Islamic financial institutions recorded a strong 2021 while continuing digital investments.
Last year saw a strong recovery for Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) as economies rebounded following a difficult 2020 caused by the global pandemic and lower oil prices. IFIs were very prudent in booking financing loss reserves in 2020. Charges were at a much lower level in 2021, and some banks released reserves, boosting results.
Net profit for Islamic banks rose by more than 50% in 2021, with banks in the Gulf achieving particularly strong results. Customer deposits continued to expand, funding the growth of financing portfolios. In addition, IFIs saw the benefit of digital and technological investments that helped control operating expenses.
This year’s award winners as Global Finance’s World’s Best Islamic Financial Institutions continued to invest in technology and delivery, launching new products and services while delivering good financial performance. Moreover, the award winners recognize the importance of corporate and social responsibility and environmental factors, as acknowledge by two new respective awards.
Global Finance chose Kuwait Finance House (KFH) as the world’s Best Islamic Financial Institution. KFH has a market reach across the Middle East, Asia and Europe. The group benefits through its advanced systems and applications.
IFIs continue to expand as demand for Shariah-compliant products increases. The sector is expected to maintain growth in most market segments, including financing, investment, sukuk and insurance. Segments such as mortgage financing are experiencing rapid growth, while sustainability financing is blooming.
Digitalization and sustainability are key focus areas, according to Muhammad Al Jasser, chairman of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB).
“It was through digital transformation that many people sustained their social and professional lives in the middle of stringent lockdowns,” he says. “Digital transformation, however, was already underway even before the pandemic and prior to lockdowns that forced people to work remotely. IDB will continue to support cross-border regulatory harmonization, which is vital to making full use of opportunities such as e-commerce and dealing with potential cybersecurity problems.”
“Islamic finance calls for social justice, financial inclusivity, ethical practices and social responsibility,” says Dato Mohamed Rafique Merican, CEO of Maybank Islamic, our award winner as Best Islamic Financial Institution in Asia and Malaysia. “All these notions are at the heart of sustainability efforts and initiatives. With the significant alignment between Islamic finance and sustainability principles, we believe Islamic finance will have broader and more-universal appeal.”
BEST ISLAMIC FINANCIAL INSTITUTION
Kuwait Finance House
A flagship institution for the Islamic financing sector, Kuwait Finance House (KFH) wins the world’s Best Islamic Financial Institution award due to its strong 2021 operating performance while maintaining investments in innovative technology and launching new products and services. KFH provides services to customers in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Asia and Europe through extensive distribution channels and has subsidiaries in Kuwait, Turkey, Bahrain, Malaysia and Germany. In 2021, customer numbers rose in all operating geographies worldwide.
KFH’s total assets stood at $72 billion at the end of 2021. Net profit was 68% higher year-on-year at slightly more than $1 billion, with the return on average equity (ROAE) rising to 14%. KFH’s Islamic banking products and services span commercial, retail and corporate banking as well as real estate, trade finance and investments. KFH has placed significant emphasis on digital banking, and online banking transactions rose by a quarter in 2021. KFH successfully initiated a national payment system through a fully integrated application corresponding to the Swift global network. KFH was the first bank in Kuwait to launch instant card issuance service.
KFH participated in major development projects in the GCC and international markets, in various fields such as infrastructure, energy, water, electricity, transportation, communications, housing and real estate development. In 2021, KFH Capital, the investment arm of the group, led the successful arrangement of many sovereign and corporate sukuk issuance deals, exceeding $15 billion in favor of customers in various sectors and geographies.
BEST ISLAMIC CORPORATE BANK
Qatar Islamic Bank
Qatar’s main Islamic financial institution, Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB), had a strong 2021, with assets rising 11% to $53 billion. Its net profit increased by 17% to $976 million in 2021 aided by a strong performance in the bank’s corporate banking division that contributes approximately a third of total profits. QIB provides a wide range of products and services in corporate banking, from trade finance to structured finance, as well as deposit-related products. It has a strong customer base in government-related entities, financial institutions, real estate, oil and gas, and small and midsize enterprises (SMEs). The bank’s corporate banking service is technology driven, including a Corporate Internet Banking portal, and is supported by QIB’s QInvest investment banking arm. QIB’s cross-border division is also growing.
