Religious-Based Banking Practices: Almost every religious faith has a viewpoint on money and financial matters, from debt to accruing personal wealth, to the transfer of some of that wealth through charitable giving, to the kinds of products an individual should or should not invest, to paying taxes. Although charging interest, technically, is forbidden in all three Abrahamic religious faiths, observant Muslims most strictly adhere to this tenet. Rather than charging interest on a business loan, the Muslim practice is for the lending bank to enter a profit-sharing contract with the small business owner for a fair percentage in addition to repayment of the loan (interest-free). Instead of mortgage interest, the bank buys the property, then resells it to the home-owner for a fee that’s added into the principle of the loan; the home-owner then makes payments to the bank on an installment schedule for the fixed price of the loan. For example, Devon Bank in Chicago has developed several products that meet the Islamic criteria for banking that do not charge interest but still meet customers’ needs for loan financing, or rental and profit-sharing agreements.
Religious Diversity and Inclusion for Employees and Customers: Not all banks are located in communities with religious adherents who need or prefer specialized products. However, bankers should be sensitive to their employees who practice a non-Christian faith and may need special accommodations for dietary, worship or religious ritual, or grooming and appearance practices. For example, several religious faiths encourage or require adult men to wear beards that cannot be trimmed or religious headcovering, such as Sikhs, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and some Neo-Pagan faiths. Many non-Christians have religious holidays during times of the year that do not correspond with Christian or federal holidays and may need to take time off for religious observance or family obligations.
Additionally, banks should be sensitive to their customers when scheduling appointments or saying holiday greetings. During Ramadan, devout Muslims fast for most of the day and might prefer morning meetings, when they are not as hungry, to later in the day, especially when Ramadan falls during the longer days of summer. Wishing bank customers “Happy Holidays” should be the default option since not everyone celebrates Christmas. Diwali, a festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists denominations, moves around the calendar like Ramadan. Other holidays tend to stay fixed in the November-January holiday season, such as Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Tu B’Shvat, Winter Solstice, and Yuletide. While not ostensibly religious, many families of Asian descent celebrate the lunar new year, more commonly known as Chinese New Year.
Here are the best practices for accommodating religious observances:
Accommodating religious practices has minimal cost, but can generate a lot of good will in the community and among employees who feel supported in their observance and respected in their religious identity.