Bahrain-based Gulf Finance House (GFH), an Islamic investment bank, is leading a consortium that is to establish what will be the first Islamic e-bank in the world and the first stand-alone e-bank in the Middle East.

The virtual Islamic bank is yet to be named, but it is expected to be launched before the end of the year. The bank will be based in Bahrain and applications for a banking licence have been filed with the Bahrain Monetary Agency (BMA – central bank).

‘The virtual bank will provide a wide range of Islamic banking products and services to customers all over the world, ‘ says Esam Janahi, GFH’s chief executive officer.

‘There is about $125,000 million worth of assets under Islamic management worldwide and the market is growing at about 15-16 per cent, considerably faster than the single digit growth of conventional assets. We will be part of that growth.’

The virtual bank is to have paid-in capital of $32.5 million. The other shareholders are Shamil Bank of Bahrain, Emad al-Doghaither, Qatar ‘s Sovereign International Company and Bahrain-based Reemoon Consulting. The Injazat Technology Fund, an investment fund recently established by the Jeddah-based Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector and GFH, is also a founding shareholder.

Arthur Andersen of the US is described as the solution implementation partner in the project, but has not contributed capital.