The Islamic Finance Council UK

Thomson Reuters interviewed Chris Tait from the The Islamic Finance Council, recipients of EFICA’s 2015 Islamic Finance Industry Development Award, to discover more about the pioneering UK-based group and their unique capabilities.

Tell us a little bit about your company?

The Islamic Finance Council UK (IFC) is a UK based not-for-profit specialist advisory and development body established to promote and enhance the global Islamic and ethical finance industry.

Operating since 2005, our Advisory Board brings together a unique blend of seasoned practitioners who are recognised leaders in the Islamic finance market and have worked for global institutions. These individuals provide their time and expertise on a pro bono basis and see the IFC as a professional and progressive platform by which they can personally give back to the industry to encourage its positive growth.

We have successfully pioneered a number of unique developmental and educational programmes and as a result have benefited from global endorsements including: UK Government Ministers and House of Lords Peers, Governor Al Miraj of the Central Bank of Bahrain, Dr Nasser Saidi from DIFC and a number of other leading shariah scholars and industry experts.

Our core services include:

Advisory - Providing advisory, reporting and consultancy services to governmental and other agencies in relation to the establishment, promotion and regulation of Islamic Finance.

Ethical finance - Exploring the relationship between Islamic finance and the broader ethical finance arena and promoting coordination and understanding between them

Thought leadership - Providing leadership on current issues in Islamic Finance, with a view to promoting robustness and stability in Shariah banking frameworks and market practices

Training and awareness - Promoting awareness and understanding of Islamic finance and its regulation and empowering Shariah scholars and finance professionals.

We have advised governments, presented at conferences and business schools, trained executives around the world and are regularly quoted in the media (including Financial Times, BBC, Bloomberg and CNBC Arabia amongst others).

How is this making an impact on society?

In 2010 after holding a conference on Islamic and ethical finance we identified an opportunity for Islamic finance to lead the debate. We therefore developed and launched our Ethical Finance Round Table Series.

Our initiative brings together senior stakeholders - from academia, banks, asset managers, faith groups, Government and not-for-profits - with the aim of inspiring positive changes to the financial services industry as a whole regardless of religion and culture.

Our initiative is based on 2 core pillars:

Pillar 1: Engage and Inform

We have delivered several round table events which have been attended by over 240 people representing 80 organisations. The quality of the discussions and debate has been tremendously insightful and, as the driver, the IFC has continued to promote Islamic Finance without dominating the agenda. Themes have included:

How do we define ethical?
Where does Islamic finance fit into the ethical universe?
How do we measure social returns and impact?
As momentum has built we have secured attendees and speakers from across the UK as well as Germany and America.

We have achieved significant media coverage which has consistently positioned the IFC as leading the debate. Notable coverage has been achieved on BBC Radio, the Financial Times, the Guardian and The Times amongst others. Despite our size and resources our work has been promoted to nearly 5 million people.

Pillar 2: Collaborate and Deliver

The round tables facilitated genuine collaboration that took our activity beyond a talking shop to taking practical action. Some examples include:

House of Lords Interfaith Workshop
We ran the first ever interfaith ethical finance roundtable in the House of Lords with the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby along with a Rabbi and a leading local Shariah scholar.
Scottish Ethical Finance Hub (SEFH)
Government Ministers have backed a proposition launched from our roundtables to create a pioneering Ethical finance Hub to be hosted at Heriot-Watt University. This unique and novel initiative aims to create Europe’s first dedicated Hub to bring together different players in ethical finance. The IFC have been key drivers behind this project.
Global Ethical Finance Forum 2015 (GEFF)
We were worked in partnership with ME Global Advisors to host the inaugural GEFF in Scotland in September this year. The event received excellent feedback and bought together around 250 leading industry experts from across the globe
Church of Scotland Collaboration
One of our proudest achievements has been the signing of an agreement to work together with the Church of Scotland. After years of negotiations the partnership has been formed with the objective of creating a practical ethical financial solution, built from the shared values of the faith traditions but open to everyone in society regardless of religion or ethnic background.

This initiative is the first time ever the Church and Islamic finance are coming together to create a practical solution. The positive message of faith groups working together presents a beacon of light which we hope can inspire many others across the world.

What are the next steps for Islamic Finance Council UK?

This year (2015) has been an exciting year and we have been truly humbled to see our intensive efforts in the ethical finance space recognised both locally and globally.

As a not-for-profit organization with modest resources the EFICA prize money will be transformational for the IFC.

Our recent successes have raised our profile and led to an increase in the number and range of opportunities we have been presented with. We have already started to review our business model and strategy and are considering investing in some dedicated resource to help support our growth. With the appointment of two new London based Advisory Board Members we are now better positioned to establish a permanent presence in London which is something we will be hoping to achieve over the coming months.

We are keen to keep up the momentum of our Ethical Finance Round Table Series and, having developed a scalable model, will explore opportunities to extend it to other UK cities and possibly internationally.

Having led the steering committee of the Scottish Ethical Finance Hub we are committed to supporting the next phase of the project. This will involve working closely with the Scottish Government, Heriot-Watt University and other steering group members to recruit a project manager and oversee the development and launch of the hub. We expect to open an office in the Edinburgh based hub to reinforce our commitment to this initiative.

There has been a lot of interest in our Church of Scotland collaboration and, whilst initial work is under way, we are aiming to finalise a detailed programme, about which we hope to share more details in early 2016.

In summary, the last 5 years has been an incredible journey inspired by our beliefs in developing a fairer, more responsible finance system underpinned by the core values of Islamic Finance, a view which we know, through our round table series, is shared by many others. Our achievements are testament to the fact of the impact a few, good, competent and committed people can achieve.

With limited resources we believe we have made significant progress in promoting Islamic finance to non-Muslim stakeholders. The EFICA success has been perfectly timed to allow us to use the prize money to support some of the exciting projects we have embarked upon.

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