UK: Islamic Finance: Dominating The Global Banking Industry

The Islamic financial industry is flourishing – and not just in the Middle East. Barry Cosgrave, senior associate in the finance group at Shearman & Sterling LLP, tells us why.

Having suffered an inevitable slowdown during the global financial crisis, Islamic finance is once again on the rise, with growth now being seen outside the traditional heartlands of the Middle East and South East Asia and taking on an ever more innovative and global flavour.

The announcement by the United Kingdom government of its inaugural £200m Sukuk issue (Sukuk is the Islamic equivalent of bonds) is perhaps the most high-profile example, but first of a kind issuances by FWU AG in Germany and Tilal Development Company in Oman, as well as innovative structures employed in the Axiata Sukuk in Malaysia and the Sadara Sukuk in Saudi Arabia clearly illustrate that the Islamic finance industry is moving forward.

What has led to this increase in activity? The growth in Islamic finance is down to certain key factors which probably fall into three main categories: the continued strong cash position of Islamic investors; the de-mystifying of Islamic finance products; and the growing familiarity of Islamic finance professionals with the needs of Shari'a scholars which has led to consequential efficiencies in implementing Islamic structures.

Whilst there has been a noticeable improvement in access to liquidity since some of the bleaker days of the recession, it is no secret that capital is still hard to come by for a number of businesses. Islamic investors in the Middle East remain cash rich but lack asset classes in which to invest. Whilst the Islamic finance market in South East Asia has traditionally been domestic, Middle Eastern investors tend to be more outward looking, which drives overseas investment. However, those investors that need to invest in line with Shari'a principles have often found a lack of assets in which to place their funds, resulting in a stockpiling of cash resources.

Traditionally, Shari'a-compliant instruments have been viewed with a great deal of caution by conventional investors. Much of this was down to a simple lack of understanding of what were perceived to be mysterious structures with complicated names. However, as an increasing number of Sukuk have run through the maturity cycle, it has provided an illustration of how Islamic instruments bear many of the characteristics of conventional finance products.

Finally, Islamic finance has become increasingly popular as the cost of structuring and documenting Shari'a-compliant business has decreased. Much of this comes down to Islamic finance professionals having gained an increased understanding of the requirements of scholars, which has led to a corresponding decrease in costs. This increased understanding has also complemented the general de-mystifying of the industry.

Increasingly Islamic instruments are being employed in innovative ways even where the structures themselves are tried and tested. The SAR7.5bn Sadara Sukuk is a good example of this: the financing formed a part of a larger financing package which closed in two phases with the Sukuk forming phase one and a combined conventional and Islamic finance package forming phase two. The use of Sukuk was aimed at tapping into the vast liquidity that Saudi Arabia has but which its institutions have struggled to deploy in an environment where Shari'a-compliant assets are hard to come by.

The debunking of the Islamic finance mystique is well illustrated by the number of conventional institutions that invest in Sukuk. It is estimated that around 60% of Sukuk are subscribed for by conventional institutions who regard Sukuk no differently to other fixed income investments. As a result, Sukuk are as attractive to conventional investors as they are to Islamic ones. The problem has traditionally been the comparatively high costs associated with entering into Shari'a-compliant structures. However, as industry professionals gain an ever-increasing insight into the requirements of Shari'a the burden on scholars has reduced. This has allowed scholars to turn their attention to more innovative asset classes to underpin Sukuk and to look at new structures to address products such as hedging and risk management, feeder funds and structured investments.

Islamic finance continues to be an important part of the global financial industry and the increase in its popularity has tracked a general increase in the growth of ethical investment products. It is worth noting that a number of the asset classes in which Islamic investors are prohibited from investing (for example tobacco manufacture, the gambling industry and arms production) are the same as those which ethical investment funds avoid. There are obviously some Shari'a-specific prohibitions but the majority of those prohibitions are shared. If an investor is looking for an ethical alternative to conventional investments then Shari'a-compliant structures can provide a solution. An increase in the breadth of the Islamic finance offering will only help with this.

The question is often asked as to whether the global financial crisis could have been prevented by a purely Shari'a-compliant investment environment? It is, of course, impossible to say, but it should be remembered that the Islamic finance industry has not been free of problems. There have been a number of high-profile defaults on Islamic instruments and insolvency-type situations for Islamic companies. However, these scenarios may be expected during times of heightened economic stress and tight liquidity. What is important to note is that Islamic finance structures have performed no worse than their conventional counterparts.

What, then, of the challenges facing the Islamic finance industry going forward? The call for standardisation continues although at a more muted level. With the growing prevalence of Islamic finance structures, documentation and approach has undergone an organic standardisation to complement the more manufactured version evidenced by the ISDA/ IIFM Tahawwut Master Agreement (an agreement, published in 2010, designed to govern the legal and credit relationship between two parties embarking on a bilateral trading relationship involving Shari'a-compliant hedging transactions).

The main challenge for the industry will be to drive innovation through the development of a more diverse range of financial products. Islamic finance is still too reliant on Sukuk as its major asset class and there is a particular need for short-term investment instruments similar to the Central Bank of Bahrain Salam programme. Sukuk will always remain the key Islamic investment tool but more variety will be needed in order to maintain growth.

Originally published in the June 2014 issue of Acquisition International.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.