Muscat: Meethaq, the pioneer of Islamic banking in Oman, from Bank Muscat, launched full-fledged operations at its dedicated branch in Al Ghubra yesterday.Sheikh AbdulMalik bin Abdullah Al Khalili, minister of Justice, presided as the guest of honour at the grand ceremony coinciding with the auspicious occasion of the Prophet's (PBUH) birth anniversary. The high profile ceremony was attended by dignitaries, including Hamood bin Sangour Al Zadjali, executive president of the Central Bank of Oman, Sheikh Khalid bin Mustahail Al Mashani, chairman, AbdulRazak Ali Issa, high profile officials from ministries, chief executive, members of the bank's board of directors and executive management team.
Abdullah Al Khalili congratulated Bank Muscat for taking the lead in launching an independent Islamic banking window operations in Oman. "The banking sector is witnessing a new phase with the launch of Islamic banking and the state-of-the-art Meethaq branch reflects Bank Muscat's focus to redefine Islamic banking operations in Oman. With unique services and products, Meethaq Islamic banking will benefit citizens and complement the economy."Sangour Al Zadjali congratulated Meethaq for launching the first Islamic banking window operations in Oman. "The CBO in its regulatory and supervisory role will ensure full transparency in Islamic banking operations as the next phase of the Omani banking sector will be characterised by the positive contributions and growth of Islamic banks and window operations."
Mustahail Al Mashani said: "Bank Muscat strives to fulfil the needs of customers with Shariah based innovative solutions and the launch of Meethaq is yet another proof of its commitment and dedication to meet customer expectations for Islamic banking. The board of directors is fully committed to reinforcing Meethaq's stature as the pioneer of Islamic banking in Oman."Ali Issa said: "The Meethaq strategy is to attract customers through innovative Shariah based products and services. The operations will be managed by an experienced team, separate from conventional banking. Meethaq is well positioned to provide Islamic financial expertise to diverse segments and thereby promote the good of society as a whole."
Sulaiman Al Harthy, group general manager — Islamic banking, said: "Bank Muscat is the first commercial bank in Oman to receive CBO's approval and begin independent Islamic banking window operations as per the requirements of Islamic banking regulatory framework of CBO. The bank has invested in staff, systems and controls to ensure the service is delivered in a professional, segregated and fully Shariah-compliant manner. Meethaq will be delivering its products and services in order to meet all financial needs of customers by ensuring true partnership, transparency and trust."
Meethaq offers a full suite of regulated Islamic banking products. Inspired by faith and a tradition of trust, the Shariah-compliant products and services include savings account, current account, home finance, auto finance, and many other products.Ever since the announcement of the final CBO approval to begin soft operations, customers have been pouring into Meethaq branch to open accounts and avail various services. Notably, the branch has been elegantly branded with Meethaq logo based theme, creating an ambience that enhances the Islamic banking experience.
Meethaq plans to open branches in all major cities and towns across Oman this year. Over a year ago, the flagship financial services provider announced the decision of its board of directors to set up an independent Islamic banking window with OMR150 million capital and launch Islamic banking operations in accordance with the injunctions of Shariah. The final capital allocation will be determined by business opportunities in the market and the board has indicated that the assigned amount may increase if required.
Meethaq has on its Shariah board some of the brightest minds in Islamic finance to chart the way forward. The Shariah board is led by Sheikh Dr Ali Qaradaghi, chairman and Sheikh Essam Muhammad Ishaq and Sheikh Majid Al Kindi as members. All Meethaq products, documentation and polices are already certified by the honourable board.
Meethaq will reach out to customers with the promise of being true to their beliefs, offering all the advantages of banking by following the principles of Shariah law. The Meethaq suite of banking products, which combine traditional values with modernity, ensures the choice of staying true to one's values. The operations will be managed by an experienced and professional team, separate from conventional banking.
Meethaq stands out for its independent Shariah Supervisory Board, separate capital allocation from shareholders' money, unique risk management tools, complete fund segregation, separate books of account, core banking system which supports Islamic banking operations, stand-alone Islamic banking branches and proper profit distribution mechanism among investment account holders/depositors.
The adoption of AAOIFI standards (Accounting & Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions) distinguishes Meethaq Islamic banking practices in terms of standardisation of products and services. In the run-up to the launch of Meethaq operations, the bank hosted a series of high profile conferences and awareness programmes, including Oman Islamic Economic Forum, a workshop on 'Islamic Liquidity Management and Capital Market' in association with International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM), a 'Women in Business' forum and a seminar on 'In-Country Value Addition' addressed by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia. Meethaq also hosted a series of seminars across Oman to raise awareness on Islamic banking. Shariah and Islamic banking experts addressed the seminars aimed at familiarising people with the main characteristics of Islamic finance. The seminars shed light on important aspects of Islamic banking from the Shariah perspective. Meethaq is the winner of the Pioneer of Islamic Banking in the Sultanate Award from Global Islamic Finance. The Global Islamic Finance Award (GIFA) is the first of its kind award in Islamic banking and finance in the region.
Bank Muscat is the first financial institution in the Sultanate to get licence from the CBO and to introduce Shariah-compliant products to the public. Meethaq has adopted the best practices in Islamic banking and finance worldwide to combine a robust model which will protect customers and complement the Islamic banking industry.Meethaq reaches out to customers with the promise of being true to their beliefs, offering all the advantages of banking by following the principles of Shariah law and its requirements.