Finance & Banking

MORAL CHALLENGES OF BUSSINESS TODAY

Morality is one of the principles governing human
lives. It is the compass that points us to our north,
to the truth of life. Morality means doing something
that benefits others, without losing regard for one’s
self and expecting anything in return.

In the late 1970s, businesses started realising
that they could benefit from lower costs of labour
and environmental standards by shifting their
operations to developing countries. The moral
and social decay that resulted from the relentless
pursuit of wealth brought the ethical conundrum
to broad daylight, as they exploited the weak
infrastructure and plentiful human resources. This
lack of morality led to a rise in the discipline of
business ethics. However, it was not as simple as
theoretically explained.

From an Islamic perspective, ethics should form
the basis of any business activity. Islam encourages
truthfulness and condemns exploitation in any
form. Islam reinforces the idea that ethics and
morality in business dealings is the key to a
sustainable profitable growth rather than the other
way around.

We asked professionals their views on what is the
most critical moral challenge that businesses face
in this day and age.

DR. MUHAMMAD IMAN SASTRA MIHAJAT HEAD OF SHARIA – OMAN ARAB BANK

The remarkable achievement of the global Islamic
banking sector is likely to continue over the next
five years. The rapid development of Islamic Banking
Entities (IBEs) is not only getting applause from the
stakeholders but also calls for a critical evaluation of
the roles of major stakeholders in the industry. Since
there are a number of people and nations embracing
the Islamic financial system, stakeholders need to
collectively address the ethical and moral issues to
safeguard the integrity and viability of IBEs.

The challenges faced by IBEs globally, in the next
few years, lie in the area of lack of awareness about
Islamic banking transactions and activities among
the stakeholders, limited supply of qualified human
capital, insufficient liquidity instruments in Islamic
money market as well as ethical and moral challenges.

These challenges need to be addressed collectively
by the stakeholders of Islamic banking in order to
achieve sustainable growth of the industry. Especially
in the area of Shari’a major players in the IBEs need to
incorporate Shari’a governance in their good corporate
governance framework. All the products and services
of IBEs are Shari’a-compliant as per the guidance and
Fatwa of High Sharia Supervisory Authority (at the
Central Bank level) and Sharia Supervisory Board (at
the Bank level).

Since majority of the contracts in Islamic banking and
finance is trusteeship contract, such as Mudharabah,
Musharakah, and Wakalah, therefore, the most critical moral and ethical challenge for businesses in our time
is the untrustworthiness of the business partner. This
issue has been elaborated by the Quran thousands
of years ago and is still relevant today. Allah said in
Surah Saad 24: “Many partners wrong one another,
except those who believe and do righteous deeds—
but these are few.” Therefore, in many cases when
financee gets financing from the financier, they have
an obligation to be transparent in business dealings
including in financial statements, and protect their
client’s data.

Another challenge is that, the management and
employees in Islamic banking and finance need
to ensure minimum professional standards in the
industry so that the objective of Shari’a can be
realised. For the Shari’a governance tools such
as the High Sharia Supervisory Authority, the
Shariah Supervisory Board, and the Internal Shariah
Management should have a minimum Shari’a
professional degree from a reputable university
as well as Shari’a (fiqh-muamalat) Certification
from reputable institutions. Other elements such
as CEO, Head of Islamic Banking, and element of
Islamic Banking Entities should also be required to
have minimum professional requirements such as
Certificate of Islamic Banking Professional. As part
of the IBEs economic responsibility, IBEs should
provide provisions of their goods and services in
order to earn profit, and distribute 2.5% from their
net profit to charitable institutions.

FOZIA AMANULLAH CHIEF BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT OFFICER – ALLIANCE BANK BERHAD

I think the lack of morality is prevalent in our everyday
lives. In fact, there is plenty of it, and these practices
affect the way we run our businesses.

