Standard Chartered invests in UK sharia-compliant fintech company

Algbra announces it will partner with a unit of the Asia-focused global bank, as business leaders, government officials and regulators gather for UK Fintech Week

Standard Chartered's fintech investment arm is partnering with the UK's first sharia-complaint fintech firm. Reuters
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The investment and fintech ventures arm of the global bank Standard Chartered announced on Monday it was making an investment in Algbra, an ethical finance-focused and sharia-compliant fintech company based in the UK.

Although most of the deal's details have not been disclosed, SC Ventures said its sustainable finance platform, Shoal, will partner with Algbra.

The deal comes at the start of UK Fintech Week, during which London hosts founders of fintech companies, government officials and policymakers, entrepreneurs, investors and academics over five days.

“We build ventures with our clients in mind, which resulted in Shoal,” said Gurdeep Singh Kohli, SC Ventures lead for Europe and Americas. “Combining the proposition with Algbra will enhance the customer proposition in the UK and our investment will accelerate the delivery of Algbra’s Fintech as a Service (FaaS) solution globally.”

Founded by Zeiad Idris and Fizel Nejabat, Algbra is the first sharia-compliant fintech company to be authorised by the UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) as an electronic money institution.

“I am thrilled for Algbra to be partnering with SC Ventures and Shoal,” Mr Idris said.

“What is most exciting about this is the deep purpose-alignment of our companies to do good, and our commitment to go beyond the UK to serve communities in Asia, Africa and the Middle East.”

Stamp out stamp duty

Meanwhile, a group of the leading UK fintech companies called on the government to scrap the tax payable on share purchases, better known as stamp duty.

The Unicorn Council for UK Fintech (UCFT), which launched last month and includes some of the biggest names in fintech including Monzo, Revolut, Gohenry and Clearscore, drew up a list of six core recommendations for policymakers.

Along with the abolition of stamp duty, UCFT also called for a “rethink of the regulatory approach” to the fintech sector, certain tax reliefs, tax breaks for research and development of fintech, easier access to seed capital and the introduction of a VAT rebate scheme for early-stage fintech companies.

Philip Belamant, the co-founder and chief executive of Zilch, said the UCFT is “crafting the go-to policy playbook that outlines precisely what the government, regulators and the broader ecosystem need to address if our generation of fintech businesses are to continue thriving on a global stage”.

Fintech Week's flagship event, the Innovative Finance Global Summit, returns to London's Guildhall for its 10th year and will concentrate on how Britain can maintain its leading position in the fintech industry.

Speakers at this year's event include Louise Hill, the co-founder and chief executive of GoHenry, Anne Boden, the founder of Starling Bank, and Francesca Carlesi, the chief executive of Revolut UK, as well as Sarah Breedon, the deputy governor for financial stability at the Bank of England.

Writing in the City AM newspaper ahead of UK Fintech Week, the Lord Mayor of the City of London said the British fintech industry, while a world leader, could be further strengthened through the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

Michael Mainelli pointed to the four unicorn companies created in the UK fintech industry last year, with two of them, Quantexa and Synthesia, being AI firms.

“This demonstrates how the rise of the AI will drive further and faster change in fintech,” Mr Mainelli wrote.

“As we reflect on the successes of the past decade, we need to learn from our experiences so that in future we can be just as bold in embracing innovation, ensuring we are out in front rather than being left behind by our competitors.”

The UK has long been at the forefront of fintech and innovation in the financial sector. For example, eight in 10 adults in the UK use at least one fintech tool (such as a banking app) on a regular basis and the UK commands around 10 per cent of the global fintech market.

The UK receives more investment in its fintech sector than any other country except the US, and the main theme of this year's Innovative Finance Global Summit concentrates on how that position can be protected.

'Strong arsenal of fintechs'

Even though fintech investment in the UK took a battering last year, Britain still took the lion's share of investment in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa region, as globally the entire sector suffered at the hands of rising inflation and higher interest rates.

According to figures from KPMG, total UK fintech investment dropped to $5.9 billion (£4.6 billion) in the first half of last year, a fall from $13.8 billion in the same period in 2022.

Nonetheless, Janine Hirt, the chief executive of Innovate Finance, recently wrote in the Financial Times that the UK “boasts a strong arsenal of fintechs with plenty of potential”.

“It’s this spirit of optimism that we must retain in our fintech sector – and our international leadership must not be taken for granted,” she said.

Updated: April 16, 2024, 9:38 AM