ICO vs IPO – How do they compare?

I’ve participated in IPOs and recently ICO’s and felt investors needed to better understand the key differences between the two especially as cryptocurrency mania sweeps the world.

So let’s begin with an ICO which stands for an initial coin offering. A coin often referred to as a cryptocurrency gives the owner of that coin some future utility on a platform which is being built upon Blockchain technology. In future presentations, I’ll go deeper into the mechanics of how a coin is put together and the process by which it comes to market and is listed on a digital exchange where you can trade it just like shares.

IPO or an initial public offering is the traditional form of raising capital from the public by the issuance of shares in a company. Despite ICO funding skyrocketing to almost $5 billion in 2017, it is still a small fraction of the total IPO financings which were a strong $196 billion last year, up 44% from the previous year.

The video presentation below introduces the ICO concept and compares 10 key features of an ICO with a traditional IPO to help investors understand both the opportunity and risks associated with participating in either one.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell or a solicitation to purchase securities in any country or jurisdiction. It is not financial or investment advice.

8 Technology Predictions for 2018

I’ve been “working” in technology since 1997 when as a student I landed a part-time job at our University of Calgary’s computer store (called Microstore, if I recall correctly). My working days were filled with Windows 95 troubleshooting, advising on software sales, and helping professors and fellow students configure their computers.

There were no smartphones, tablets, let alone drones and autonomous cars. This thing called the ‘internet’ was just starting to get serious. Fast forward twenty years later, we are at the beginning of another leap forward in technology with artificial intelligence (AI), the blockchain, and other disruptive technologies will start to see the daylight of commercial feasibility.

I’ll keep my predictions for 2018 short and sweet. A few will seem obvious and to keep things interesting, I’m throwing in a few far-fetched predictions which though unlikely are possible.

1. Data protection and consumer privacy will be big news by mid-year as GDPR goes into effect on May 25th, 2018

2. Decent augmented reality (AR) headsets will be hot Christmas gift ideas for next year. To note is the One AR headset by MagicLeap which will be released for developers next year after six years of development and $2bln in funding!

3. Initial coin offerings (ICO) will calm down as most regulators will deem them as securities. Bad news in the short-term but great news for the long-term development and funding of blockchain platforms that will be able to issue tokens or cryptocurrencies to build genuine solutions to reduce transaction costs and increase the speed of delivery.

4. Global Cybersecurity wars will get nastier. Unfortunately, the tension between North Korea and the United States is likely to escalate. North Korea knows it does not have a military advantage but has the cyber defensive advantage because of the tight state control of its network. We could see the first major cyberattack on US critical infrastructure as a warning shot by the North Koreans if they feel threatened by a military strike.

5. Fund managers will jump on board cryptocurrencies as regulation comes to force. This will hopefully shift the market from speculators to investors and support the long-term development of digital platforms and assets.

6. Move from discussion of the Blockchain to distributed ledger technology (DLT).Most don’t realise that not all distributed ledgers have to necessarily employ a chain of blocks to successfully provide secure and valid achievement of distributed consensus: a blockchain is only one type of data structure considered to be a distributed ledger.

7. Smart devices with Artificial Intelligence (AI) will start to hit the main street. These will be physical devices such robots and drones that will exploit AI to deliver advanced behaviours and interact more naturally with their surroundings and with other people.

8. Bitcoin prices will collapse to $5,000 or less but doesn’t mean they could hit $50,000 in a final euphoric manic rally. The collapse will not necessarily be the result of all cryptocurrencies falling out of favour but the marketplace realising that Litecoin or Ripple cryptos are much more effective then bitcoin for transaction purposes. (Expecting some hate mail from bitcoin fans for this prediction!)

Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!

