As the world slowly returns to normal and gatherings are acceptable, Cambridge IFA, a UK-based financial intelligence house, held the 7th Islamic Retail Banking Awards (IRBA) 2021 and its 3rd WOMANi Awards ceremony in a glamorous evening in the vibrant city of Dubai, UAE.

IRBA, in its 7th year, has been at the forefront of Islamic retail finance, acknowledging the outstanding contributions of leading market players in the industry. IRBA ceremonies have, over the last six years, mostly taken place in Dubai. A large number of professionals, individuals and VIPs from the corporate, business and government sectors have graced these ceremonies. The 7th edition of this prestigious awards ceremony was no different. We had VIPs including HE Husin Bagis, Ambassador of Indonesia; HE Khalild Al Yahmadi (Chairman of Amjaad Group); HE Shahid Malik (former British Minister for International Development), and other influential market leaders, CEOs and higher management of Islamic retail banks from all around the world.

Professor Humayon Dar, Founder of the Islamic Retail Banking Awards and Director General of Cambridge Institute of Islamic Finance in his welcome address showed optimism and suggested that as we are moving forward, we should be devising carefully thought strategies to develop a system that efficiently absorbs any external shocks, realigning with the global socio-economic agenda, and adopting cutting-edge technology for effective outreach. He stressed on the need for a post-COVID sukuk issuance programme to finance recovery endeavours in the OIC countries. There should be a global focus on the reorientation of the industry away from traditional banking and more towards an inclusive model of finance.

Retail banking is the face of Islamic banking and finance, contributing to nearly two-third of Islamic financial assets world-wide. Islamic retail banking is undergoing an evolution and is at an inflection point. The pace of change is only expected to accelerate significantly over the next three to five years. 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.

Since 2015, IRBA has been recognising the contributions and successes of Islamic retail banks, individuals and other market players, globally and in their respective national markets. They are the industry game-changers. Winners of IRBA exemplify how Islamic retail banks have successfully embraced digital innovation, enhanced their operational efficiency and delivered new, improved services for customers.

In a rigorous Islamic banking efficiency analysis conducted by Cambridge IFA, more than 130 Islamic retail banks worldwide were ranked and the strongest Islamic retail banks were identified.

IRBA celebrates excellence and best practices in Islamic retail banking in two broad categories:

  • Strongest Islamic Retail Bank Awards – award winners are selected based on a path-breaking Islamic banking efficiency study conducted by Cambridge IFA, which ranks over 130 Islamic retail banks.
  • IRBA Critics’ Choice Awards – award winners are carefully selected by the Critics’ Choice Committee, which comprises leading Islamic banking experts from around the world.

Strongest Islamic retail banks should be considered the safest Islamic banks in terms of doing business with, both by customers on the liabilities side and those seeking financing or doing business with these banks on the assets side. The IRBA Critics’ Choice Awards aim at including those institutions and individuals that cannot be captured by efficiency analysis. These awards are determined by Critics’ Choice Committee. This award category is wider in scope as they are based on a wider set of variables beyond efficiency.

Our top award – IRBA Islamic Retail Banking Leadership Award – has for the last six years recognised and celebrated contributions of some of the exceptionally talented Islamic bankers. The inaugural IRBA Islamic Retail Banking Leadership Award 2015 was presented to Hussain Al Qemzi, then Group CEO of Noor Bank. This was followed by recognition of the services of Musa Shihadeh (then General Manager and CEO of Jordan Islamic Bank) to the development of Islamic retail banking in Jordan. Next year in 2017, Dato’ Wan Fadzmi Othman (then CEO of Agrobank Malaysia) was the proud winner of this coveted award. Abdulmohsin Abdulaziz Al-Faris (Founding CEO of Bank Al-Inma) was presented with the IRBA Islamic Retail Banking Leadership Award 2018. Md. Mahbub ul Alam (CEO of Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited) and Adnan Yousif (then Group CEO of Al Baraka Banking Group) were the next two winners.

This year, the most exclusive award, the IRBA Islamic Retail Banking Leadership Award 2021 is conferred upon Junaid Ahmed, CEO of Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan. Junaid Ahmed has over thirty-five years’ experience in the diversified areas of General Banking, and it is under his management that DIB Pakistan Limited has transformed into a profitable institution.

The title for the Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Asia this year was won by Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited. IBBL was also the proud winner of the Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Bangladesh. PT Bank Syariah Indonesia Tbk (BSI), the largest Shari’a bank in Indonesia was named as the Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Asia-Pacific 2021 as well as the Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Indonesia 2021.

