If you intend to invest in Turkey, there are three main routes you should consider: banking, stocks and property. Each has its own risks and rewards, so you should think carefully and do some research before investing your money.
Turkish banks offer high interest on investments (only those accounts opened in Turkish lira, foreign currency saving accounts pay no interest). However, these high rates are counterbalanced by Turkey´s relatively high rates of inflation. If you choose to invest in a bank, research its health, interest rates, and most importantly, Turkish inflation well before you deposit any funds.
Investments are guaranteed by most banks, but to a limited extent. If you are a particularly gutsy investor, you may want to consider a repo account. Repo accounts are fixed-length deposits that pay higher interest rates in return for a guarantee that you will not withdraw the money for several months.
The Istanbul Stock Exchange has grown tremendously in the past few years. The recent recession has dampened this growth, however, and as with all stock markets, investing in it will always be a bit of a gamble. If you choose to invest in Turkish stocks, invest in conservative holdings like Turkish Airlines until you are comfortable with the market´s ups and downs.
The Istanbul Stock Exchange offers a list of banks, brokers, and other intermediary agencies that can help you plan and make your investments.
In many ways, buying property may be the safest investment you can make. Due to increased tourism, Turkey´s real estate market has expanded dramatically. In addition, Turkey has become a popular destination for foreign retirees (especially from the UK). Property prices continue to remain low, however, while their values continue to rise.
Still, there is no such thing as a guaranteed return. Investing in Turkish property is hardly a fool-proof plan, especially if the value of the lira slips once more. For more information on buying or letting property in Turkey, see our Property Guide.
Islamic law and investments
Most Turkish banks are secular, but the popularity of Islamic banks has increased steadily. Some estimates maintain that in a few years 10% of Turkish capital will be held by Islamic banks.
While Islamic banks are as financially reliable as any others, be aware that they are regulated according to Islamic law. This means that your investments will be regulated according to Islamic law, too. Do not expect to invest in alcohol, pork, or any number of other products or industries considered taboo.
In addition, be prepared to encounter bizarre and round-about finance schemes that circumvent interest collection and payment: under Islamic law, profiting from or paying out interest is forbidden. This makes Islamic mortgages very different from traditional models. In most cases, the bank will buy a property and then sell it back to you at a higher price, albeit on a payment plan.
If you find yourself investing with an Islamic bank, read up on the finer points of Islamic law at Al-Islam.org. That way, you won´t be blind-sided when your bank refuses to invest in a guitar manufacturer (purchase and sale of musical instruments is also forbidden by Islamic law).