Finance & Banking


Islamic retail banking is undergoing an evolution and is at
an inflexion point. The pace of change is only expected to
accelerate significantly over the next three to five years,
despite the socio-economic challenges and regulatory risks.
Success will require clarity in direction, and speed and agility
in execution.

The Islamic retail banking sector has seen significant
regulatory and technological change alongside shifts in
consumer behaviour in recent years. These changes have
already had significant implications for the way Islamic retail
banks operate. Further changes are likely to follow suit, with
the potential for a more fundamental transformation of
the sector in the longer term. But the key to progression is
introducing innovative products and services, leveraging on
digital revolutions such as Fintech and Artificial Intelligence
(AI) all the while being Shari’a-compliant.

In a challenging market, some have been nimble in
transforming themselves into winners, often through
transforming and strengthening their retail banking business
with the use of technology and a management upgrade. As
digital transactions continue to outstrip branch transactions,
Islamic retail banks have been trying to strike the perfect
balance between physical and digital to create the branch
for the future. All these they aim to achieve while competing
against agile Fintech companies that try to unbundle their
core offerings and erode their revenues.

As part of its advocacy programme in promoting best practices
and innovation in Islamic finance, Cambridge IFA (a financial
intelligence house based in the UK) has been organising
the Islamic Retail Banking Awards or IRBA for short on an
annual basis. IRBA honours and celebrates the achievements
and success of Islamic retail banks and individuals in islamic
retail banking globally since 2015. This awards programme
is now regarded as the leading Islamic retail banking awards
programme in the world. Winners of IRBA exemplify how
Islamic retail banks have successfully embraced digital
innovation, enhanced their operational efficiency and
delivered new, improved services for customers.

The well-attended 5th edition of IRBA was held on November
4, 2019, with much exuberance in the historic port city of
Oman, Muscat. More than 50 awards were presented to
institutions and individuals. The event drew more than 200
delegates, participants and guests.

Commenting on the programme, Chairman of the Awards
Committee Dr. Sofiza Azmi said, “Those Islamic banks that
have been nimble and adapted to client’s needs have come
out on top on this year’s IRBA. The winning banks have
presented a viable model of Islamic banking to the world.”

Though numerous organisations are conferring awards in the
Islamic banking sector, the Cambridge IFA-led IRBA awards
measure the performance against a more holistic criterion
including non-commercial factors. The winners are chosen
through an academically rigorous bank efficiency analysis
undertaken by Cambridge IFA. The intricate analysis carried
out by the research team, reveals winners on regional,
national, and international levels.

IRBA celebrates excellence and achievements in two broad categories:

• Strongest Islamic Retail Banking – Cambridge IFA
conducts a study on Islamic banking efficiency of over
130 Islamic retail banks. Winners are selected based on
this rigorous study.
• Critics’ Choice Awards – Award winners in this
category are selected by the Critic’s Choice Committee
comprising of leading Islamic banking experts.

The Critics’ Choice Awards aim at including those institutions
and individuals that cannot be captured by efficiency analysis.
This award category is wider in scope as they are based on
a wider set of variables beyond efficiency. The factors that
influence Critics’ Choice Awards are:

  1. Financial performance
  2. Commitment to Islamic banking and
  3. Adherence to Shari’a assurance

With each passing year, the awards are increasing in scope
and new categories are being added. Prof. Dr. Humayon
Dar, the founder of IRBA singled out this fact, “With the 5th
edition of IRBA this year, we feel humbled by the fact that
IRBA has been increasing in grandeur and scope every year.”
He added that IRBA has been tracking and rewarding the
success stories in the Islamic retail banking sector; including
both the professionals and institutions. “These are the
stalwarts of IBF,” he commented.

Dr. Sofiza Azmi, in her welcoming remarks, said: “Islamic
banks are continuously coping with competitive pressures
from many quarters, in particular, changes in consumer
banking preferences. As customer demand gears towards
highly personalised services, anytime-anywhere banking and
digital banking, new disruptive technology such as Artificial
Intelligence, cognitive robotics, and blockchain are enabling
historically unattainable services.”

The highlight of the awards programme, the topmost
award ‘Islamic Retail Banking Leadership Award 2019’ was
presented to Md. Mahbub ul Alam, the Managing Director
and CEO of Islami Bank Bangladesh, in recognition of
his remarkable performance in Islamic retail banking and
introducing specialised banking products in Bangladesh.

