Islamic Banking

New Shariah Private Bank Launches, Led By Ex-Merrill Executive

Tom Burroughes Editor London 21 January 2009

New Shariah Private Bank Launches, Led By Ex-Merrill Executive

Bank of London and The Middle East, a Shariah-compliant wholesale bank in the UK, is launching a private banking business, WealthBriefing can exclusively report.

BLME Private Banking will provide Islamic finance solutions to high net‐worth individuals, entrepreneurs and their corporations in the UK, Europe and Middle East, the bank said.

As part of the launch, BLME has appointed Adrian Gayler, as head of private banking. He joins from Merrill Lynch International Bank. Mr Gayler will be based in BLME’s new private banking offices in Mayfair, London, along with the already established specialist wealth management team of eight people. At Merrill Lynch, Mr Gayler was vice president, global wealth management, responsible for clients in the Middle East, Europe and the UK.

The development comes at a time of continued growth in Shariah-based investment products and financial services in the UK and other regions, driven by rising wealth in the Middle East and large populations of affluent Muslims living around the world who require products that comply with Shariah law, such as its ban on interest and gambling.

As Shariah-compliant banks avoid investing in derivatives and credit markets, they have avoided some of the massive losses incurred by Western banks in these sectors, a fortuitous fact that appeals to non-Muslim as well as Muslims, Mr Gayler told WealthBriefing.

“There is a greater opportunity to get traditional [non-Muslim] clients than say a year or even six months ago,” Mr Gayler said.

“We have a dedicated team and we are currently very much in build-out mode,” he said, adding that any additional hires will depend on the state of the business and the availability of people suitable for the bank.

Incorporated in 2006, BLME was authorised as a bank by the Financial Services Authority, the UK regulator, in 2007. Most of its clients are located in the UK, US and Europe.

"We have devoted the past two years to developing robust foundations for BLME’s business and we are now in a prime position to capitalise on the demand we have seen for a dedicated Shariah compliant wealth management offering, with the launch of our private banking business,” said Humphrey Percy, chief executive at BLME.

“Despite difficult financial market conditions we see this as an opportune time to launch a private banking business. High net worth individuals are increasingly concerned about preserving their wealth and will be looking for counsel and best‐of‐breed services and solutions, which BLME will offer to clients,” Mr Percy added.

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