BEST ISLAMIC RETAIL BANK
Al Rajhi Bank
A pioneer in the provision of Islamic retail banking services, Al Rajhi Bank has significant expertise in Shariah consumer banking. It has won the world’s Best Islamic Retail Bank award following its significant retail banking performance in 2021, together with its further development of Islamic retail banking products, digital transformation, employee investment and market leadership. At the end of 2021, Al Rajhi was the largest Islamic bank globally, with assets of $166 billion—up 33% from the previous year—and equity of $17.9 billion. Net profit increased by 39% to $3.9 billion in 2021. It remains one of the most profitable banks, with a return on average assets (ROAA) of 2.7% and ROAE of 24%. Customer loans grew by 43%, largely driven by retail banking. Al Rajhi Bank’s home mortgage financing expanded by 63% in 2021 and the bank increased its market share across all segments. Loan growth was funded by an increase of 34% in customer deposits. Digital and mobile banking have received significant focus, with Al Rajhi’s cashless transactions nearing 80% of its total transactions. Its launch of Emkan Finance, a digital lending company that provides fast personal microloans at low interest rates, has been very successful. Once approved, the funding amount is delivered within minutes through fully digital channels.
BEST ISLAMIC BANK FOR CSR
QATAR ISLAMIC BANK
A pioneer of Islamic banking in Qatar and an active partner in the community, QIB focuses closely on corporate and social responsibility (CSR). QIB’s CSR initiatives provide continuous support to the community through human, educational and sports activities. It proactively sought to contribute to protecting, helping and supporting the local community in times of the Covid-19 pandemic. Important CSR initiatives have included domestic workers’ digital accounts, in keeping with the bank’s principle of support for all segments of society and to promote financial inclusion of domestic workers in Qatar, facilitating timely payment and access to their wages as well as easy and fast international transfers. With this initiative, and for the first time in Qatar, domestic workers can open a bank account through a simple process using the QIB Mobile App, free of charge and without a minimum balance requirement.
BEST ISLAMIC INVESTMENT BANK
Dubai Islamic Bank
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns are an integral part of the long-term strategy followed by Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) to create and unlock further value for all its internal and external stakeholders and for the banking sector itself. Notably, DIB is already aligned with eight of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals and is gradually aligning itself with more through its business activities and charitable contributions. The bank is working to address the key areas of good health and well-being, quality education, decent work and economic growth, climate action, gender equality, reduction of inequalities among the population, sustainability of cities and communities, and achieving peace and justice.
DIB operates a responsible ESG policy across its operations. It is pioneering green Islamic capital markets and was a joint lead manager and bookrunner for the issue of the world’s first sustainability-linked sukuk in aviation, a five-year $600 million transition sukuk committing Etihad Airways to carbon-reduction targets. It also has issued several sovereign and corporate green sukuks. Sustainable-skills development, led by the Learning and Development Team, is an important component of DIB’s strategy for sustainable growth. In addition to training and developing its employees, DIB has demonstrated the bank’s commitment to financial inclusion and youth empowerment; and it is fully immersed in programs that educate, engage and empower the youth of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
BEST ISLAMIC PRIVATE BANK
A culmination of the successful merger between Barwa Bank and International Bank of Qatar, Dukhan Bank’s net profit more than doubled in 2021, while its assets grew by 28%. The bank’s private banking proposition is tailored to meet private clients’ evolving needs, using innovative customer-focused services supported by good technology. Dukhan Bank’s private banking service offers an end-to-end portfolio of financing, banking and investment products and services for high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs). Supported by a team of local and regional equity specialists, its portfolio management services are quite extensive. The bank is also focusing on an enhanced digital transformation over the next few years that will develop its private banking portfolio further to capture a larger and younger generation of HNWIs.
BEST SUKUK BANK
Standard Chartered Saadiq
Standard Chartered, through its global Islamic banking unit Standard Chartered Saadiq, is a major player in the Islamic financing industry. Standard Chartered Saadiq is a leading participant in the global sukuk market. In 2021, it ranked second in the international sukuk league tables, achieving a 12% market share. It is the only international bank with a global banking franchise providing Islamic banking products and services through its extensive network.
Standard Chartered Saadiq has an extensive offering and strong expertise in structuring bespoke Islamic financial products. It successfully executed many high-profile transactions, including several industry benchmark-setting deals in 2021. The bank has played a leading role in assisting most of the sovereigns in their sukuk funding requirements. Landmark deals in which it participated included those with the UK government, Turkey, Indonesia and Oman. Other major deals in 2021 included those for Boubyan Bank and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB).
