Tag Archives: Barclays

Awaiting the alternative energy sukuk: Innovation vs conservatism

MANAMA, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Dubai’s debt fiasco and real estate bubble bust pushes investors to look out for alternative assets underlying Islamic finance products – could renewable energy provide a way-out?

Predominantly, Islamic finance and investment products have been backed by infrastructure or commodities assets. But executives at the 2010 Reuters Islamic Banking and Finance Summit said product diversification was needed to cut the over-reliance on real estate in the Gulf.

“Sharia scholars are eager to support the renewable energy initiative, but the Islamic banking industry (in the Gulf) does not seem to be overly interested in this area although I am aware of a couple of deals involving acquisitions of clean tech companies in the U.S. and wind farms in the UK," said Ayman Khaleq, partner at the Vinson & Elkins law firm in Dubai.

“The big banks have teams that focus on renewable energy as an asset class. However, the problem is that Islamic banks are not big enough to be able to cover specific sectors such as alternative energy,” he added.

In order to launch an alternative energy sukuk, the Gulf's small local banks would need to team up with bigger international players such as Deutsche Bank, Barclays, or BNP Paribas, which have been active on the renewable horizon.

But some experts have warned more originality in the Islamic finance industry could alienate investors, who are reluctant to take on fresh risk in the wake of Dubai’s debt crisis and recent sukuk defaults in the region.


Despite favourable environmental conditions in the Gulf offering fertile ground for green technologies, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar initiative is so far the region’s only flagship initiative. www.masdar.ae

“Although in the Gulf, with the sun and desert, you would think that solar energy would be worth harnessing Islamically or otherwise," Khaleq said.

Gulf states are in need of economic diversification as the oil bonanza is slowly drying out, and are urged to develop alternative energy sources.

An industry source said sovereign wealth funds from Bahrain or Malaysia, and family offices in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait, could nevertheless become potential investors.

“There might be venture capital type of funds that could look at these new technologies in the Gulf," the source added.

Khaleq is optimistic an alternative energy sukuk could see daylight soon: "I'm hoping in 2010, but Islamic investor, and generally regional investors, are being more conservative and so are the scholars,” he said.

“However, the ingredients are there: structures, acceptability of asset class, interest and technology. But it is a question of who will be the pioneer in making it all happen."

Writing by Martina Fuchs

Time private bankers got professional

It's hard to imagine that a banker who represents multimillionaires would be anything but professional - but a top executive at a leading global bank thinks that's precisely the wealth management industry's problem.

"There is so much mediocrity in the industry we have to raise the bar here," said Gerard Aquilina, vice chairman of Barclays Wealth, at the Reuters Global Wealth Management Summit in Geneva.

    To Aquilina's way of thinking, private bankers need the same "institutional rigor" as investment bankers in the way they operate. To this end the bank is looking to pursue only top-quality hires.

"Our strategy is not to be the hoover that comes and hires willy-nilly, we want to be much more selective," said Aquilina -- perhaps an ironic view given Barclays acquired thousands of investment bankers from the ashes of the fallen Lehman Brothers last year.

    But he and his colleagues are so sure of their position that he said they are working on developing MBA-level courses with some unnamed top universities on private banking, especially as they see fewer and fewer interns turning up their noses at the prospect of a three-month rotation in the private banking shop.

    They're not alone, either. Alexander Classen, head of EMEA wealth management for Morgan Stanley, said his firm too was seeing more and more people turn up to recruiting presentations on college campuses, whereas at one time they would have summarily shunned the private bankers for the investment banking sessions.

Things may have changed since then, but private banks may still have their work cut out if they want to attract talent early. After all, as Aquilina himself admitted, "There are not many people at eighteen who say, 'Hey Dad, I want to be a private banker'. Most people just fall into it."