At a time when global financial markets have begun to look perilously like those encountered in 2008, interest in Islamic finance investment has continued to grow. Affluent investors in both Islamic and western countries are looking to Islamic investments as they attempt to gain exposure to the fast-growing economies in the Gulf and Southeast Asia. Demand is also being driven by pressure on sovereign wealth funds and government pension funds in the GCC and Southeast Asian regions to include a Shariah compliant mix within their portfolio allocations.
Furthermore, as the industry grows there is also an emerging shift in investor preference away from traditional Islamic asset classes like equities and real estate in favour of alternatives such as ETFs and hedge funds, which entail more complicated regulation.
The strong growth in the industry offers a number of opportunities for investors and many jurisdictions are promoting their intent to welcome Islamic investment schemes to register on their shores. But for any investor, choosing a jurisdiction can be a complex and difficult decision.
And although the growth in the Islamic finance industry has led to improvements, there are still many jurisdictions where the existing regulations and tax laws are ill-adapted to Islamic finance. Warm words of welcome may not always translate into accommodating policies.