SYDNEY, March 4 The Australian Centre for Islamic Finance has set up an advisory board to help local businesses conduct sharia-compliant transactions, including developing financing options such as Islamic bonds, the centre's director told Reuters.
The three-member board is the latest sign the industry is making headway despite Australia's lack of regulation catering to Islamic finance, which follows religious principles such as bans on interest and pure monetary speculation.
The centre's sharia board members might not have the global name recognition as some of their Gulf-based peers, but familiarity with Australian law would appeal to local firms, said Almir Colan, director of the centre, an education and training body.
"We need people who will be able to apply classical fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) principles within a modern context - the increased complexity of financial products and commercial transactions needs specialists."
The scholars have backgrounds in Islamic law and hold Islamic finance degrees from Melbourne's La Trobe University, while the board also aims to guide local Muslims on commercial matters.
"Their work will not be limited to corporate finance and auditing for sharia compliance but will also serve the wider community in Australia with regards to all issues regarding finance and commercial transactions," Colan said.
Last month, Melbourne-based First Guardian launched an Islamic pension fund in collaboration with local Muslim organisations to tap the country's private pension system, the world's fourth largest.
Sydney-based fund manager Crescent Wealth plans to launch an Islamic fund investing in commercial property this year as it continues to expand its range of products. (Editing by Eric Meijer)