As an expert in banking, he is actively associated with different
professional bodies including Bangladesh Foreign Exchange
Dealers Association’s (BAFEDA) Executive Committee as
well as Arbitration Committee and ICC Standing Committee
for Banking Technique & Practice.

Bangladesh is a huge market for Islamic banking and has
massive potential for growth. Although it still needs more
exposure in the global Islamic financial services industry for
the wider world to appreciate the great work being done
in the country. According to the Islamic Finance Country
index (IFCI) of the Global Islamic Finance Report (GIFR)
2019, Bangladesh has experienced phenomenal growth in
the Islamic banking and finance (IBF) following strong public
demand. The country moved up two positions to become the
8th most important market for Islamic banking and finance in
the world. Islamic banking now accounts for more than 20%
market share of the entire banking industry.

‘IRBA Personality of the Year 2019 Award’ was conferred to
Mr. Junaid Ahmed, President and Chief Executive Officer
of Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan Limited. He commented,
“I would like to thank Cambridge IFA for bestowing me
with ‘Personality of the Year’ Award. As an Islamic finance
professional, I am putting my share of expertise in the
growth of the Islamic banking industry in Pakistan, which
has now become 15% of the total pie. I wish all the best to
Cambridge IFA for their future events.”

This year Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) top the honours after
being named the ‘Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in the World
2019′ for the second time in a row. The bank also took home
the title of ‘Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in the UAE 2019’
for the fifth consecutive year along with the ‘IRBA Excellence
in Customer Experience Award 2019’. The awards recognise
the dominance of DIB in the Islamic retail banking space as
the largest Islamic bank in the UAE.

Mr. Nasser Al Awadhi, Chief of Consumer Banking of
Dubai Islamic Bank remarked, “We are grateful that our
efforts to support the growth of Islamic finance have been
acknowledged through these awards. Over the last few
years, the bank has enjoyed unparalleled success. We will
continue to reshape the banking landscape by investing in
innovation that further enhances the client experience and
by embracing smart technology that brings simpler, faster
and more transparent banking.”

The bank is also rapidly growing its footprint beyond the
traditional borders and has established a strong presence in
Indonesia, Pakistan, and East Africa. It is the largest Islamic
bank in the UAE in terms of assets and second largest Islamic
bank in the world.

Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan Limited (DIBPL), a whollyowned subsidiary of DIB, UAE; also emerged as a big winner
at IRBA 2019. DIBPL won the ‘IRBA Best Islamic Retail
Banking Brand in Pakistan’ and ‘Strongest Islamic Retail Bank
in Pakistan’.

“Dubai Islamic Bank would like to congratulate Cambridge
IFA on successfully hosting Islamic Retail Banking Awards 2019.

We at Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan feel privileged
to be adjudged Strongest Islamic Retail Bank Pakistan &
Best Islamic Retail Banking Brand in Pakistan. We owe our
success to the strategic vision given by DIB Group & our
hardworking staff. We remain steadfast to make in-roads
in the Retail Banking industry of Pakistan in supporting the
economic growth of the country.”

‘The Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Asia 2019’ award was
presented to Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL). “In the
journey of 36 years, IBBL has materialise its commitment to
all stakeholders by being highly professional and emerging
as the strongest bank in Bangladesh. IBBL is now serving 14
million clients through its 348 branches, 700 Agent Banking
Outlets and banking booths with a deposit portfolio of USD
10.72 billion and an investment (Credit) portfolio of USD
10.09 billion”, as mentioned in the welcome statement from
the bank.

As the leadership role in IBF is shifting towards Indonesia,
the effects could be seen in the winners list. In the strongest
banks in the countries’ category, PT Bank Syariah Mandiri
claimed the ‘Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Indonesia 2019’
award. It also won two other awards at IRBA 2019; ‘IRBA
Most Innovative Islamic Retail Bank in Indonesia’ and ‘IRBA
Best Sustainable Finance Strategy’.

Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Indonesia 2019 (PT Bank Syariah Mandiri)

Delineating the Shari’a-first strategy, a note from the
bank stated, “as a Shari’a bank that runs its operations on
Maqasid-al-Shari’a principles, i.e., aiming for the welfare of
the people and the environment, Bank Syariah Mandiri has
committed to implement the sustainability principle in its
regulation and operations. Thus, in running the business, Bank Syariah Mandiri does not only aim to find profits, but
our presence must contribute to the people (Ummah) and
the environment (world).”

