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It had been reported that DURBAN-based Al Baraka Bank is moving into the commercial banking market with the launch of a full international foreign exchange service.

"We are one of only 24 institutions in South Africa that will be offering this complete product bouquet in international banking," the bank’s GM for international banking, Mohammed Kaka, said on Wednesday.

The Islamic bank has been an "authorised dealer with limited authority" for retail foreign exchange, offering to purchase and sell foreign bank notes to clients at 0% commission, since 2008.

"Under the new licence, Al Baraka now offers a full range of international banking services, allowing our corporate and retail clients to transact seamlessly with the rest of the world," Al Baraka Bank CE Shabir Chohan said.

The full foreign exchange service coupled with the recently launched chequebook facility would position the bank in South Africa "as a fully fledged and competitive commercial bank", Mr Chohan said.

He said the affiliation to Bahrain-based parent Al Baraka Banking Group — which is the largest Islamic banking group in the world, operating in 15 countries and employing about 10,000 people — would allow it to leverage off the group and its 14 subsidiaries around the world.

Al Baraka’s senior manager for electronic banking, Aasiya Jamal, said online banking and a drop in maximum cheque values meant cheques were used less often but Al Baraka Bank’s corporate client base had expressed a demand for a traditional chequebook facility.

The bank responded to this need by introducing a chequebook that was available to all clients and which complemented the bank’s existing array of payment channels, including online banking.

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