YOU EXIST IF YOU HAVE MONEY
Throughout our banking life, we were always reminded on the privilege of having a Bank that supports you for your financial needs or your businesses for expansion and growth. The banking products are designed to provide SOLUTIONS and access to these products and services relied on the following:
- Your scope of business : What is your business and industry and more importantly, what’s the potential for your business to grow? Is it a sunset industry or emerging business? What is the long term outlook of the industry?
- Your credit standing and payments conduct : How strong are you financially? Is your business reliant of project or is there continuous flow of business? Is there any issue in collections and payments? What is the payment track record? Is the Bank able to obtain evidence of your businesses credit strength via Audited Financial Statements, Bank Accounts, Invoices records and any other documents?
- Your collateral : Is your business able to provide any form of collaterals that is acceptable to the Bank? What is the valuation of these collaterals? Is there a secondary market for the collateral and what is the likely protection towards the Bank’s capital?
These are all the tested ways of traditionally assessing your credit worthiness or financial viability. These are what Banks call you if you qualify: BANKABLE CUSTOMERS.
BUT WHAT IF YOUR BUSINESS DO NOT HAVE ANY OF THE ABOVE?
So now, you don’t have any or some of those, or you never really cared. You are a small business, with young people running it, utilising tech as your business platform. You source your materials and goods directly from suppliers, shipped to your home (or just resides at supplier’s premise), advertise on FaceBook and Instagram, and receive your orders online. You shipped them out to your clients via DHL or any decent courier service, and all your payments and receipts are done via epayment. Business is good and you want to grow.
You seek a financing facility with the Bank.
But the Bank promptly tells you : Your business is no good because you don’t fit the criteria that Banks have for their “target clients”. No track record. No financial statements. No collateral. You are officially UN-BANKABLE or UN-BANKED.
WHERE DO THE UNBANKED GO, THEN?
As much as the Banks like to think that the only way for your business to grow is to comply with the requirements to qualify for a banking facility, you have discovered that it is not necessarily so. Many have managed to grow without going through the banking red tape; in fact they avoid the Banks altogether. Options are starting to emerge to help you build your business, and most of them are not even Banks. Is it a scam or a money-game fly by night operation? Dare you take the risks? But it seems that they are willing to take a risk on your business, and since there is little other options, why not give it a try.
The banking world is ultimately changing. We hear all the new words being used; Fintech, Bitcoin, Ethereum, Blockchain, Crowdsourcing, Crowd funding, Big Data, Antminers, Challenger Banks, Venture Capital, Seed Funding, Angel Investors, Digital Banking, ePayments, eWallet, Mobile Banking, Apps Banking, Tribe, etc. All these new “non-banking channels” appeals to a different type of customers; ones that understand technology and has a lot of trust in its capabilities.
Now the first experience for a new business in obtaining funding may no longer be via a banking experience. It could be a social media platform, a tech company or even the greater public (peer to peer). The digitalised “banks” (which are consequently NOT banks) offers the following benefits:
- Creation of relationships without transactions or track records
- Reduced Costs of doing business i.e. cheaper transactional costs
- Speed and mobility
- Less regulatory requirements (which could be a bad thing…)
- Ease of Cross Border transactions
- Digital interface instead of human connection
WHERE ARE WE HEADED?
I agree with the view that the form of traditional banks must change in 5 years time to offer products and services that’s totally different from what we have now, reaching out to a wider group of Gen-Y and Millennials. But how do we attract such emerging generation whom are now glued to their mobile devices?
This is where the Social Economy will be prominent. Just as the ease of the social media connects the Gen-Y to everything quickly and effortlessly, the new generation will not subscribe to the old tedious banking model. It will be about conveniences, and life which is more online 24/7. And if they are not able to obtain a required facility, they will be more likely to look at their own community for support, or else “Do-It-Yourself” solutions which taps on the fintech, internet or mobile infrastructure. They will become Digital Entrepreneurs, and Banks have yet to create a space for these young tech-savvy entrepreneurs to occupy.
“ISLAMIC BANKING” OUTSIDE ISLAMIC BANKS
While the banking industry continue to develop traditional Islamic Banking products and services, there are many small initiatives that has taken the practices of Islamic Banking (knowingly or unknowingly) and made it into a viable business model. Even now we have real life example such as EthisCrowd.com that’s able to raise funds within 45 days for affordable property development projects to complete within 1 year via Mudharabah arrangement; this basically means there is no longer a need for banking institutions as a source of funding.
And ironically, some of these alternative banking models are so aligned with Islamic Banking principles, and borders more of “socialism” more than anything else. The desire to “share risks” and “support the community” and “fund a worthy cause” moves the financial model away from “money making” and “return on investments” that we often associate “banking” with. This smacks familiarity with what the Islamic Banking industry has been created for in the first place; the realisation of Maqasid Sharia.
Even Musyarakah (partnership) structures are already at work, where risk sharing translates to appropriate risk rewards for investors. This is also a relevant to the idea of Investment Account where the sources of Mudharabah funds are used to finance a project directly and returns are based on actual performance. Equity financing (as per my previous month posting on Dr Daud Bakar’s commentary on Profit Loss Sharing) is already being practiced by non-Banks, thus begging the question whether a Bank can really be as effective (or quick) to support equity-based structures as a non-Bank initiative.
While this is yet to be a mainstream phenomenon but do remember as the Gen-Y and Millennials grow up into the bankable space with credible financial strength, their views of what banking should be may be far different from what we think it is now.
SHAKING UP THE TREE
With all the alternatives happening around the Islamic Banking industry, it really is time for practitioners and industry to consider the model that we have always wanted to build. That is where the discussion must happen to embed the Islamic Banking industry into the “Social Economy” and “Alternative Banking”:
- Challenger Banks. The funding structure offered by these non-bank entities may/may not be based on crowdsourcing or crowdfunding. These essentially can be arranged as a Mudharabah (profit sharing), Musyarakah (partnership), Wakalah (Agency) but without the regulatory shackles. The question is on the rights and warranties for the crowd. Extra due diligence may be required but it should not be a tedious process. Otherwise, the crowd will see this as just another “banking” entity which they wanted to avoid in the first place.
- Crypto-currency. Much has been debated on the presence of bit-coin and ethereum where these “currency” were raised from algorithms processed by “mining” machines. So it may or may not be real money, but the more prudent definition of crypto-currency is “stored value”, “work-credit” or “medium of exchange”; not currency yet. And Shariah discussion on what these really are in the Islamic transactional context shall continue at least for the next few years
- Online Payments & Mobile Money. A key part of the process where the transactions may by-pass regulated banks and go straight from Peer to Peer (P2P). All online payment structures will be validated via blockchain infrastructure, at the fraction of a price and even faster speeds of transaction. Shariah will also be interested in the sequencing and the process flow and issues of ownership of the cash when it is done at the blink of an eye.
I admit all of these are still new terminologies and understanding to me, but it represents such a huge opportunity to rebuild the industry on the right footing, learning from past mistakes, taking the best practices from non-Bank models and moving away from simply debt-financing. It is an exciting world that is still evolving, and will be driven by the new generation so comfortable with technology, community and convenience. The banking model must change to meet this reality, the question is how to also get the Shariah elements into the various key processes.
There is no better time to incubate this. Especially in the Islamic Banking space of equity-based structures. Welcome to the new world, and it is a big world out there.