in expanding the frontiers of Islamic finance in the domestic and global financial arena. During her tenure as the Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia - the central bank of Malaysia - from 2000 to 2016, she was instrumental in:

Influencing the internationalisation of Islamic finance industry and strengthening the linkages of the domestic Islamic financial system with other financial centres in the international financial system. 

This was achieved via development of the domestic financial markets, greater liberalisation of the domestic Islamic financial system and advocating Islamic finance into the global financial arena;

Mainstreaming Islamic finance into the global financial system with growing international acceptability and recognition. 

This has been supported by the establishment of international standard setting body and liquidity management infrastructure which have gained global recognition; and

Harnessing professional and competent talent through the development of a comprehensive talent ecosystem for Islamic finance. 

This encompasses the establishment of the global university for Islamic finance (INCEIF) and a dedicated Shariah research academy for Islamic finance (ISRA).

“It is my distinct honour to be the recipient of the Royal Award for Islamic Finance 2018. It has been my privilege to be part of the journey in the global development of Islamic finance. This honour however represents a recognition to all those who have travelled with me on this remarkable journey. I am truly most humbled to receive this award on their behalf.

"The Islamic financial industry has experienced a pace of growth and development that has been unprecedented over this recent three decades. It has also been dynamic and evolving to meet the rapidly changing requirements of the modern economy. As we continue this journey, we now need to venture into new frontiers towards bringing greater value to the economy, to society and to the environment,” said Tan Sri Dr Zeti.

Jury Chairman Tun Musa Hitam said, “The jury went through a very stringent and rigorous selection process on the merits and achievements of each nominee before arriving at a final decision. Widely recognised for her role in the global advancement of Islamic finance, Tan Sri Dr Zeti’s contribution, dedication and leadership in the development of Islamic finance industry serves as an inspiration for the next generation.”

Established in 2010, the Royal Award is a biennial award jointly organised by Bank Negara Malaysia and the Securities Commission Malaysia under the Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre  (MIFC) initiative to recognise and honour individuals who have excelled in advancing Islamic finance globally through their outstanding contributions and achievements. Securities Commission Malaysia is the sole regulatory agency for the regulation and development of capital markets.

Past Royal Award recipients include Professor Datuk Dr Rifaat Ahmed Abdel Karim, CEO of the Capital Market Authority of Sudan (2016); Dato’ Dr. Abdul Halim Ismail, founding member of Malaysia’s first Islamic bank (2014); Iqbal Khan, CEO of Fajr Capital (2012); and Shaikh Saleh Abdullah Kamel, founder of the Dallah al Baraka Group (2010). The Royal Award also recognised the late Dr. Ahmad El-Naggar with a posthumous honourable mention in 2010. El-Naggar is often named the Father of Modern Islamic Banking.

Since its introduction more than 30 years ago, Islamic finance in Malaysia has developed into a sophisticated Islamic finance marketplace. The marketplace is characterised by a regulatory, supervisory, shari'ah and legal framework, a deep primary market and active secondary sukuk market, and diverse players with global capabilities. Malaysia's Islamic finance marketplace is open to global industry players and market participants and is served by the MIFC community, comprising the financial institutions, professional firms, regulators and government agencies.


Download the MYIF app from MIFC at the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Tripfez, Stixfresh win at Malaysia Rice Bowl Startup Awards 2018

Source: myNEF. VIPs at the Q&A. Lilyana Abdul Latiff, 2nd from left, with YB Tuan Gobind Singh Deo, 2nd from right.
Source: myNEF. From left: Dato' Husni Salleh, CEO, TERAJU, Lilyana Abdul Latiff, CEO, New Entrepreneurs Foundation (myNEF), Tuan YB Gobind Singh Deo, Minister of Communications & Multimedia, Malaysia; Datuk Yasmin Mahmood, CEO of MDEC at the press conference for the Malaysia Rice Bowl Startup Awards 2018

Winners for the Malaysia Rice Bowl Startup Awards 2018 have been announced. The awards recognise startups in the country that harness digital technology, and celebrate rising tech entrepreneurs in various categories of excellence ranging from retail, media, digital, tech, products, services and innovative campaigns to women and social enterprises.

