Al Baraka aims to expand footprint in Asia

  • Banking
  • Wednesday, 09 Jan 2019

Companies that provide short-term consumer loans at high interest rates are on the increase in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines as many people struggle to get advances through traditional channels such as banks.

KUALA LUMPUR: Bahrain-based Al Baraka Banking Group (ABG) aims to expand its footprint in Asia with its sights set on Malaysia, China and Indonesia for its medium-term strategic plan.  

President and Chief Executive Adnan Ahmed Yousif said the banking group would make Malaysia its springboard to the Asian region as the country is an important market for Islamic banking.  

"Malaysia is a well developed country with a very good banking sector. I think that to go to Asia or the Far East, you have to be in Malaysia first," he said in a recent interview.   

Asked about the relationship between Malaysia and Bahrain, Adnan described it as "excellent in both government and the banking sector ", but could be enhanced further through institutional building.  

"We should always think that relationships should always be established personally as well as institutionally," he pointed out.    

Al Baraka currently operates in 16 countries in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, with 700 branches in the regions. Its sole presence in Asia is in Indonesia, where ABG has a representative office in the largest Muslim country.

As at Dec 31, 2017, the banking group's total assets stood at US$25.5 billion, a nine per cent increase from a year earlier, reflecting the expansion in its customer base, as well as financing and investment activities.  

ABG also aims to create 51,000 jobs in healthcare and education through responsible lending, as it intends to grow employment in both sectors.  

"We have a five-year strategy between 2016 and 2020, where the focus is on three goals, namely employment, healthcare and education. Within five years, we will spend US$190 million on education and US$54 million in healthcare with 51,000 jobs created.  

"We will create the 51,000 jobs when we provide financing to projects and ensure this happens. Otherwise, we will not provide the financing. We need to see projects that create jobs," he added.   

Adnan stressed the need for a change in mindset among Islamic finance players to embrace financial technology (fintech).   

"Islamic banks have to cope with the changes and you cannot sit behind other institutions.  Europe is ahead (of implementing fintech), while the Far East is also ready for it," he added.  

ABG launched its pioneer digital banking service in Germany in September last year with plans to offer interest-free financial services across Europe through its Turkish subsidiary, Albaraka Turk.  

"We have 224 branches in Turkey. Why we created (the digital service) in Germany is because there are about two million Turks working there.  

They are interested with Islamic products and hence, we created Insha, the first Islamic digital service (to cater to them)," Adnan said. - Bernama
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