Like a river changing its course, the banking industry seems to be in for a paradigm shift. Islamic financial instruments are gaining popularity as an alternate and more empathetic system. Islamic banking has been flourishing in Pakistan at an impressive level during the past two decades.
The beginning of the 21st century saw Islamic Banking gaining its foothold. Since then, it has been flourishing in Pakistan at a remarkable level. It strengthened its growth in profitability, penetration, deposits, assets, financing customers and products over the period but it made an interesting history of its own as well, which is full of numerous acquisitions of conventional banks, and one prominent and proper conversion of the conventional bank into a full-fledged Islamic bank.
The acquisition of conventional banks by Islamic banks is a challenging task in terms of operation and perception in Pakistan, no doubt. Surprisingly, the phenomenon is overwhelmingly well-received paving the way toward the growth of the Islamic banking industry in a multidirectional manner whether it is penetration or size.
The expansion of Islamic banking in Pakistan is also contributing to the enhanced banked population of the country presently, which had made very slow progress earlier due to the dominance of the interest-based banking system.
Islamic banks have acquired and converted operations of more foreign banks than local banks
Interestingly, Islamic banks acquired and converted operations of more foreign banks than local banks into Sharia compliance. The consistent trend of acquisition of conventional banks by different Islamic banks has been a unique trend in Pakistan which can be seen rarely in any other part of the world, perhaps.
In Pakistan, Al-Meezan Investment Bank, an investment bank with a limited scope of Sharia-compliant financial services was initially converted to a full-fledged scheduled Islamic commercial bank in 2002 with the name of Meezan Bank. In the same year, the bank made its first acquisition of a French multinational investment bank and financial services company, Société Générale S.A.
During the period 2002 to 2006, major conventional banks in Arab countries made their transformation from interest-based banking to a Sharia-based system which included Sharja Islamic Bank (formerly National Bank of Sharjah), Emirates Islamic Bank (formerly Middle East Bank), Bank Aljazira, Kuwait International Bank, etc. Later in 2014 and 2015, Meezan Bank found opportunities for the acquisition of two foreign banks one after another. The bank acquired operations of HSBC Pakistan and HSBC Oman.
BankIslami, another full-fledged bank expanded its operation through the acquisition of different banks. In 2010, BankIslami acquired Citibank Pakistan’s house financing portfolio. It was a unique deal of an Islamic bank that acquired mortgage assets of a conventional bank. In 2015, BankIslami succeeded in the acquisition of KASB Bank. In the same year, MCB Bank demerged its division of Islamic banking to establish a wholly-owned subsidiary called MCB Islamic Bank.
The Islamic banking industry also experienced the merger of two full-fledged Islamic banks in the past. Burj Bank, the sixth full-fledged bank merged its operation with Bank Albaraka, another Islamic bank in 2016.
The history of Faysal Bank is interesting and unique alike. Established in 1987, Faysal Bank entered the Pakistani market as a branch setup of Faysal Islamic Bank of Bahrain. The bank was a subsidiary of Ithmaar Bank, based in Bahrain and Kuwait.
Faysal Bank had become a public listed company in 1994 expanding its branch network to a few more cities in both Islamic and conventional banking. Due to challenges of the local market which was not ready for supporting Islamic banking at a macro level, Faysal Bank obtained a conventional banking license from the State Bank of Pakistan. In 2009, Faysal Bank rebranded and relaunched its Islamic banking as Barkat Islamic banking, to re-energise the work of the Islamic banking division.
The board of Faysal Bank had also decided to take a more aggressive stance toward expansion. Consequently, in 2010 Faysal Bank acquired Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in Pakistan, which was exiting the country (RBS had earlier taken over the business of ABN AMRO Bank which earlier took over Prime Bank). In 2015, the parent company Ithmaar Bank decided to convert the Islamic bank into a full-fledged Islamic bank. The bank is in the process of obtaining a license for a full-fledged Islamic bank which will accomplish its conversion by the end of 2022.
Faysal Bank will be the second biggest Islamic bank in Pakistan. At present, its footprint spreads over more than 220 cities with a network of 638 branches of which 633 are Islamic banking branches. During the journey of transformation, the bank has suggested a roadmap for various conventional banks to convert their operations from conventional banking systems to Sharia-based.
“Given the industry’s growth potential and strong financial performance, we expect more banks to apply for Islamic banking licenses and for conventional banks to convert to fully Islamic banks,” said a recent report by Moody’s Investor Service referring to the conversion of Faysal Bank.
The writer is the Founder of Corporate Pakistan Group and the former Chairman Board of Investment
Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, August 22nd, 2022