The bank plays a leading role in corporate sustainable/green sukuk issuances, including the $2.5 billion sustainable sukuk offering by IsDB and Indonesia’s $3 billion triple tranche, which includes a $750 million 30-year green tranche.
BEST ISLAMIC INVESTMENT BANK
Standard Chartered Saadiq
Standard Chartered Saadiq is a leader in the Islamic investment banking sector and had a strong 2021. A major participant in the global sukuk market, the bank utilizes the skills of its investment banking team. It has broad experience in designing custom Islamic financial offerings that cater to clients’ needs. Saadiq works with leading industry bodies such as the International Islamic Finance Market and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association to promote product standardization within the Islamic banking industry. The bank’s investment banking services offer an extensive product portfolio. This product suite is intentionally different in each market, with the goal of providing clients with tailored packages to fulfill their needs. Saadiq offers a complete product suite encompassing transactional banking; financial markets solutions such as capital markets and treasury risk management; and corporate finance offerings such as project and export finance, leverage finance and structured solutions for a broad spectrum of corporations and institutions.
The bank is also at the forefront of Islamic risk management and yield-enhancing products like foreign exchange (FX); hedging products that range from basic FX spot to more-structured offerings, such as profit rate and currency swaps; FX and profit rate structured offerings; and structured deposits and investment products. Standard Chartered also has an Islamic commodity-hedging product that offers a comprehensive suite of derivatives, including swaps and options, that can be offered on the back of structured deposits.
BEST ISLAMIC FUND MANAGER
Headquartered in Saudi Arabia with offices in Jeddah, Riyadh, London, Singapore and Dubai, Sidra Capital is a Shariah-compliant asset manager, providing financial advisory and other services with a focus on real estate, private finance and private equity investment. Last year was a very good year for Sidra Capital in terms of performance. The Islamic fund manager established Sidra Capital Singapore in 2020 to support the firm’s global growth and complement its existing asset management strategy for Southeast Asia. In commercial real estate and property in the US, it reinforced its presence with two strategic real estate investments. The company took a strategic interest in 10000 Energy Drive in Houston, Texas, which had been built as a statement headquarters building for Southwestern Energy, its anchor tenant. Sidra Capital closed 2021 with the acquisition of Oakmont Point, a long-lease class-A office property in a Chicago suburb. In addition, the company initiated its first real estate aggregation program with its launch of a $155 million fund for the acquisition of single-tenant industrial properties in the US.
Sidra’s UK operations showed equal growth with the acquisition of the Countryside HQ Building in Brentwood, and Buckingham Gate and Uxbridge office properties, boosting its assets under management (AUM) in the UK to £1 billion ($1.3 billion) and strengthening its footprint in the market. Sidra’s private finance activities also thrived in 2021, with the Sidra income fund recording good returns.
BEST ISLAMIC SME BANK
Kuwait-based Boubyan Bank wins the Best Islamic SME Bank award for its significant focus on digital delivery, customer service and breadth of product offering. The bank has attracted companies across various sectors in the local market. Increasing its market position remains an important goal, which it plans to achieve by offering outstanding banking services and products that meet all the needs of SME customers.
BEST ISLAMIC ASSET MANAGER
GFH Financial Group
Bahrain-headquartered GFH Financial Group recorded strong improvement across all its asset classes in 2021. With $15 billion in AUM, GFH’s net profit was $84 million in 2021, nearly double that of 2020. The increase reflects stronger contributions throughout 2021 from all business lines, including investment banking, real estate and treasury activities. In total, during the year, GFH closed more than $1 billion of new investments, including international logistics, health care and education sectors. The group has strengthened its presence in both the UK and the US. It also concluded a strategic partnership with Schroders Capital, the private markets investment division of Schroders, which will bolster GFH’s international investment reach and enhance access to a broader pool of opportunities. GFH booked many real estate deals in the US in 2021, including acquisition of a $2 billion portfolio of Amazon-designated US warehouses.
BEST ISLAMIC TRADE FINANCE PROVIDER
Dubai Islamic Bank
As the first and largest Islamic bank in the UAE, DIB continues to serve as a flagship bank in the Emirates, with a significant footprint domestically and internationally. Its trade finance activities continue to expand, and DIB’s services and products are extensive and well regarded. DIB’s presence in many markets, including Pakistan, Indonesia and Kenya, provides good advantages for its trade finance activities. The completion of Noor Bank’s integration and the migration of all banking relationships into DIB has also boosted its profile.
