By Prosper Makene
The National Bank of Commerce (NBC) has awarded Best Retail Islamic Bank for 2017, during the National Islamic Banking and Finance Awards, held alongside the 4th Africa Islamic Banking Summit which was organised by the Al Huda Centre for Islamic Banking and Economics in Dar es Salaam recently.
Islamic Banking is not a new phenomenon in the global finance and banking arena. Islamic Banking activities have been around for centuries, although modern Islamic Banking practices can trace their origins to the establishment of the first Islamic Bank in Egypt in 1963. Shortly afterwards, a number of Islamic Banks emerged in the Middle East and Far East Asia, such as the Dubai Islamic Bank and Amana Philippines Bank respectively.
Although Islamic Banking activities have been taking place in East Africa for over a decade, it wasn’t was not until 2008 that Tanzania officially started experiencing Islamic Banking practices, with the introduction of Islamic Banking Suite under Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB). After this emergence several other banks also introduced Islamic Banking services over the years, including the National Bank of Commerce (NBC).
NBC established its Islamic Banking division in 2010 following demand from a section of its customers, who required alternative financial solutions. NBC launched its Islamic Banking proposition at a time when there were only two other players in the market offering such services. NBC initially offered only liabilities products, namely transactional accounts, to its Islamic Banking customers. However, NBC quickly enhanced its proposition over the span of a few years to include other products such as personal lending and business lending, in efforts to meet its customer demands.
Speaking during the 4th Africa Islamic Finance summit, NBC’s Business Development Manager Eddie Mhina said: “NBC remains committed to meeting customer expectations by delivering to their unique requirements. Although challenges still exist, NBC has come a long way in its provision of alternative banking services to its customers, thanks to the support of its stakeholders.”
Mhina added: “As a bank, we have two basic functions: first, we need to safe-keep our depositors’ funds so they may access it as and when they need it and secondly, we need to invest customers’ funds in order to generate income for the customers who deposit with us. A legal and regulatory framework will enable the latter as there are limited Shari’ah compliant avenues in which the bank can invest and produce sustainable returns”.
Mhina expanded on the challenges, saying “Throughout the country, public awareness of Islamic banking is limited. NBC has used the 4thAfrica Islamic Finance summit as one of the strategic platforms to raise awareness on Islamic Banking activities, shedding light on some of the common challenges faced, and brainstorming possible solutions. NBC’s involvement in the 4th Africa Islamic Finance Summit is one of many activities which NBC Islamic Banking division uses in order to directly engage with the general public and share clarity about various products and services that are available in our Islamic Banking portfolio”.
He further said that despite the existing challenges there are a number of opportunities as well, particularly for NBC, which includes the high demand for specialized products and services in the local market such as Treasury and Islamic Insurance products. The other unique opportunity is NBC’s affiliation to its parent bank Barclays Africa, which has been practicing Islamic Banking for more than a decade.
He underscored that currently, Islamic Banks in Tanzania operate at the discretion and supervision of the Bank of Tanzania. One of the key governance and compliance requirements is banks that are offering Islamic Financial services must have a Shari’ah Supervisory Board which oversees all Islamic Banking activities to ensure Shari’ah compliance. NBC has such a board and all its Islamic Banking activities are fully compliant in accordance with the laid down processes and procedures in alignment with global Shari’ah standards.
NBC’s Islamic Banking Division has managed to grow its product portfolio and customer base over the years, through the bank’s extensive distribution network of 51 branches and over 220 ATMs positioned strategically throughout Tanzania.
NBC is one of the most represented retail bank in the country with over 50 years’ experience in providing financial services. Apart from offering traditional banking services, NBC also prides itself with an expanded branch network of 51 branches and over 220 Visa enabled ATMs. The bank also services over 200 Points of Sales strategically located throughout the country.
However, on the photo is Eddie Mhina (left), NBC Business Development Manager, receiving Best Islamic Retail Bank 2017 award on behalf NBC during the 4th Islamic Finance Summit. Handing over the award is the Ambassador of Pakistan in Tanzania, Amir Muhammad Khan (second left). Looking on is Lord Mayor for Ilala Charles Kuyeko (centre). Others are Muhammad Zubair Mughal (second right), Al Huda CIBE Chief Executive Officer and Imran Gul, Al Huda CIBE Marketing Manager.