Other Islamic retail banks that were recognised as the strongest Islamic retail banks in their respective countries were:

  • Saba African Bank - The Strongest Islamic Retail Banking Window in Djibouti 2021
  • Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad - The Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Malaysia 2021 for another year
  • Bank Nizwa - The Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Oman 2021 for yet another year
  • Jordan Islamic Bank - The Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Jordan 2021
  • Tadhamon Bank - The Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Yemen 2021 for a second year
  • Gulf African Bank - Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Kenya 2021
  • QIIB - Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Qatar 2021
  • Bank Nizwa - Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Oman 2021
  • Kuveyt Türk Participation Bank - Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Turkey 2021 
  • Alinma Bank - Strongest Islamic Retail Bank in Saudi Arabia 2021 

The world’s most cutting-edge Islamic retail banks are pioneering unrivalled standards and capabilities. They are banks that are transforming the industry by setting new benchmarks in service delivery, digital innovation, product development, payments, technology, customer experience and more. 

  • Best Islamic Retail Bank for Growth & Strategy 2021 was awarded to BankIslami Pakistan
  • Best Islamic Retail Finance Institution in the UAE 2021 was presented to Siraj Finance PJSC
  • Best Islamic Crowdfunding Platform in the World 2021 was won by Ethis Group
  • Best Islamic Fintech Product 2021 was won by Insha Ventures Alneo
  • Best Islamic Retail Banking Campaign 2021 was presented to MBSB Bank Berhad’s CASA-i Campaign.
  • Best Islamic Retail Bank in Pakistan 2021 was awarded to Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan
  • Best Islamic Retail Banking Window in the UAE 2021 was presented to ADCB Islamic Banking
  • Best Emerging Islamic Retail Investment Platform in Bahrain 2021 was won by COCOA Asset Management W.L.L

Innovation is at the heart of any institutions and industries, more so in retail banking. 

  • Critics’ Choice Most Innovative Islamic Digital Banking Award 2021 was won by bank BJB Syariah.
  • Most Innovative Islamic Current Account in the UK 2021 was presented to Bank of London and the Middle East
  • Most Innovative Islamic Retail Bank in Saudi Arabia 2021 was awarded to Bank Aljazira

The IRBA excellence awards, this year, were presented to;

  • Bank Aljazira for IRBA Excellence Award (Islamic Digital Banking) 2021
  • KT Bank AG for IRBA Excellence Award in Islamic Retail Banking in Germany 2021
  • UOB Malaysia Islamic Banking for IRBA Excellence Award for Premier Islamic Banking Services 2021
  • Farmer`s Commercial Bank for IRBA Excellence Award for Social Responsibility 2021
  • Bank Islam Malaysia Berhad for Excellence Award for Islamic Social Finance 2021
  • Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan for IRBA Excellence Award for Auto Finance 2021

The IRBA personal awards were presented to: Hamad Abdulla Al-Oqab (IRBA CEO of the Year 2021), Indra Falatehan (Most Outstanding Personality in Islamic Retail Banking 2021), Norfadelizan Abdul Rahman (IRBA Excellence Award for Management & Leadership 2021), Syed Amir Ali (IRBA Personality of the Year 2021), Kamran Khalid Sherwani (IRBA Upcoming Shari’a Scholar 2021), Abdulrakeb Farea Ali Salim (Islamic Retail Banker of Year 2021), Dr Saad Bakkali (Most Upcoming Personality in Shari’a Governance 2021).

MBSB Bank Berhad won the Upcoming Best Islamic Retail Bank in Malaysia 2021; ADCB’s CIBE (Certified Islamic Banking Executive). ADCB Islamic Banking won the IRBA Investors in People Award 2021, Waiiz Consulting won the IRBA Best Emerging Consultancy Firm for Islamic Retail Banking 2021 and Al Baraka Islamic Bank was named as IRBA Most Outstanding Islamic Retail Bank in Bahrain 2021.

The 7th Islamic Retail Banking Awards were a well-attended event and one that brought back hope to a world struck with restrictions and lockdowns. We hope that by the next edition of IRBA we have more ease of travel and greater participation from around the world.

About Cambridge IFA:
Cambridge IFA is a financial services intelligence house that specialises in developing and utilising powerful cutting-edge analytical tools to evaluate business data, assess macroeconomic indicators and understand market trends, leadership positioning and brand development relevant to the development of the financial services industry globally. The principal activity of Cambridge IFA is developing performance indicators specific to alternative practices of banking and finance. 

It also aims to provide strategic advice to governments, financial institutions and multilateral organisations in the development of financial markets including alternative banking and finance products, procedures, practices and policies. Through our strong and invaluable relations with policy makers and private sector industries, we have insights into market and business trends as well as policy changes. This allows us to identify and prioritise common issues and provide perspectives and solutions that are practical, focused and effective; which will increase the competitive advantage of our clients. 

Cambridge IFA is a member of HD-Edbiz Group of Companies with offices in London, Gibraltar and Islamabad. 

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