Received 25.05.2021. Revised 08.11.2021. Accepted 01.03.2022.
Acknowledgements. This study is funded by RFBR, project number 19-310-60002 “Islamic Finance in the Post-Soviet States: challenges and opportunities for investment growth in the CIS countries”.
Abstract. Over the past decade, the development of the fintech sector has been becoming one of the characteristics of Islamic finance. What are the key markets? Who are the investors? What areas of business are Islamic fintech companies represented by? This paper considers above questions by investigating more than 240 Islamic fintech companies, the data on which gathered from IFN Fintech Landscape and Crunchbase. The results of our study show that, firstly, the geography of origin and coverage of Islamic fintech companies is not limited to the countries of the Middle East (79 companies) and Southeast Asia (71), but also includes the developed markets of Western Europe (58 companies) and America (20). Moreover, the most attractive jurisdiction for the incorporation of such companies is the UK (18% of all Islamic fintech companies were created here). In the Middle East, such a center of gravity is the UAE (13%). Two markets in Southeast Asia – Indonesia and Malaysia – form almost a quarter (24%) of the global Islamic fintech. In addition, Islamic fintech is expanding financial inclusion in Africa, where 11 Islamic fintech companies have been established; secondly, 91% of all Islamic fintech projects were created in the last 10 years, and 58% in the last 5 years. The peak of activity in this sector fell on the period of 2017 and 2018, when 37 and 39 companies were created, respectively; thirdly, we classify the Islamic fintech into seven broad categories namely, P2P financing (39 companies), neobanks (38), payment services (37), asset management (35), blockchain and cryptocurrency (20), charity (16), real estate (15), among which the most successful cases are considered. In addition, 44 business initiatives were initiated in the field of other near-financial services, including business consulting, analytical support, etc.; fourthly, based on the financial data for 72 Islamic fintech companies in Crunchbase, we estimate the total volume of investments in the Islamic fintech at more than $2.44 bln, almost half of which fell on neobanks ($1.2 bln). If we exclude three mega-investments of more than $300 mln, then the average investment into one Islamic fintech company is $19.9 mln, and if we exclude eight investments worth more than $100 mln – $9.1 mln. Investors of Islamic fintech companies are mainly venture capital funds that finance businesses on the risk-sharing principle. The geography of such funds is not limited to the countries of the Middle East and Southeast Asia, but also includes Western countries (USA, UK, Germany, and Switzerland). We note that at the initial stage, many Islamic fintech projects undergo business mentoring and acceleration programs in special accelerators, including the leading Y Combinator (USA); fifth, we identify five Islamic fintech companies from the CIS, besides, we find Russian-speaking founders of five Islamic fintech companies established in the UAE, Singapore and UK. In addition, we identify Russian venture fund that has invested in two Islamic fintech companies in Bahrain and UAE. Thus, the features of Islamic fintech that we have identified show that the complex and intertwined world of finance is not constrained by borders and prejudices, but the only investment efficiency criteria is the optimal risk-to-reward ratio.
Keywords: Islamic finance, Islamic banks, Islamic fintech, digitalization, neobanks, P2P, cryptocurrency
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