YB Tuan Gobind Singh Deo, Minister of Communications and Multimedia commented, “I am extremely happy to hear that Malaysian startups are accelerating faster than ever, and we hope that they become a significant contributor to our nation’s GDP and growth, and also become a significant type of business that employs and cultivate cutting edge talent and become a key source of employment.”

Said Lilyana Abdul Latiff, CEO of New Entrepreneurs Foundation Malaysia (myNEF), the organisers: “With over 50 nominations for Founder of the Year, and over 70 nominations for Startup of the Year at this year’s Rice Bowl Startup Awards - I think Malaysia’s tech startup ecosystem has matured rapidly in the past three years. It is a testament to the developmental investments and programmes by the Malaysian government, private sector support and independent initiatives. For a modest market size, we should be on track to produce Malaysian-based unicorns* within the next few years.”

Winners include:

Best FoodTech / AgriTech Startup: Stixfresh is a sticker that is placed on a fruit to prolong its shelf life. In a message on the Stixfresh website, Stixfresh co-founder Zhafri Zainudin said, "Many technologies out there promise to preserve the freshness of fruits at optimum levels. However, only Stixfresh uses 100% natural ingredients which is fully in line with our company’s long-standing belief that Nature’s Gift is the Future of Technology. Studies conducted through collaborations with industry experts have shown that Stixfresh can extend the freshness of certain fruits by up to 50%."

The company says the Stixfresh sticker is all-natural and can keep fruit looking and tasting fresh for up to 14 days longer.
Best e-Commerce Startup: Tripfez Travel offers Muslim-friendly travel solutions. Tripfez has a global reference site for Muslim travellers worldwide looking to find the simplest, cheapest way to travel. Using the Salam Standard, Tripfez displays the hotel’s compliance to Islamic hospitality requirements to increase the overall experience of Muslim travellers.

Salam standards range from bronze to silver, gold and platinum. A facility is awarded the bronze Salam standard, if it has:

- 100% of the rooms with shower/toilet or bath tub/toilet

- A Muslim prayer rug is available or can be requested

- The qiblah is clearly displayed or can be requested.

In contrast, a platinum Salam standard facility would have all of the above, plus:

- A list of halal restaurants nearby the hotel is placed in the room, or can be requested to be made available

- There is no alcohol in the room minibar (or it can be requested to be removed before the arrival of the guest)

- The hotel offers halal-certified food (breakfast and/or room service) certified by a locally-recognised certification body

- The premises are completely alcohol-free

Tripfez is also a TERAJU Superb winner. TERAJU was established as a strategic unit in the Prime Minister’s Department in Malaysia to lead, drive and coordinate the bumiputera** agenda as part of the National Transformation Plan. The Bumiputera Entrepreneurs Startup Scheme (SUPERB) provides grants of up to RM500,000 to support innovative and creative business ideas. The programme is open to bumiputera who aspire to be an entrepreneur or bumiputera companies operating for less than three years. As of January 2018, a total of RM79.79 million out of a pot of RM100 million had been allocated.

Under the Rice Bowl Startups Awards rules, startups are defined as companies which have been in operations for five years or less, must be established in Southeast Asia. National award winners will proceed to compete at the regional ASEAN Rice Bowl Startups Awards 2018 to be held in Bali, Indonesia, in December, which highlights model entrepreneurship and inspires a dynamic community of startup enthusiasts, serial entrepreneurs, policymakers and diverse mentors in tech innovation. 

Regional winners at the four-day ASEAN finale will benefit from partnership opportunities, media exposure, regional and global networking as well as funding from investors. They will go on to compete in the Global Startup Awards in 2019.

The Rice Bowl community consists of 3,372 alumni from 10 ASEAN countries and has seen US$108.4 million in pledged investments from 2015 to 2017. 

Organised by the New Entrepreneurs Foundation Malaysia (myNEF) and now into its fourth year, the Malaysia Rice Bowl Startup Awards is the platform for recognising young startups disrupting old processes and industries. The Malaysia Rice Bowl Startup Awards and ASEAN Rice Bowl Startup Awards are among myNEF’s signature programmes. 

