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Thu 18 Nov 2010 08:34 PM

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Islamic banks can help financial stability - Mersch

But European Central Bank policymaker warns flaws in Islamic banking must be tackled

Islamic banks can help financial stability - Mersch
Lack of product standardisation is holding back Islamic finance, said Yves Mersch

Islamic finance products can enhance the financial system's stability but shortcomings in their standardisation and liquidity management must be tackled, European Central Bank policymaker Yves Mersch said on Thursday.

A lack of liquidity tools is seen as one of the key challenges to the emerging Islamic finance industry, which is worth $1 trillion, with sharia banks handicapped partly due to the limited range of products they can invest in.

Mersch said Islamic banks' lack of exposure to "opaque and complex assets" and their absence of excessive leverage should protect them from financial crises. Reliance on deposits rather than wholesale funding added another layer of stability.

"On the other hand, the asset-based and risk-sharing nature of Islamic finance can make the business model more vulnerable to second round effects of a financial crisis," added Mersch, pointing to greater exposure to downturns in the "real economy".

"Moreover, the lack of product standardisation and the missing harmonisation of Islamic standards in general pose risks to the management of liquidity," Mersch, an ECB Governing Council member, added in the text of a speech to be given at the Euro Finance Week conference in Frankfurt.

Islamic banking is overhauling rules that govern the conduct of its influential sharia advisers, with competition for investor dollars and a growing market putting pressure on the once-arcane industry to adopt clearer, more uniform guidelines.

Key to these challenges is the small number of scholars advising a growing number of banks on increasingly complex financing structures, raising issues such as transparency of rulings, independence of advisers and how to groom new scholars.

But varying sharia standards, different regulatory approaches and vast disparities in development across markets stand in the way of reforms to streamline and boost supervision, which are critical to growth.


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Dr. Usamah A. Uthman 8 years ago

The claims about "missing harmonization of Islamic standards" should have stopped long time ago. It loooks like some people are still not aware of the superb work that has been done by AAIOFI, both in terms of Sharia' and accounting practice. The issue of liquid Islamic instruments can only be resolved if central banks are welling to assimilate Islamic financial instruments into their monetary policies & regulartory frameworks.Only then the business sector will develop greater trust into them & strive to flaot them in the market.

Amir Yousef 8 years ago

There is always two sides to the argument. The lack of uniform standards and guidelines hampers the Islamic Banking growth but also, due to this, Islamic Banking experience a more organic growth which limits its exposures to excessive leveraging instruments, resulting in a more stable banking environment. Let the industry develop itself over a period of time, and I am sure that the growth is "real" and "solid" fundamental growth. The Islamic Banking industry has the real opportunity to learn from the mistakes of the conventional counterparts. If only such lessons needed to be learned, then the industry will not make the same mistakes.