Published On:21 June 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

UK bestows first royal award for civic excellence in Islamic finance

By Mushtak Parker

Richard Thomas, CEO of Gatehouse Bank
London: It is not very often that the British Crown has recognized services rendered in the UK Islamic finance industry. The fact that Richard Thomas, CEO of Gatehouse Bank, was awarded the OBE (Order of the British Empire) in the recent Birthday Honours list of Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of the UK Government, in recognition for civic excellence and the contribution that Thomas has made to the UK Islamic financial services industry, shows how far the industry has come. In fact the OBE bestowed on Thomas becomes the first UK royal award for civic excellence in Islamic finance.

Gatehouse Bank, which is a subsidiary of Securities House Kuwait, is one of the four wholesale Shariah-compliant banks incorporated in London and regulated by the Financial Services Authority (FSA), the others being Bank of London and Middle East, European Islamic Investment Bank and Qatar Islamic Bank UK. There is one lone small retail bank — the Islamic Bank of Britain.

Fahed Boodai, Kuwaiti chairman of Gatehouse Bank, said: “This recognition by the UK Government of Richard’s outstanding work in developing business ties with the GCC countries, and Kuwait in particular, is honoring his leading contribution to the development of Shariah-compliant financing over the past 30 years. A large part of this work has been in growing Gatehouse Bank to be a major player and innovative Islamic finance institution in London.”

A modest Richard Thomas maintained that “this award will help motivate the emerging community of UK specialists who are looking to advance the growth of Islamic finance and see its increasing potential to develop not only regional but cross-border experience in international transaction activity. I am pleased to see the UK emerge as a center for Islamic finance in the past decade. Although we have not reached the heights of development in the GCC or Malaysia, the UK offers a level of expertise and a strong financial infrastructure to complement the services provided by our regional neighbors.”

Gatehouse Bank itself is undergoing a strategic restructuring part of which will see the evolution of a new value-added platform offering a unique range of Islamic financial products which in general are not yet in the market place in the Middle East and in Europe.

Gatehouse Bank so far this year has closed two commercial property acquisitions involving blue chip clients.

In June 2011, the bank completed the 51.7 million pound acquisition of a manufacturing and logistics facility in Glasgow leased to Rolls Royce plc, one of the UK’s iconic industrial brands.

The lease, according to Gatehouse provides 17 years of certain term income and fixed rental uplifts of 1.5 percent per annum.

A few weeks earlier Gatehouse Bank also completed the 32.65 million pound acquisition of the InterContinental Hotels Group Global Headquarters in Denham, Buckinghamshire, providing a 12-year term certain income with no breaks. Rare for the UK market, the lease benefits from minimum fixed rental uplifts of 13 percent in both 2012 and 2017.

Thomas has spent almost his entire banking career in the Islamic banking industry starting with structuring transactions out of the then Saudi Internal Bank’s London office, and then help setting up the International Islamic Banking Unit (IIBU) with Duncan Smith at the then United Bank of Kuwait (now Ahli United Bank).

He then helped establish the Islamic banking unit at ABC International Bank in London, before moving to the Securities House to help establish Gatehouse Bank. Behind the scenes Thomas has been very active in UK government advisory and trade bodies including UKTI and UKIFs, championing the Islamic banking proposition and why the UK should become an international hub for Islamic banking, investment and trade.

Only recently, he was appointed the chairman of the Islamic finance working group at TheCityUK, the official private sector body representing the UK financial services sector, where he continues to champion the promotion of Islamic finance for both domestic and overseas business development.

At the same time, he is also the Kuwait special representative for UK Trade & Investment, where he has assisted in the development of UK-Kuwait bilateral trade promotion.

Jamie Bowden, the British ambassador to Bahrain, who has worked with Thomas on many global Islamic finance promotional initiatives, added that “in the many years that I have worked with Richard, he has tirelessly furthered the UK’s and the industry’s interests. His efforts have strengthened the links between the British and Bahraini Islamic financial sectors. I am certain that he personally deserves much of the credit for the UK building its position as the leading Western center of Islamic financial activity.”

In fact, June has been a good month for UK entities involved in Islamic finance.

The DDCAP Group, which is headed by the seasoned Stella Cox and which facilitates a diverse range of Shariah-compliant products, asset classes and instruments in both the primary and secondary markets, signed a landmark memorandum of understanding (MoU) in Kuala Lumpur last week with Harlow’s & MGI Sdn Bhd (HMGI), the Malaysian money market brokers.

Stella Cox, managing director of the DDCAP GROUP and Muhammad Hatim Abdullah, executive director and COO of Harlow’s & MGI Sdn Bhd signed the MOU.

Under the terms of the MOU, DDCAP and HMGI will collaborate in order to offer an enhanced combined service to their respective customers.

Service, according to DDCAP, will initially be made available within the Malaysian wholesale Islamic financial sector and with a view of expanding it to other Asian markets in the near future.

“Due to HMGI ground presence in Malaysia, local customers will be afforded immediate access to the value-added combined brokerage and asset facilitation services of HMGI and DDCAP throughout their working day,” said DDCAP in a statement.

These market developments come at a time of strong growth in Islamic finance across the spectrum of financial and related professional services.

There are currently 22 banks in the UK, of which 5 are standalone Shariah-compliant banks, offering Islamic finance products, exceeding that of any other Western country. There were five sukuk listings at the London Stock Exchange (LSE) in 2010 and one in early 2011, bringing the aggregate total at the LSE to 31 listings worth $18 billion. Islamic funds managed in the UK have combined assets of $300 million.

The global Islamic finance market grew by 10 percent in 2009 to $1,041 billion and TheCityUK estimates that the global market for Islamic finance grew at a similar rate in 2010.

The UK is currently the leading Western country and Europe’s premier center for Islamic finance with $19 billion of reported assets, largely based on activity by Shariah-compliant banks.

(Courtesy: Arab News)

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on June 21, 2011. Filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

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