Bank Nizwa, Oman’s leading Islamic bank, was named the
‘Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in the Sultanate of Oman’
for the fifth consecutive year, as well as ‘IRBA Best Branch
Experience 2019.’ The award recognised the bank’s efficiency
in terms of operations and management of its retail banking
services. In line with its strategy to empower communities
with the benefits of Islamic finance, Bank Nizwa has been
at the forefront of introducing progressive products and

Mr. Khalid Al Kayed, CEO of Bank Nizwa commented,
“Oman’s uniquely balanced approach to Shari’a-compliant
banking is enabling the industry to thrive. At Bank Nizwa,
we pride ourselves for driving the growth of the industry
and raising awareness about its benefits to be reaped by
society and the economy. Being recognised for the fifth year
in a row by the Islamic Retail Banking Awards is a testament
that our strategy is paying dividends not only for us as an
organisation, but most importantly to our customers and

‘Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Qatar 2019’ was awarded to
Qatar International Islamic Bank (QIIB) for the second time in
a row. QIIB also won the IRBA Most Innovative Islamic Retail
Bank in Qatar 2019. Dr. Abdulbasit Ahmad Al-Shaibe, CEO
of QIIB said, “We consider these awards as recognition of
our strong efforts towards innovating bespoke products and
developing our retail portfolio and offering the best Shari’acompliant products and services.”

He added that “QIIB’s excellence and quality of its integrated
services have resulted in its customer base growing
exponentially. To this effect, the Bank has opened many
branches and introduced alternate channels, which have
witnessed enormous development. QIIB has maintained
strong financial performance across its various budget plans.
International rating agency Fitch rated QIIB at ‘A’, while
Moody’s has given ‘A2’ with a stable outlook. Our strong
financial position is primarily due to the fact that we are
an integral part of the Qatari banking sector as we derive
our strength from the Qatari economy, which is one of the
strongest in the region and the world.”

Other Islamic retail banks that were recognised as the
‘Strongest Islamic Retail Bank’ in their respective countries
were; Kuveyt Turk Participation Bank in Turkey and Jordan
Islamic Bank in Jordan.

The ‘Critics’ Choice Upcoming Personality in Islamic Retail
Banking (Product Development & Structuring) Award 2019′
was awarded to Mr. Asfand Zubair Malik, Head of Product
Development & Shariah Support, Askari Bank Ltd – Ikhlas
Islamic Banking.

“I am thankful to the selection committee and pleased that
Cambridge IFA organised such a splendid event to highlight,
acknowledge and honour the success stories in Islamic
Retail Banking Sector. I believe that such events will serve
as a phenomenal force in improving global Islamic finance
footprint in years to come.”

‘IRBA Best Emerging CEO in Islamic Retail Banking 2019’
was presented to Mohd Muazzam Mohamed, CEO Bank
Islam Malaysia Berhad and its parent company BIBM Holding
Berhad. He shared his success story as, “Praise to Allah for all
the blessings He has bestowed upon us in these challenging
times. Being a leader does not happen overnight. It is a
journey that is founded on relationships and developing
people in achieving dreams, plans and missions.”

“It is an honour to be recognised by the Islamic Retail Banking
Awards and to receive these two awards amidst so many
other noteworthy accomplishments made by institutions
within the Islamic finance industry over the past year. Our
collective commitment to the idea of Islamic finance drives
us to do better and to be better in service of this cause,
and I remain optimistic for the future of the industry,” he

‘IRBA Most Innovative Islamic Retail Bank’ awards were bestowed on different banks for their services in their respective countries:

• IRBA Most Innovative Islamic Retail Bank in the UAE 2019: Emirates Islamic, part of Emirates NBD Group
• IRBA Most Innovative Islamic Retail Bank in Turkey 2019: Kuveyt Türk Participation Bank
• IRBA Most Innovative Islamic Retail Bank in Indonesia 2019: PT Bank Syariah Mandiri

• IRBA Most Innovative Islamic Retail Bank in Bangladesh 2019: Islamic Bank Bangladesh Limited (IBBL)
• IRBA Most Innovative Islamic Retail Bank in Jordan 2019: Jordan Islamic Bank

‘Most Innovative Islamic Retail Bank in Europe 2019’ award
was rightly won by KT Bank AG. A spin-off of the leading
participation bank in Turkey, Kuveyt Türk Participation Bank,
KT Bank AG is the pioneer that introduced Islamic banking in
Germany and the Eurozone. KT Bank AG was also the proud
recipient of IRBA Excellence Award 2019 and Best Emerging
Islamic Retail Bank in Europe 2019.

