Listen to this podcast on SpotifyApple PodcastsPodbeanPodtailListenNotesTuneIn

Daud Vicary has spent over 47 years in the finance and consulting industries, with significant experience in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East.

Though formally retired since 2017, he holds many current positions, including his flagship role as an independent director at Finalytix, an analytics provider to ultra-high net worth individuals (HNWIs), family offices, and independent financial advisors (IFAs).

He is also a managing director at DVA Consulting, an Islamic finance consultancy, and he is the chairman of Ethis Global, a fintech, impact investment, and Islamic crowdfunding platform based in Malaysia. 

Applying his ethics skills in practice, he also sits on the advisory boards of PayHalal, the world’s first Shariah-compliant payment gateway, and IslamicMarkets.com, a leading financial intelligence and investing platform.

Finding Islam and Islamic finance 

Daud was born David Vicary, but he changed his name after converting to Islamic some 30 years ago. An Englishman by birth, he has since lived primarily in Southeast Asia, including in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he is now based.

Since 2002, his career has focused exclusively on Islamic finance., and he has also co-authored a book entitled Islamic Finance: Why it makes sense.

“I was a conventional banker and I became an Islamic banker, and then for the last years of my full-time career, I was involved in consulting,” says Vicary.

“And since retirement, I’ve been very actively engaged in promoting and advising on Islamic finance matters.”

Before retiring, Vicary was also president and CEO of the International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF) in Malaysia – the world’s only postgraduate university dedicated to Islamic finance.

shariah trade finance

Ethics and Islamic finance

Following his conversion to Islam, the unifying thread that runs through Vicary’s is his focus on ethics, and its application to products and services in Islamic finance.

“I see ethics is an integral part of Islamic finance,” says Vicary. “It’s not to say that anything that isn’t Islamic isn’t ethical, but the core values of Islamic finance are extremely ethical.”

Pointing to the maqasid al-Shariah, or objectives of Islam, Vicary notes that the essence of Islam is focused on sustainability and the preservation of things – themes that certainly sound familiar in today’s financial world.

“In effect, the maqasid and the ethics of the maqasid focus very much on the preservation of human life, faith, intellect, property, and family,” says Vicary.

“I’m sure you can identify with all of these values, and they are also very closely aligned with frameworks such as the [United Nations] Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that came out in 2015.”

For Vicary, Islamic finance is about the “efficient and effective” mobilisation of capital for the benefit of the real economy – though this does come with some rules and restrictions. 

“We’re prohibited to deal in riba, for example, which is interest, and there are also certain forbidden products like armaments, pork, and alcohol,” says Vicary. “But otherwise, Islamic finance is there for everyone.”

In Islamic finance, money gained from interest payments must be donated to charity, so that the recipient of the interest does not personally profit from it.

Growth of Islamic finance

Looking back on the last 10 years, Vicary said he has seen an increasing global awareness of Islamic finance, both among Muslims and non-Muslims.

The proof is in the growth of the Islamic economy, which is now worth over $5 trillion, according to Vicary’s intel platform IslamicMarkets.com.

“There’s still a long way to go, but Islamic finance is being recognised as a credible force, and it’s starting to gain traction,” says Vicary.

As an example, Vicary points out that many countries’ financial standards and regulatory bodies now have Islamic finance arms, or are actively engaged in Islamic finance provision.

The Bank of England and the Bank of Japan, for instance, are members of the Islamic Financial Services Board (IFSB), which Vicary describes as the Islamic equivalent of the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) in Switzerland.

The rise of sukuk, or Shariah-compliant bonds, is also a barometer for the global growth and acceptance of Islamic finance.

“People have seen this as a means of funding and tapping into what is a very liquid market,” says Vicary. 

“A lot of people are looking to raise funds in this market, but also looking to invest in Islamic paper, for reasons which could well be SDG-related.”

Going back to 2014, Vicary reminds us that the UK became the first non-Muslim country to issue a sovereign sukuk. And as recently as 2021, the UK issued another £500 million sukuk

For the UK, in order for it to retain its status as an international finance hub, Vicary says that government and industry here recognised that it has to be engaged in Islamic finance, and that providing sukuk was one of the most effective ways to do so. 

Fintech and Islamic finance 

Looking ahead, Vicary is excited by the prospect of a fintech-Islamic finance fusion, whereby a range of traditional and alternative assets can be made available to a younger generation via smartphones and other technology.

Vicary is a supporter of cryptocurrency, for example, which he sees as an alternative to a “leveraged” system of competing fiat currencies. 

“There’s a debate still going on about the Shariah compliance of crypto and bitcoin,” says Vicary. “I’m of the school of thought that basically says bitcoin is no bad thing, because it releases us from a fierce currency system – a leveraged currency system – which in effect is not allowed in Islam. 

“Unfortunately, Islamic finance has to align itself with it. But bitcoin and others, if appropriately regulated to be controlled, could help us come up with a really alternative financial system, which breaks away from the constraints of the current fiat currency and payment systems.” 

Vicary says he is involved in a similar project in Saudi Arabia, whereby fintech specialists are developing an asset- and commodity-backed currency using a global, real-time settlement system.

“Technically, it’s feasible and it’s been proven, but what it needs to get is global acceptance, because it’s got to replace the Bank of International settlements and it’s got to replace the global SWIFT system, which will be very challenging,” says Vicary.

“But in effect, the technology is there to be able to do it, and despite my age, I’m a great believer in technology for change.”

Bitcoin

Islamic finance and sustainability

The final area that Vicary sees as an engine of growth for Islamic finance is sustainability – not least for its parallels with the SDGs and other ESG targets.

“I also see Islamic finance playing a major role in sustainable finance – and why do I say that?” asks Vicary. “Well, within Islamic finance, there are certain categories of social finance. 

“These are the zakat contributions, which is what 2.5% of every Muslim’s wealth goes into – let’s call it a social security fund.” 

Globally, zakat contributions amount to billions of dollars, as do sadaqah (Islamic charitable givings) and waqf (Islamic endowments).

“There is an opportunity using these tools to come up with a kind of blended Islamic finance, to provide cheaper funding options and open up finance to underprivileged groups. 

“And by that I mean people who don’t have that great of an income, or are unbankable, but also leveraging those funds to deal with poverty and climate change issues.”