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Saturday, 14 July 2007

UK working group to boost export of Islamic financial services

A joint working group is being set up by British Expertise and International Financial Services London to boost the export of UK-based Islamic financial services. The main objective of the group, to be known as Islamic Financial Services for Business, is to help member companies of both organizations to establish key contacts and to find potential partners and clients. The initiative comes as the government's UK Trade and Investment is seeking to develop a strategy to make the UK a gateway for Islamic Finance, as part of their wider strategy on promoting London and the UK as an international financial centre. Over the past few years, the government has introduced a series of measures to help British banks and service companies to tap into the huge multi-billion Islamic financial market by devising ways to make products Shariah-compliant. The UK Treasury has said that its aim has been to create a "level playing field" in alternative finance and investments, such as Islamic finance, in the retail market. One of the most recent was the introduction in this year's budget of new measures for sukuk that led to the issuing of the first billion dollar Shariah-compliant corporate bond to be listed on the London Stock Exchange. Innovation has led to such diverse retail Islamic products as Child Trust Funds, Shariah compliant business loans, and takaful insurance. British banks declared as fully Shariah compliant, which now include such High Street chains as Lloyds TSB, Royal Bank of Scotland, and HSBC, are estimated to have some 30,000 customers out of the UK's Muslim population, which is approaching two million. Since 2003 the Islamic mortgage market is also calculated to have grown to over half a billion pounds, including an increase of about 50 per cent in the last year alone.

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