Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I started my career as an advocate & solicitor with a law firm based in Kuala Lumpur where I specialized in corporate & commercial law and Islamic finance. The firm I worked with had a niche practice in the area of Islamic finance and I was fortunate to have been involved in some exciting and groundbreaking work. After several fulfilling years in private practice, I joined CIMB Islamic (the Islamic finance division of the CIMB Banking Group based in Kuala Lumpur) in 2003. At CIMB Islamic, my focus was Islamic capital markets and I had the opportunity to work on many interesting and innovative transactions during my time there. Subsequently, I joined HSBC Amanah as the Head of Sukuk in 2004.
What does your role involve?
The incumbent has overall responsibility for the development of the Sukuk business at HSBC Amanah (and hence HSBC Group). It involves originating and executing Sukuk transactions in all jurisdictions, and assisting in the distribution of the Sukuk.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
It is difficult to single out a particular achievement as being the greatest. I certainly experience a great sense of achievement when we successfully convince a client to issue Sukuk, especially when the client has several other options available to it. Another achievement would be when clients appreciate the Shariah reasoning for certain components of a structure and decide to adopt them even though it would not have been required of them had they opted for a conventional financing solution.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
My role is a product-focused role within HSBC Amanah and hence, my products all fall within the category of Islamic capital market.
What are the strengths of your business?
The Sukuk business is a relatively new business that has yet to achieve critical mass. However, it is a business that is set to grow at a rapid pace in the coming years. HSBC Amanah is a pioneer in the Sukuk space and these two factors i.e. the expected rapid growth of, and HSBC Amanah’s experience in the Sukuk business, will certainly help us build the business into something significant.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Over the years, we have built the business in strict compliance with Shariah and the HSBC Amanah brand name has become associated with Islamic finance services and products of the highest standards. Another factor is certainly the reputation of the HSBC banking group and the confidence the market has in the Group, and the symbiotic relationship between HSBC Amanah and the larger HSBC banking group has had an amazing positive effect on our success.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
One would be the tendency to develop Islamic instruments that mirror the conventional “equivalents”. Some of the features of conventional instruments that are incorporated into Islamic instruments often result in Shariah scholars expressing reservations but such instruments are nevertheless approved as industry players argue that these are necessary to ensure the success of the transaction.
Another point of concern is the lack of depth in the Islamic investor base. Sukuk transactions seem to have a maturity ceiling of 7 years and this often creates a problem for issuers who require longer term funding.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
From the perspective of the Middle East, the industry is certainly expected to grow at a rapid pace. Businesses are still educating themselves on the options available in the Islamic finance market and many are beginning to conduct their operations (and not just their funding activities) in a Shariah compliant manner. This industry driven demand for Islamic finance augurs well for the future of Islamic finance.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
There is a lot of competition in Islamic finance and this is certainly a good sign. However, I also believe that a significant amount can be achieved if industry players were to work together not only to enhance revenues but more importantly, to develop, improve and nurture the growth of the industry. It is extremely important for financial institutions in the arena of Islamic finance to assist industry bodies like AAOIFI, IFSB and IIFM.
HSBC Amanah is privileged to have played a key role in the growth of the Shariah compliant debt. Since arranging the first international Sukuk issuance for the Government of Malaysia in 2002, it has brought a number of sovereigns and corporate to a nascent transnational Islamic debt capital market.