Wahed opens London office, launches gold-backed debit card for Muslisms

Rick Steves

“Wahed’s new gold-backed debit card allows the Muslim community to utilise technology to access and invest their money in a responsible and secure way, storing it safely and ethically without risk of exposure to Riba.”

Wahed has announced the opening of a physical branch in Central London and the launch of a new debit card to help the United Kingdom’s 3.9 million Muslims manage their money.

Founded in 2015, the Sharia-compliant platform is aimed at smaller investors looking for a globally diversified portfolio of ethically responsible stocks, Islamic bonds, and gold.

Banking and investment opportunities that align with the faith of Muslisms

The new 140-square meter space at 89 Baker Street in London will allow new and existing Wahed customers to engage with its offerings including the opening of spend and save accounts, wills advice, investments, and private equity.

The new gold-backed debit card allows customers to use Wahed as their main spend and save account, making purchases using their new Wahed card with their money held in a gold ETC.

This way, customers’ money can avoid the traditional banking system where it would be exposed to interest, known as Riba in the Islamic faith. Initial tests of the cards will take place in February.

Junaid Wahedna, founder and CEO of Wahed, said: “During a period of economic uncertainty when bank branches are closing at an alarming rate, we’re optimistic about the future and opening a physical branch to cater for our customers. Wahed’s new gold-backed debit card allows the Muslim community to utilise technology to access and invest their money in a responsible and secure way, storing it safely and ethically without risk of exposure to Riba. Combined with the new branch, our community-focussed finance service provides Muslims with banking and investment opportunities that align with their faith.”

Instead of features like gamified stock trading and crypto exchanges, Wahed focuses on security and risk aversion. The broker has grown to over 300,000 customers worldwide after raising over $75 million in funding from high-profile backers including international footballer Paul Pogba, family offices and institutions.

Wahed obtained UK FCA authorization in 2018

Wahed entered the UK with a license from the Financial Conduct Authority back in 2018, arguing the majority of surveyed British Muslims feel excluded from mainstream financial services because of their religious beliefs.

The halal investment platform fills that gap by providing access to products not traditionally available to retail investors, such as Sukuk, an Islamic financial certificate, similar to a bond in Western finance, that complies with Sharia law.

The platform found that 84% of its users are new to or only somewhat familiar with investing. Wahed automatically suggests a portfolio for each user based on their risk profile, taking into account liquidity needs, investment goals, and other criteria.

Wahed licensed in South Africa

Wahed has recently granted a license from the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) in South Africa in a “huge achievement” for the halal financial investment platform.

The next step will be Wahed launching its app locally in that jurisdiction, a key market for fintech expansion in Africa due to the severe economic inequality which still exists in large parts of the continent.

Wahed intends to help emerging investors make informed decisions about their money through its focus on transparency, minimal transaction fees, and financial inclusion.

In early 2022, the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged the New York-based robo-advisor Wahed Invest, LLC with making misleading statements and breaching its fiduciary duty, and for compliance failures related to its Shariah advisory business.

The complaint alleges that Wahed Invest advertised the existence of its own proprietary funds when no such funds existed, and also promised investors that it would periodically rebalance their advisory accounts, but did not do so.

The false statements lasted from September 2018 until July 2019, the agency claims, adding that when Wahed Invest ultimately launched a proprietary ETF in July 2019, it used its clients’ advisory assets to seed the ETF without prior disclosure to clients of any conflicts of interest.

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