Arif Miah, Creative Strategy Director, Mud Orange

 

The four million Muslims living in Britain have a distinct relationship with their money and finances. Their religious beliefs strongly influence their financial choices; everything from banking, home financing to inheritance. The vast majority of British Muslim families also often send money to family living abroad, which means their regular expenditure goes beyond their own everyday needs.

Since the early 2000s, we’ve seen brands across various sectors begin to cater to the financial needs of British Muslims, most notable in Islamic banking and investment. Today, the demand is rapidly increasing as British Muslims look for competitive solutions which meet their religious and lifestyle choices. But most brands have struggled to provide compelling services for the increasingly dynamic financial circumstances of modern British Muslims.

 

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Contrary to the general global decline in religious affiliation, British Muslims are becoming more religiously conscious, with 92% saying their religion influences their purchasing decisions – a figure which is up 2% since 2016 and increases among the younger demographic. While education levels, career progression and affluence continue to rise, the demand from British Muslims for compatible yet competitive financial services is exponentially growing. Brands can no longer ignore the needs of British Muslims to meet demands for new financial services that will transform how they spend, invest and save.

 

Islamic Banking & Finance

Pure play Islamic banks have been in the UK for over 15 years, but according to our research, one third of British Muslims feel these banks are old fashioned, whilst two thirds cannot recall an Islamic bank when asked.

Al Rayan bank is the most recognised Islamic bank in the UK, and although having a strong presence amongst British Muslims by being the first on the scene, they haven’t yet reached mass appeal. Their struggle to achieve mainstream appeal can partly be attributed to how they position themselves.

 

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Their branding, language, tone of voice and in-store design looks imported from the middle east and feels disconnected from modern culture. Their overall aesthetic and tone emphasise the “Islamicness” of their offering, which pushes the most important banking factors; security, competitiveness and customer experience, to a lesser role as 55% perceive pure play Islamic banks to be less reliable.

Instead, Islamic banks should use their Islamic credentials to support their competitive banking capabilities to provide a clear differentiating value proposition, whilst completely satisfying core banking needs.

Other Islamic Banks including ‘Bank of London and The Middle East’ and ‘QIB’ heavily Arabicise the brand which makes them feel foreign and out of touch.

Mainstream banks have also made similar mistakes, from HSBC’s ‘Amanah’ account to Lloyds’ ‘Islamic Account’, as they brand their Islamic offering within a stereotypical religious guise rather than a lifestyle and financial need.

59% of British Muslims said they felt Shariah-compliant bank accounts focused too much on religious rulings rather than their actual banking needs, and like pure play Islamic banks, mainstream brands have failed to grapple with the role Islamic banking plays in the real lives of British Muslim. (e.g. Lloyds mosque illustration on the top right).

New fintech brands are driving a promising future for Islamic banking and finance with more cultural relevancy. Zoya and Kestrl, both start-up Islamic finance apps, are of the very few companies with a brand foundation that pulls away from overt Arabicised branding. Although in need of robust strategic brand work, their marketability seems promising despite being in the early stages.

93% of British Muslims strongly identify as British and see their British and Muslim identities going hand in hand. So, they now demand brands to cater to their modern needs as they no longer want to compromise or opt for the ‘Muslim alternative’.

 

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This provides mainstream brands with a unique opportunity to be brave and push new campaigns and products that will resonate with British Muslims’ financial needs and align with their lifestyles.

We found that 85% of British Muslims would be more loyal to a mainstream brand if their financial needs and lifestyle choices are catered to directly. The lack of effective brand activity creates a huge window to start building an authentic relationship through relevant, contemporary and data-backed insights.

 

Losing interest in mainstream banking

Due to the lack of competitive alternative banking options, British Muslims are settling for what mainstream banks offer.

Our research found that over half don’t want to receive interest on their bank savings, which becomes more important for those older and more affluent. This shows a massive gap between the wealth needs of modern British Muslims and what banking options are offered on the highstreet, whilst their cash savings frustratingly sit idle.

 

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83% of British Muslims under 45 say they would prefer to have an Islamic Bank account than a mainstream bank account, and if not available, over half would consider an ethical bank (such as Triodos Bank).

Highstreet banks need to re-strategise how they’re engaging their British Muslim audiences, everything from banking options to their communications approach. Existing Islamic and ethical banks need to develop insightful creative executions that appeal to modern British Muslim audiences.

 

Arif Miah is Creative Strategy Director at Mud Orange. As GO! Network members they help brands with their strategy, design and advertising needs. If you’d like to learn more about our agency network or get advice on specific challenges, get in touch here