International Takaful Summit 2011 Opening Speech

I would like to thank Mr Iqbal Asaria for extending a kind invitation for me to address the Summit today.


In fact I am speaking again at the awards dinner tonight and at the dinner which I am hosting in the Carlton Club tomorrow.


Over the last few years, Mr Asaria and his team have consistently arranged these conferences with the utmost professionalism. It is a pleasure for me to be here today.


I hope that you will find the Conference fulfilling and I am pleased that it has received worldwide support and the efforts put in by the organisers have been fruitful.


It is fitting that the Conference is being held here in London again.


In London we have been writing insurance business going back centuries and we have a long history of underwriting all classes of insurance risks.

Although we have been involved in the underwriting of various risks in London for many years, we are indeed very innovative and progressive and we have been at the forefront when it comes to the underwriting of new and different types of insurance covers.


I am a freeman of the city of London and I am very proud of my connections with the city.


I have also been a Lloyds insurance broker.


When I was elevated to the House of Lords I took the title of Baron Sheikh of Cornhill in the city of London.


The Islamic finance system is founded upon the central theme of achieving sustainable growth and shared prosperity whilst promoting innovation.


A great deal of importance is placed upon innovation as it is vital to the creation of new products and services within the sector.


Modern Islamic finance emerged in the mid 1970s with the founding of Islamic banks but the growth has been very rapid since the 1990s. The market is now worth over $1 trillion dollars globally of which Takaful accounts for 1%.


Countries with stable and strong governance and regulatory support are conducive to increasing demand for Takaful products.


I would like to declare an interest in that I have recently founded and I am the Chairman of Iqra Ethical plc, which is a company based in Westminster that will offers training, consultancy and trading in Islamic finance services.


We will undertake this both in the United Kingdom and globally.


I would also like to state that I have owned and built successful businesses relating to insurance, financial services and properties and I am Chairman of four companies.


In my business career I have dealt with general insurances, life assurance and mortgages.


I have actively supported mutual insurance companies and building societies and this is another reason I do like to promote Islamic financial arrangements. The principle of mutuality appeals to me.


I am a founder member of the Associate Group of British Parliamentarians on Islamic banking and I have been elected as its Vice Chairman. It is an active organisation and we meet frequently. One of the issues which we are pursuing is the issue of Sovereign Sukuks.


Recently I had a meeting with Lord Sassoon, Commercial Secretary to the Treasury, along with the other office bearers of the Associate Parliamentary Group on Islamic Finance.


Sovereign Sukuk was one of the matters which we discussed at the meeting but there are issues relating to cost of issuance which need to be examined further.


We also discussed the size of the issue and the demand for it. The issuance needs to be very large, well in excess of 1 billion pounds but we need to see whether there will be a demand for it.


I have also engaged with the Conservative Party’s front bench on Islamic finance in my own right and also on behalf of the Parliamentary Group. There is now an interest amongst the Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords of the British Parliament.


A considerable number of people who prefer Islamic financial structure are non-Muslims who value and like the ethical and mutual structures of these arrangements.


In regard to United Kingdom and Europe I would like to state that there are 2 million Muslims in the United Kingdom and 20 million in Europe.


If we also reach out to non-Muslims the potential is considerable as the populations of the United Kingdom and Europe are 60 million and 450 million respectively.


Islamic finance is all to do with ethical forms of investment, and also investing in businesses and industries that are good for society and the environment at large. Islamic financial arrangements work for the benefit of society. For example there are opportunities to invest in the generation of energy by renewable means.


Islamic finance should not remain a niche, but through its appeal to everyone irrespective of religion, its market should be part of the mainstream market, increasing its potential manifold.


Islamic financial institutions should target not only Muslims but also non-Muslims, particularly in Western countries, and their products and the pricing should be such that it appeals to a wider audience.


The Shariah Supervisory Board of Islamic finance plays an important role in safeguarding the inherent benefits of the system. The Board is a pre-requisite for any Islamic finance institution. Its main role is to ensure that all dealings are strictly compliant with Shariah law.


The role of the scholars is vital and it is therefore important that they are trained in Shariah principles as well as conventional arrangements. We need to ensure that there are adequate training schemes in all aspects of financial transactions.


Furthermore, it is also important that we train a new intake of scholars to cope with the growing demand of the industry.


If we are to promote and develop Islamic products it is important that we look at the human resources and train our staff adequately and also keep a close control over expenses.


In addition to what I have said, if we are to succeed and expand we need to ensure that our service standards are high and we are cost effective in every way.


This means that our work practices and computer systems must be efficient. I have followed these practices which have enabled me to run successful business organisations.


To enable us to succeed in achieving our expansion for Islamic finance we need to develop and market a range of products which will fulfil the needs of people and cater for local conditions in the relevant country where we would like to write business.


In all of my business dealings I have always produced profitable results for the benefit of everyone and I am sure that the delegates at the Conference would like to achieve these objectives as well.


I would like to conclude by saying I fervently believe in Islamic banking and financial services, including Takaful, and I will continue promoting these in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the world.