UK strengthens its position as Islamic Finance Centre

Introduction

Islamic finance in the UK has continued to grow despite the economic uncertainty in the aftermath of the Brexit vote last year and the snap election in June. Islamic banks continued to demonstrate continued strength with record earnings from the Al-Rayan Bank, the country’s largest Islamic financial institution by assets. The first Shariah-compliant crowdfunding company, Yielders was approved by the Financial Conduct Authority, opening the way for other Islamic start-ups to meet the investment, banking, and financing needs of over three million Muslims across the country.

2017 Review

Boardroom conversations over the past year have swirled around the impact of Brexit on the financial services industry as an exit from the European Union (EU) could result in tens of thousands of job losses in the sector as firms shift operations into the EU. However, concerns about London losing its dominance as a global financial centre appear to be overblown as the sector continues to show resilience and particularly the Islamic finance industry is growing stronger by the day.

The UK made history in the summer of 2017 with the Royal Mint becoming the world’s first mint to achieve compliance with the Shariah Standard on Gold set out by the Accounting and Auditing Organisation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI). Considering the standard was developed in cooperation with the London-based World Gold Council (WCC), the UK clearly leveraged its leadership in commodity trading to attract Islamic investors. Who can now use the service to buy, store, and sell the Royal Mint’s bullion coins and bars securely online.

The Islamic banking footprint in the UK grew in 2017 led by Birmingham based Al-Rayan Bank opening a dedicated commercial banking office in London as well as three retail branches, including Wembley, Bradford, and its first branch in Scotland (Glasgow). The expansion was on heels of a robust earnings report in which Al-Rayan delivered a 32% increase in pre-tax profits and increased the bank’s’ balance sheet by an astounding 43% year-over-year with total assets of the bank reaching £1.4 billion.

In addition to traditional Islamic banks, innovative financial technology (FinTech) companies are also starting to take shape in the UK with the first Shariah-compliant FinTech company Yielders getting approval to provide online property crowdfunding investments. Another start-up Ummah Finance is planning to launch the country’s first completely digital bank and would effectively become the first Islamic challenger bank in the UK if successful.

2018 Preview

Outlook for the sector remains strong as the CityUK report issued at the IFN Islamic Forum in London in September titled “Global trends in the Islamic finance and UK market” further reinforced the sector’s confidence in London remaining the leading western centre for Islamic finance despite the uncertainty poised by Brexit.

It was at the forum in London that Mr Stephen Barclay, the economic secretary to the Treasury announced in his keynote speech, the government’s commitment to Islamic finance with the intent to reissue the country’s sovereign Sukuk when it renews the following year.

Additionally, there are trials underway for a commodity Murabaha financing product to provide shariah-compliant funding to small-medium enterprises (SME) across the country. The product is being developed by Liberis and backed by the UK government-supported British Business Bank. This would be one of the first Islamic SME short-term finance products in the UK and breaks new ground in Islamic finance for UK firms.

Shariah-compliant student financings, as well as the potential of regeneration projects across the UK, remain promising areas for Islamic finance to solve in the coming years. We may also see initiatives in Islamic insurance which has remained low-key despite the formation of the Islamic Insurance Association of London several years ago to promote the sector.

Expect to see further breakthroughs in commercial financing and investment products next year with Islamic FinTech startups taking root to bring innovative solutions to the marketplace. Supporting the over twenty banks in the country already providing Islamic products including the five fully shariah-compliant institutions.

Conclusion

Islamic finance has much more room to grow in the UK and offer Muslim consumers and businesses a greater choice. The regulations continue to be accommodating and will evolve to allow more innovative FinTech solutions to provide digital low-cost alternatives in the marketplace as consumer awareness and adoption of Islamic finance grows.

The UK no doubt will continue to be a Western centre for Islamic finance despite Brexit. And it can be argued the distinctiveness of London can perhaps be enhanced by Brexit as it unshackles itself from EU regulation and leverages the depth of its Islamic finance expertise and talent to continue supporting the development of the sector.

This article was written by Suhail Ahmad and first published in the IFN Annual Report 2018 (pg. 104) which can be downloaded free of charge at https://www.islamicfinancenews.com/download/229912/