Pension provider Options UK, formerly known as Carey Pensions, has joined forces with Halal investment specialists Wahed Invest to launch a fully diversified, Sharia-compliant workplace pension.

The new pensions offering comprises Sharia-compliant funds selected for their adherence to Muslim values and also ensures all returns from these funds are Halal.

This includes investments in Sukuk funds (Islamic Bonds), Gold and the Islamic Global Equity Index.

Sharia-compliant investing follows the belief that all natural and depletable resources should be managed for future generations.

The investment process also involves financial screening to ensure securities are Sharia-compliant and investments in heavily indebted companies is avoided.

In addition, Riba (interest) is neither held or received, while investing in industries including alcohol, gambling, firearms, tobacco is also forbidden.

According to Christine Hallett, managing director of Options UK, there is a noticeable gap in this market with many employees not being able to access their auto-enrolment contributions as the funds they are invested in go against their faith.

She said: “We have been involved with Sharia compliant pensions since auto-enrolment began, so this is not new to us.

“This workplace pension brings something different to the marketplace and we are the first provider to offer a completely diversified halal investment offering.

Islamic Art

Cambodia, which has so far withstood the worst of the pandemic’s health effects, is at risk of financial meltdown due to millions of smallish loans like Sambath’s, which are ballooning into insurmountable debt as schools, factories and businesses remain closed.

Cambodians are entangled in a microfinance system that was intended to alleviate poverty after decades of war, genocide and political turmoil; providing small loans to people without adequate access to formal banking services. But unlike other countries where microfinance lending is run by charities or subsidized by the government, Cambodia’s sprawling system is for-profit and privately run, charging interest rates as high as 18% and — with virtually no cap on how much a borrower can take out — many loans that aren’t “micro” at all, reaching into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Advocacy groups warn that predatory practices — including reports of intense pressure from lenders and coerced sales of homes and property — threaten to unleash a human rights crisis in a country where a $4,000 loan represents more than double the average annual income.

Borrowers were struggling even before the pandemic. And while the Southeast Asian nation has recorded fewer than 250 infections and no deaths due to the virus, the economic shutdown has erased hundreds of thousands of jobs in construction, tourism and export manufacturing, which includes the crucial garment and footwear sectors.

With the shutdown expected to last several more months, the World Bank estimates that at least 1.76 million jobs could be lost in a country of 15 million and that the poverty rate could rise from 13% to 24%

“This product also means that IFAs have a unique pension platform capable of underpinning retirement and wealth management planning within the Muslim community.”

Ms Hallett said there was already an appetite building for this product both among the Muslim community and employers.

She added: “We have already been speaking to Islamic Finance Council and they are on board because there is nobody else who has approached a Shari-complaint pension scheme in this diverse way.”

Mehdi Benslimane, head of strategy at Wahed, said: “People are constantly reminded of the need to make their own provision for the time when they retire. Workplace pensions are one of the most tax-efficient means of doing so with the added benefit of your employer paying in as well to boost the savings amount.

“With the launch of a diversified Sharia-compliant halal workplace pension in conjunction with our master trust partners, Options UK, ensures that Muslim investors have the opportunity to save for their retirement, while adhering to Islamic values.

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