DIB became the exclusive UAE partner of Trade Club Alliance last year. This partnership is an innovative, digital, global business networking platform across 14 banks, offering corporate and SME clients involved in international trade a wealth of relevant trade expertise and the opportunity to connect with trusted partners from around the world.
BEST ISLAMIC TAKAFUL
Kuwait Finance House
In 2021, KFH Takaful recorded good growth, offering a wide range of Islamic insurance products while capitalizing on the KFH distribution network. KFH Takaful’s range of products includes medical, housing, motor, fire, aviation and marine insurance. The KFH Takaful app generated increased customer demand and simplified access to insurance. The company is active in reinsurance programs, with many blue-chip reinsurers.
BEST ISLAMIC PROJECT FINANCE PROVIDER
CIMB Islamic Bank
CIMB Islamic Bank is Malaysia-based CIMB Group’s global Islamic banking and finance franchise. CIMB Islamic had a good year in 2021 in project finance, including the infrastructure and construction sectors. The bank has significant experience and knowledge in the Shariah-compliant project financing sector. CIMB Islamic has managed many syndicated transactions and participated in the financing of many projects.
SUKUK DEAL OF THE YEAR: SAUDI ARAMCO $6 BILLION TRIPLE TRANCHE
Standard Chartered Saadiq
In June 2021, Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) launched its inaugural sukuk issuance in the form of a $6 billion triple-tranche senior unsecured sukuk offering. The yields were all at a low price. The issuance was Saudi Aramco’s first-ever dollar-denominated sukuk and the largest corporate international sukuk issuance ever.
EQUITY/IPO DEAL OF THE YEAR: NAYIFAT FINANCE COMPANY SAUDI ARABIA STOCK MARKET LISTING
HSBC Saudi Arabia
When the Saudi-based Islamic nonbank financial institution, a consumer financing company, conducted its initial public offering (IPO) in late 2021, the issuance was highly successful and was oversubscribed 136 times. HSBC Saudi Arabia was the financial adviser, lead manager, lead underwriter and lead bookrunner.
With assets of $63 billion and a financing portfolio of $50 billion, Maybank Islamic is the largest Islamic bank in Asia. The bank had a strong 2021, with its net profit more than doubling to $752 million. Maybank Islamic has long been one of the leading Islamic financial institutions globally and is frequently a first mover in bringing innovative Shariah-compliant financial products to the market. Its main market is Malaysia, where it controls a third of Islamic assets, but its activities extend into Singapore, Hong Kong, Labuan and Indonesia. The bank holds a leading position in the Malaysian ringgit sukuk market and a good position in global sukuk.
Kuwait Finance House
The global award winner, KFH also took home the Best Islamic Financial Institution in the Middle East regional award. The bank plays an important role in Islamic financing and banking across the GCC and the wider Middle East. It is active in the financing of major projects, investment and capital raising. It also provides a range of deposit and wealth management products for regional clients. KFH has had a strong start in the sukuk market for 2022. In the first quarter of this year, it arranged two large sukuk deals: a $3 billion issue for the Turkish government and a $750 million issue for Dubai Islamic Bank. The bank is also increasingly active in sustainable sukuk issuance.
GFH Financial Group
With balance sheet assets of more than $8 billion and $15 billion in AUM, GFH has made good progress over the last few years in its focus on Islamic investment banking. It also owns a majority stake in Khaleeji Commercial Bank, an Islamic retail bank operating in Bahrain. Khaleeji also had a good year in 2021, with profit up by 37%.
Standard Chartered Saadiq Bangladesh
Bangladesh is the third-largest Muslim-majority country in the world, making it a lucrative market for Islamic banking. Standard Chartered Saadiq Bangladesh saw 26% revenue growth in 2021. Standard Chartered is the only multinational bank in the country offering Islamic banking to all client segments across retail, SME and corporate sectors. It has introduced various first-in-the-market digital services, such as instant funds transfer and others.
Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam
Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam has the dominant position in Islamic finance in Brunei Darussalam and continues to record good growth. It has assets of $8 billion.
Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank Egypt
A leading institution in Egypt’s expanding Islamic finance market, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank (ADIB) Egypt had another good year in 2021. The bank has assets of approximately $5 billion. Its service provision is high, and ADIB Egypt has invested heavily in technology.