From the perspective of Islamic banking, the moral
challenge we encounter today is probably the biggest
stumbling block to the industry growth. Islamic
banking should be about promoting the greater good
(as per Maqasid al-Shari’a), which includes the manner
in which we service our customers and recommend
products that are in their best interest. It should not
be fixated on making profit as it would inevitably
results in the promotion of unethical trends in product
development. As long as the bank measures success
based on the year-on-year financial improvement
achieved, there will constantly be conflicts within.

Today however, there has been a shift in the way
banks think about profitability and sustainability.
Customer satisfaction seems to be the key in
achieving loyalty and customer retention. Herein lays
the biggest opportunity for Islamic banks to live up to
its promise of adopting the Islamic moral framework.
Banks should develop products that meet the needs
of the customers, encourage the creation of job
opportunities and eradicate poverty. These products
can be part of the Sustainable Development Goals
promoted by many institutions globally. Moving
forward in this manner will allow us to catch up with
the world on addressing sustainability and social
problems.

ESSAM AL-KHASHNAM CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER – ITS

We are living in a data-first digitally interconnected
world, so it is not surprising that Digital Ethics
and Privacy is one of the top business trends for 2019.Customer expectations of an ever faster,
personalised and seamless consumer experience
have businesses fighting to achieve competitive
advantage through gaining customer insights to
create innovative products and services.

However, businesses must be guided by an ethical
and moral compass when it comes to data and
customer privacy. Data ethics must be translated into
sound business practices and sustainable data ethics
codes into enforceable rules. Privacy by Design
(PbD) or embedding privacy into the design of the
product and not just as an ‘add on’ is also important.
With the advent of revolutionary technologies
such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning
models, and connected Internet of Things (IoT), it
is more important than ever to know where your
information is and how it is being used in today’s
digital generational shift.

MAUREEN BADJOERI CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER – TRUSTBANK AMANAH

Morals and values are the guiding principles to
organise and motivate group attitudes and actions
in all areas of human lives, including businesses.
Respecting morality and ethics in business could
ensure sustainable economic growth in the medium
and long term. We think that equitable distribution of
wealth, real economy financing and the respect of the
environment are the most critical moral challenges of
our times. These are also fundamental ethical rules of
Islamic finance.

Trustbank Amanah as the first full-fledged primary
Islamic bank in Suriname, the Caribbean and Latin
America, focuses on sustainable financial growth
through ethical banking. In Suriname, the business
environment involves different cultures, where
Muslims are only approximately 10% of the total
population This requires a creative approach to
vehicle a new way of banking. Aside from being an
ethical bank, our strategy is to be universal and target
the whole market with competitive and innovative
products and services.

Islamic banking is facing important challenges in
applying moral and ethical rules enunciated in the
Islamic law. For example, Islamic banking principles
based on the profit sharing models are generally
replaced by fixed return and capital guaranteed modes
of financing due to some regulatory and profitability
constraints.

We think that research, innovation and courageous
decisions, combined with dedicated regulatory
framework, are required in order to guarantee more
efficient implementation of the ethical principles in
businesses.

MOHAMMED IBRAHEEM KHAN CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER – ONEGRAM

I have been intrigued by the question posed in this
piece and it has required self-reflection in order to
truly be fair to the statement that follows.

Moral conscience in business is something I believe
is the hardest challenge that can face a startup all
the way up to a global conglomerate. The challenge
is to make profit, achieve growth and at the same
time remain sustainable whilst being morally right,
as deemed by the consumers.

My personal interpretation of business morality is
the ability to deliver on the promises and pledges
that define our business existence. Whatever the
business sector maybe delivering on, the product
and services to be of the highest standard is perhaps
the biggest test of our time. We live in an instant
digital world that is transforming at a pace that
puts all businesses at edge and with this digital
transformation arise the challenges of delivery,
cost and time. These factors can catch unprepared
businesses off guard, which would then result in
the moral dilemma of how do we compete, remain
competitive, and keep pace? These questions usually
result in either a cost-cutting lack-luster performance
or investment in transformation.

I believe evolution is the key for all businesses and
evolving in a timely manner can eliminate the need
for panic transformations, which can result in loss in
business or credibility.

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