Mr. Ahmet Kudsi Arslan, CEO of KT Bank AG said in the
congratulatory note, “We are enthusiastic to receive our first
IRBA this year–and three awards at once! This shows that
our pioneering work in Germany and the Eurozone does not
go unnoticed. With IRBA acknowledging our efforts, we
follow the successful path of our mother company Kuveyt
Türk Participation Bank.”

As banks are embracing technology in the conventional
sector in general and Islamic banks specifically, IRBA
recognised the achievements of banks in the digital and
fintech sector. ‘IRBA Best Digital Branch of the Year 2019’
award was bestowed on Alinma Bank, Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Abdulmohsen Al-Fares, CEO of Alinma Bank said, “We are
grateful to have our efforts towards innovation recognised and to likewise have a spotlight shone on our digital branch
initiative. We fully embrace a forward-thinking approach
that works to solidify the relevance of Islamic banking in the
21st century. To this end, Alinma has invested in maintaining
a technological edge; and as new technologies emerge and
mature, we will seek to appropriately leverage them on
behalf of Alinma’s customers and the market at-large.”

Emirate Islamic Bank, UAE won the ‘IRBA Excellence in Digital
Banking Award 2019′ for its efforts to digital transformation
and achieving excellence in digital banking. In recent years,
Emirates Islamic also claimed the ‘Best Mobile Banking app’
award and the ‘Best Islamic Card’ for its Emirati Credit Card.
It also bagged the most improved website award previously.

Fintech is the way forward for the Islamic Banking, as
millennials are taking the driving seat. ‘IRBA Best New
Mobile Banking App 2019′ went to Warba Bank, Kuwait for
its pioneering app ‘Jam3eya’. The handy app lets the users
make settlements and timing of the payment as well deciding
when to collect Jam3eya funds with an easy, modern, and
user-friendly interface.

This year also the Critics’ Choice ‘IRBA Best Non-Bank
Islamic Retail Finance Institution 2019′ was bagged by Siraj
Finance, for its commitment and significant contribution to
the development, growth and success of the Islamic retail
non-banking arena

“On behalf of our entire Siraj Finance PJSC Team, I would
like to thank the Islamic Retail Banking Awards (IRBA) for
this esteemed honour. Special gratitude to our esteemed
UAE leadership and IRBA for this prestigious award and
honour in the midst of a diversified economic wish-list that
sets precedence to a successful and prosperous future in the
times ahead.” Mr. Muhammad Rusan Fyroze, CEO of Siraj
Finance PJSC commented on receiving the award.

Other outstanding awardees included:

• Trustbank Amanah for IRBA EXCELLENCE AWARD 2019
• Tawafuq Consultancy for IRBA BEST TRAINING PROVIDER 2019
• Noor Bank for IRBA REMITTANCE PRODUCT OF THE YEAR 2019 and IRBA Best Islamic Retail Banking Product (Liabilities Side) 2019

• National Bonds Corporation for IRBA MOST INNOVATIVE SAVINGS PROGRAMME 2019
• Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) for IRBA BEST SERVICE PROVIDERS AWARD (TRAINING
• Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad for IRBA BEST SOCIAL
• Bank Muamalat Malaysia for IRBA INNOVATIVE
• Islamic International Arab Bank for IRBA BEST ISLAMIC
• Alliance Islamic Bank for IRBA CHAMPION IN SOCIAL
• Azaadi App by OneGram for IRBA BEST SERVICE

n the Critic’s Choice Award Categories, ‘IRBA Excellence
Awards’ were presented to three outstanding professionals.
Dr. Amjad Bangash, Head of Shariah Department & Secretary
Shariah Board, Muzn Islamic Banking, Oman; Ashraf Hameed,
Lead – Business Support, ADCB Islamic Banking; and Mohsin
Aikal, Head of Liabilities, Payments and Bancassurance, for
their remarkable contribution in the ambit of Islamic banking
and finance particularly in Retail Banking.

“Some of these leading personalities are selected by the
IRBA Critics’ Choice Committee to celebrate their leadership
roles. The global Islamic financial services industry will
remain indebted to them for their untiring efforts to promote
Islamic retail banking,” Dr. Sofiza Azmi commenting on the
2019 winners.

Dr. Sofiza Azmi added that the strongest retail banks
should be the safest banks to do business with both by
the customers and peer institutions. The operation and
management are significant factors indicating the safety
level of banks than the size of the banks. She congratulated
all award winners and thanked all stakeholders whom made
the awards ceremony a success.

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