Prince Muhammad Faisal Al Saud By Abdel Aziz Dimapunong Founding chairman, Amanah Islamic Bank (1992-1998) His Highness, Prince Muhammad Faisal Bin Al Saud of the Faisal Group of banks is truly an Islamic banker par excellence. This is the finding of the Islamic Banking Research Institute in its search for personalities who could have been the founding fathers of Islamic banking. The other excellencies in banking are His Excellency, Sheikh Saleh Abdullah Kamel of the Al Baraka Group, and His Excellency, Dr. Ahmad Muhammad Ali, President, Islamic Development Bank. We shall stand corrected if there is any other founder that we might have missed. We are of the opinion that to be dubbed as among the founders of Islamic banking, the banker should have been involved in the developmental stage of Islamic banking in the 1970s. And it should not be later than December 31, 1979. This is because by the onset of the 1980s, Islamic banking had already taken roots, and some Islamic banks and financial institutions were already stable. This issue is focused on His Highness, Prince Muhammad Al Faisal Al Saud, son of the late King Saud. Writing about His Highness has been made easy by recent developments in the world of Islamic banking and finance. During the recent 31st Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank in the state of Kuwait last May 31, 2006, a ceremony was held to award the IDB Prize in Islamic Banking and Islamic Financial Services for 2005. The recipient of the award was Prince Muhammad Al Faisal Al Saud. It was received for His Highness’ by Mr. Muhammad Abdul Rahman. The Prize was awarded to His Highness in appreciation for his distinctive efforts in the field of developing the concept and business of Islamic financial services. The recognition of Prince Muhammad Faisal Al Saud by the Islamic Banking Research Institute is reckoned basically by his pioneering effort in organizing a chain of Islamic bank and financial institutions the early 1970s. That refers to the establishment of Faisal Islamic Bank of Sudan, the Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt and several other Faisal establishments. On the other hand, the prize awarded him by the Islamic Development Bank was specific recognition for his involvement in Islamic Banking and Islamic Financial Services for year 2005. It was also a specific recognition for his role in having firmly established the first Islamic financial institution, namely Dar Al Mal Al Islami. In the world of global Islamic banking, there is no mistaken that the name “Faisal” refers to His Highness, Prince Muhammad Faisal Al Saud. Furthermore, in this global industry, the name “Faisal” has come closely to the meaning of Islamic financial institution. After three decades of developments, Islamic banking evolved from one with transparency in ownership into one with fortified layers of stockholdings that provides shields of protection to shareholders. Simply stated, the owner of a bank does not have to be the chairman or a member of the board. He does not have to be visible. This is partly a result of changing environment in the new millennium. Therefore, in our write up we do not go further into piercing the veil of corporate existence. Faisal today in Switzerland. What used to be known as Faisal Finance (Switzerland) SA is now known as Faisal Private Bank (Switzerland) SA. This is according to a press release of the Faisal Private Bank (Switzerland) SA, dated October 3, 2006. This was made official by a decision of the Swiss Federal Banking Commission that awarded a full banking license to Faisal Finance (Switzerland) and renamed it as Faisal Private Bank (Switzerland) SA, making it the first Islamic private bank in Switzerland. Faisal Finance (Switzerland) SA used to be a securities dealer duly licensed, regulated and supervised by Swiss authorities. . According to the press release, the principal shareholder of Faisal Private Bank Switzerland is the Bahrain-based Ithmaar Bank, which is regulated by the Central Bank of Bahrain. It further says that Ithmaar Bank recently launched its public offering on the Bahrain stock exchange last February 2006. As a result, US$360,000,000 worth of shares was issued as fully paid- up capital of Ithmaar Bank. This bank is the former Faysal Investment Bank of Bahrain, a provider and manager of Sharia compliant investment products in the Middle East. Ithmaar acquired 79.6% ownership in Faisal Finance (Switzerland) S.A. The recent launching of Faisal Private Bank Switzerland is a recent landmark development. It does not belong to the organizational history of Islamic banking and finance. The ownership of the original Faisal Finance has changed. However, the press release claimed that the new Faisal Private Bank Switzerland SA is part of the Group which pioneered the Islamic banking and finance industry. According to Marco Rochat, Chief Executive Officer of Faisal Private Bank (Switzerland) SA, Faisal Private Bank Switzerland is “the synthesis of over 15 years of experience in the Swiss private banking arena with a distinctive ethical heritage”. This, he said, “will enable us to continue delivering an innovative platform for an international clientele which trusts our private bankers because they are also accountable for their values.” Faisal Private Bank Switzerland is being managed by a management team that