MyNEF believes businesses can grow fast and be sustainable when they harness technology and knowledge. It plays a significant role in bridging industry players and the government, working closely with various agencies and government-related organisations to support existing and upcoming entrepreneur development programmes. The organisation believes that by celebrating startups, together they can solve the diverse local rice bowl issues faced by each country across Southeast Asia. This will ultimately benefit Malaysia and subsequently ASEAN as a region. 

Hashtags: #malaysiaricebowl, #ricebowlaward, #ricebowlstartupawards, #arbsa2018

*A unicorn startup is valued at more than US$1 billion and typically comes from the technology sector. Like unicorns, unicorn startups are fairly rare.

**Bumiputera are local people, including people where one of the parents is a Muslim Malay; natives of Sarawak, the Orang Asli and Sabah natives.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Haramain High Speed Rail inaugurated

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of KSA has launched the Haramain High Speed Rail, the Saudi Press Agency has reported. The railway is part of King Salman's plan to achieve the comfort of Hajj and umrah pilgrims.

In a speech at the launch ceremony Dr Nabil bin Mohammed Al-Amoudi, Minister of Transport, KSA was cited as saying, "The journey between Makkah and Madinah has become closer and easier than ever before. In conjunction with the 88th National Day, this great project is only a confirmation of the Kingdom's commitment to serve Islam and Muslims."

The Minister of Transport disclosed that the railway spans 450 km and has a capacity of 60 million passengers annually. The minister added that the project had been implemented according to international best practices.

The railway has five stations, Makkah, Madinah, Rabigh King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), Jeddah-based King Abdulaziz International Airport and downtown Jeddah.

KAEC, along the coast of the Red Sea, offers 100% foreign ownership for individuals and organisations, seaport and bonded zone regulations, and ease of access to permits and licenses related to residing, working, operating businesses, and owning and managing properties.

King Salman then boarded the train from Jeddah to Madinah. With the train said to travel at between 300 and 400 kmh and the distance between Jeddah and Madinah at 328 km, the journey by high speed rail is estimated to take an hour or less. The same trip by car would have taken four hours and by air, about an hour.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Two new sharing sessions at the Global Islamic Economy Summit

At the fourth Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES 2018), there will be two sessions where those with disruptive ideas can share them. For the Wild Idea session, anyone can share practical, implementable ideas that would change mindsets for the better.

Attendees will hear from people with:
  • An idea that could change the way the audience look at an issue
  • Wisdom or insight that is unique or profound
  • An ability to emotionally resonate with the audience
  • An alternative approach to thinking about an issue
At the 10X session, the floor will be given to people with transformative and disruptive ideas that push the Islamic economy 10X ahead – this could be in terms of efficiency, perception, credibility, sustainability, or profitability. They will also have clear, action-oriented plans for their proposals.

The sixth annual Islamic Economy Award (IEA 2018) will take place on 30 October as part of GIES. Launched in 2013 under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, VP and PM of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the Islamic Economy Award recognises innovative world-class business initiatives and ideas that have contributed to the social and economic welfare of the Muslim population.

There are eight award categories as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented to a business leader who has demonstrated inspired leadership and has had a significant impact on the Islamic economic landscape.


To be held under the theme A Shared Future, GIES 2018 is expected to welcome more than 3,000 attendees. The third edition of the Global Islamic Economy Summit, held in 2016, attracted nearly 2,500 dignitaries, officials and business leaders from 74 countries.


Read the Suroor Asia blog post on the technology focus at GIES

Hashtags: #WildIdea, #10XGIES, #GIES2018

Blockchain to be a hot topic at GIES 2018

• Summit sessions will examine how creating Blockchain solutions can benefit Islamic banks

• Fourth edition of high-level summit to be held on October 30-31

Blockchain and cryptocurrencies are reshaping the global Islamic banking sector, and leading shari'ah-compliant banks are using disruptive technologies to create new financial products, according to industry experts who will gather in Dubai, UAE for the fourth Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES) on October 30 and 31 2018.

Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC) are organising the summit in cooperation with strategic partner Thomson Reuters. GIES 2018 will be held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, VP and PM of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

GIES 2018 will feature panel discussions on the Internet of Things (IoT), drone technology and artificial intelligence (AI). The sessions will provide case studies of pioneering Islamic financial services firms, such as Onegram, a UAE-based startup specialising in shari'ah-compliant cryptocurrency, Malaysia’s Hada DBank, the world’s first Blockchain-powered Islamic Bank, and Emirates Islamic Bank, which has integrated Blockchain into cheque processing.

HEMajid Saif Al Ghurair, Chairman of Dubai Chamber and Board Member of DIEDC, said: “With the adoption and interest in Blockchain growing among Islamic banks around the world, it is the right time to shed light on recent developments in this space and examine the benefits and value that disruptive technologies can deliver to industry players and consumers alike.”

HE described Dubai as a leading example of how public and private sector entities can collaborate to accelerate innovation in the Islamic banking sector, and added the summit will provide a platform to share knowledge and industry best practices.

HE Abdulla Mohammed Al Awar, CEO of DIEDC, said: “With the support of its strategic partners, DIEDC has made significant headway in positioning Dubai as the global capital of Islamic economy. Building on the success of previous editions, we are confident that GIES 2018 will amplify this momentum, fuel the conversation, and deepen our insights into key trends that are driving change within the Islamic economy.”

Al Awar added: “Technology is a major catalyst for innovation across industries, and Islamic economy is no exception. With smart solutions resulting in a surge of disruptions, especially across the Islamic banking and finance landscape, we are poised for a paradigm shift. For instance, technologies such as Blockchain that are still in a nascent stage of evolution, provide new opportunities to reduce systemic risks and ensure a decentralised, inclusive and transparent financial ecosystem that does away with legacy systems and removes layers of intermediation.”


To be held under the theme A Shared Future, GIES 2018 is expected to welcome more than 3,000 attendees. The third edition of the Global Islamic Economy Summit, held in 2016, attracted nearly 2,500 dignitaries, officials and business leaders from 74 countries.


Read the Suroor Asia blog post on new sharing sessions at GIES

Hashtag: #GIES2018

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Singapore Hajj pilgrims safely home

As of 17 September, 2018 all Singaporean Hajj pilgrims who went for the Hajj in 2018 (1439) have returned to Singapore, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) has reported. The last group of pilgrims arrived in Singapore on 16 September.

The Head of Delegation and President of Muis Hj Mohammad Alami Musa said that this year’s Hajj season has been one of the best for Singaporean pilgrims in 15 years. He added that this would not have been possible without the assistance of staff of the Saudi Embassy, and Saudi authorities.

Muis expressed gratitude to the various Saudi organisations who helped in ensuring that safety and welfare of pilgrims, including the Saudi health authorities, the Muassasah South East Asia and Maktab officials who were directly involved in providing services in Arafah and Mina, as well as Medina Adillah for their assistance in Madinah.

Muis also extended its appreciation to the Association of Muslim Travel Agents (AMTAS) and the general sales agents for the success of Hajj 2018.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Journalism and Islam in Malaysia and Indonesia explored

Source: NUS Press. Cover for Mediating Islam.
Source: NUS Press. Cover for Mediating
Janet Steele, Associate Professor of media and public affairs and international affairs at George Washington University, compares and contrasts Islamic aspects of journalism in Mediating Islam: Cosmopolitan Journalisms in Muslim Southeast Asia.

Day-to-day journalism as practiced by Muslim professionals at five news organisations in Malaysia and Indonesia are explored through an Islamic lens:

At Sabili, established as an underground publication, journalists are hired for their ability at da'wah (دعوة), or spreading of Islam. 

At Tempo, a news magazine banned during the Suharto regime, the journalists do not talk much about shari'ah law, but many are pious and see their work as a manifestation of worship. The Islam they practice is often viewed as progressive or liberal. 

At Harakah reporters support an Islamic political party, while at Republika they practice a "journalism of the Prophet". Secular news organisations, too, such as Malaysiakini, employ Muslim journalists. 


Buy Mediating Islam: Cosmopolitan Journalisms in Muslim Southeast Asia (184 pages)
Paperback, S$28
ISBN: 978-981-4722-88-9