Bank Syariah Indonesia
In early 2021, the merger of Islamic banking units of three state-owned banks (Bank Rakyat Indonesia, BNI Syariah and Bank Syariah Mandiri) created the country’s seventh-largest bank, with assets of $17 billion. Islamic financing in Indonesia is growing rapidly and Bank Syariah is a strong competitor for conventional banks in Indonesia.
Iraqi Islamic Bank for Investment and Development
Iraqi Islamic Bank for Investment and Development holds a good franchise in the small domestic banking sector. The bank has had good recent success in government-related trade finance activities. Its balance sheet is well capitalized with good liquidity.
Jordan Islamic Bank
Jordan Islamic Bank is Jordan’s best-performing Islamic bank. Its balance sheet grew to $7.5 billion in 2021. The bank has a wide portfolio of Islamic banking products and is backed by strong regulatory ratios. Net profits, deposits and financing all increased by more than 10% in 2021.
Boubyan Bank is well managed with excellent retail and commercial products and service offerings. Majority-owned by the National Bank of Kuwait, it has significant digital capability and has focused on fintech innovation. Profits were up by around 50% in 2021, and the bank’s market share of local finance continues to grow. On a wider front, it successfully launched UK-based Nomo, the first global Islamic digital bank, offering Shariah-compliant wealth management and banking services in the UK and internationally.
Maybank Islamic is Malaysia’s flagship Islamic institution, with a market share of over 30%. In nearly all Shariah areas, it holds a dominant market position.
Umnia Bank, a joint venture between Qatar International Islamic Bank, CIH Bank and the Moroccan Depository and Management Fund, continues to grow its franchise and financial position as well as its Islamic product offering.
Bank Nizwa continues to be the fastest-growing Islamic bank in Oman. Its retail and corporate client bases are increasing, boosted by an electronic channel. The bank’s net profits increased by 13% in 2021, while total assets grew by 16% to reach $3.6 billion.
Meezan is Pakistan’s largest Islamic bank, with a rapidly expanding asset base of $10.8 billion that grew by 14% in 2021. The bank offers a range of products and services targeted at the broader public as well as mid-tier and premium banking customers. Meezan’s net profit increased by 25% in 2021 to $175 million.
Arab Islamic Bank
Arab Islamic Bank is the oldest and largest Islamic bank in Palestine. The bank currently has assets of $1.7 billion and a recorded 12% growth in 2021.
Qatar Islamic Bank
Qatar Islamic Bank is Qatar’s flagship Islamic financial institution, with a 50% market share of Islamic banking assets in the domestic market. The bank’s assets are now more than $50 billion, with a net profit approaching $1 billion. Qatar-based banking operations contribute 95% of the net operating income.
Al Rajhi Bank
Al Rajhi Bank is a pioneer in the provision of Islamic retail banking services, holding a dominant Islamic bank franchise in the kingdom. At the end of 2021, Al Rajhi was the largest Islamic bank globally, with assets of $166 billion and a substantial deposit base. It remains one of the most profitable banks, with an ROAA of 2.7%, and has a strong financial profile.
Al Baraka Bank South Africa
HBZ Bank South Africa is a subsidiary of Habib Bank of Zurich, which also has subsidiaries in the UK, Hong Kong, Canada, the UAE, Kenya and Pakistan.
Bank of Ceylon
Bank of Ceylon, a wholly owned entity of the government of Sri Lanka, has a significant franchise in the country. The bank pioneered Islamic banking in Sri Lanka. BOC An-Noor is the bank’s Islamic banking window, which provides a diverse range of savings and financing products and services.
Bank Zitouna was the first Islamic bank in Tunisia. It has a good range of Shariah-compliant banking services and products and has recently increased its mobile banking applications. Assets are around 1.7 billion dinars (about $566 million).
Türkiye Finans Katilim Bankasi
Majority controlled by Saudi National Bank, Türkiye Finans Katilim Bankasi is one of the largest “participation” (Islamic) banks in Turkey. The bank held $8.5 billion in assets while its net profits rose to $107 million in 2021.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Dubai Islamic Bank
DIB is the largest Islamic financial institution in the UAE and the oldest commercial Islamic bank in the world, and it continues to be innovative with respect to new Islamic financial products and services. It is at the forefront of adopting emerging technologies—such as fintech, blockchain and artificial intelligence—into its Islamic banking operations. DIB has strong market positions in retail, commercial and corporate banking and in sukuk. DIB’s net profit rose 40% in 2021 to $1.2 billion.