includes renowned names as PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, DMI, Leman Capital and SGS. The team is headed by Khalid Abdullah Janahi as chairman of the Board. He has expressed his confidence in the success of the Faisal Private Bank which he said will be guided by the principles of the Sharia Faisal’s Dar Al Mal AI lslami Trust. The Faisal group has long been based in Geneva. In 1981, Prince Faisal organized Dar Al Mal Islami Trust with $1 billion authorized capital and administered from Geneva. Soon, this amount rose to a $3.5 billion Trust. Prince Faisal had established the Dar Al Mal Al Islami in Geneva as a financial services conglomerate. The objective of Prince Faisal was to foster the spread of Islamic banking across the Muslim world. With its precious metal as part of its business, it made a net profit of $7.9 million in 1982. The operations of Dar Al Mal Islami cover the Bahamas, Bahrain, Guinea, the Isle of Jersey, Luxembourg, Niger, Senegal, Sudan, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. The office of Dar Al Mal Islami in Bahrain handles investment in the Gulf area. Its office in the Bahamas handles international operations. By March 1984 the Faisal group had almost $400 million investments. Faisal in Sudan - Sudan In 1974 encouraged foreign capital investment. Foreign banks were urged to establish joint ventures in association with Sudanese capital. Banking transactions with foreign companies operating in Sudan were facilitated so long as they follow the rulings of the Bank of Sudan. The monetary consideration played a big role. Investors were required to transfer a minimum of £Sd3 million into Sudan. Several foreign banks took advantage of this open door policy, most notably the Faisal Islamic Bank. The principal investor of this bank was the Saudi prince, Muhammad Faisal Al Saud. Consequently the Faisal Islamic Bank of Sudan was officially established in 1974 pursuant to the Faisal Islamic Bank Act. The Faisal Islamic Bank of Sudan enjoyed privileges denied other commercial banks. This includes full tax exemption on assets, profits, wages, and pensions. The investors were also guaranteed against sequestration and nationalization. By September 1984, there were seven Islamic banks in Sudan that are based on the principles of Islamic banking. Paramount of these was the Faisal Islamic Bank of Sudan. Faisal in Egypt. In the 1970s. Prince Muhammad Faisal Al Saud had been so busy establishing Islamic banks and financial institutions around the world. The pioneers include the Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt which is now performing very well. This bank now has over half a million investment accounts and its total assets amount to more than 2 billion U.S dollars. It had consistently updated itself particularly in terms of capitalization. It has now an authorized capital stock of US$ 500 million of which US$132 million worth of equity has been subscribed and fully paid up. Boosting its resources, the Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt has also built up alliances with several banks like the Commercial International Bank of Egypt. This is a financial institution that is engaged in wholesale banking and financial brokerage. Also, through its Commercial International Life Insurance Company, the bank offers life insurance products and services. The Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt is also in alliance with the National Societe Generale Bank, MISR International Bank, Egyptian American Bank, Housing & Development Bank, Delta International Bank, El Watany Bank of Egypt, Egyptian Gulf Bank, and Piraeus Bank Egypt. Faisal in the Bahamas. From the Middle East, Prince Muhammad Faisal, crossed the Pacific Ocean, and established firmly the first Islamic financial Institution in the Bahamas. It is known as Dar Al Mal Al Islami. This house of Islamic funds in the Bahamas performed not only Islamic banking but Islamic Da’wah as well. Many employees of this bank, natives of the Bahamas Island, became Muslims as a result of their association with Prince Faisal and their employment in Dar Al Mal Al Islami. I happen to have met some of them some years ago. Faisal across the Muslim world. In the 1970s, the name Faisal has become a trademark in the area of Islamic banking. This name is borne by Masraf Faisal Al Islami Bahrain, Masraf Faisal Al Islami Niger, Masraf, Faisal de Guinea, Masraf Faisal de Senegal, and the Faisal Finance Institution Istanbul. By 1983, Prince Faisal played a major role in the establishment of more Islamic investment and insurance companies including the Faisal Islamic Bank in Bahrain, the Kibris Islamic Bank in Cyprus, the Islamic Bank in Vienna, Austria, and other banks in Senegal, Niger, and the Bahamas. With the establishment of these Islamic banks and financial institutions around the world, from Egypt to Geneva and the Bahamas, there is no doubt Prince Muhammad Faisal bin Al Saud is among the founders of Islamic banking. In a broader since, Prince Muhammad Faisal also deserves the award of being the Father of Islamic Economics in modern society. This article: “Prince Muhammad Faisal, banker par excellence” by Abdel Aziz Dimapunong was originally posted at: http://www.dimapunong.blogspot.com. Please visit this site for more articles about Islamic banking. 2006. All rights reserved.