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"Virtual" Islamic bank to be launched by end of 2000

Gulf Finance House has moved to fill the gap in online, Sharia law-compliant financial services, with the announcement that it is developing a virtual Islamic bank.

The growing number of Muslims using the Internet worldwide has inspired a Bahrain-based investment bank to develop what will be the world’s first ‘virtual’ Islamic bank.

Gulf Finance House intends to provide a wide range of Sharia compliant financial services for both Muslims and those non-Muslim customers wishing to invest in high-yielding Islamic investment products.

“We are pioneering online Islamic banking," said Esam Janahi, chief executive of Gulf Finance House. “This will not just be another dot com or portal site, rather, it will be a completely independent entity which will serve a large spread of investors and customers seeking Sharia compliant, reliable, professional products and services,”.

An exact launch date was not stated, but Janahi estimated that it would happen “by the end of the fourth quarter.” Janahi explained that the project was in its latter stages, with remaining tasks such as choosing the technology platforms on which the site will run, the responsibility for which lies with Arthur Andersen, Gulf Finance’s technology partner.

“We are working with Gulf Finance House and its strategic partners to build a new business model which leverages the Internet to provide greater choices of Islamic investment products. We want to significantly enrich the customer experience,” said Fouad Alaeddin, Arthur Andersen’s Middle East managing partner. “Successful Internet business models must have a compelling business value proposition to the customer: it is about knowing and anticipating the customer needs and exceeding his expectations.”

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