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Niche to Mainstream - Islamic Finance

Islamic finance continues to attract interest in the City of London. With the amount of money involved amounting to 700 billion globally, Islamic Financial Institutions now number over 300 in total with rapid growth forecasts. The UK Government has played a major role in trying to make the City of London the global centre of Islamic Finance by extending support wherever possible including the abolition of double stamp duty on Islamic Mortgages and the recent regulatory framework setup up by the FSA.

Nusrat Janjua, Marketing Director, IslamicMortgages.co.uk, said 'We believe the market is currently making a transition from niche to mainstream; the UK market is witnessing continued demand for more diverse Islamic banking products in retail and investment banking, by an increasingly affluent Muslim investors.'
Creating a level playing field between conventional and Islamic finance  providers is seen as a priority, by the regulator and the UK Government; which has enlisted support from a number of organisations (which now form the treasury's Islamic finance advisory group), each making its own contribution to turning the UK into the most Islamic finance-friendly economy in the West.

Islamic finance is offered to both Muslims and non-Muslims; the Islamic banks operating in the UK are witnessing an increasing demand for Islamic products and services regardless of customers' faith. One of the main reasons for this is the nature of Islamic products - the whole aspect of being an ethical product and some say an environmental friendly investment. 

As the market grows, the ranges of products within the Islamic finance market not only begin to compete with each other, but are looking to take a greater share of the mainstream market.  So that the range of products, particularly in Islamic mortgages, offering comparative rates to conventional mortgages, which allows both Muslim and none Muslims to source products on the basis's of 'best fit'.

Being one the world's major financial centres, London has enough competence and capability to accommodate both types of financial institution, conventional and Islamic. On one hand, they are competing, but on the other they are supplementing each other. The conventional banks are bringing is depth of resource and structuring capability, whilst the Islamic banks are bringing their ideology, their expertise and their distribution capabilities beyond the UK.

The current surges in oil prices within the Middle East, has also led to growing interest from both institutions and private investment in the UK market.  The UK market is seen as highly developed, offering a diverse range of both conventional and Islamic products, combined with a stable economy and secure financial institutional support and regulation.  Therefore, it makes the overseas investment in UK portfolios a very real and attractive one.

The future of established Islamic institutions within the UK, is one of gearing themselves up to capture the 'new investment trend' by making the range and diversity of their product offering a competitive and profitable one.  The way forward is to make Islamic investment and retailing products compete effectively with mainstream products, so that what is on offer, allows real choice on a level playing field.  However, in order to stay ahead of the competition it is imperative for Islamic instructions and banks to achieve clarity within the blurring markets of Islamic and conventional products while also keeping apace with the supervision of new Islamic financial products being developed across the Middle East.  Therefore, challenges still remain; education of the mainstream market is still seen as the key to future success.

Nusrat Janjua
Marketing Director
IslamicMortgages.co.uk

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