Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I studied law in England and was called to the English Bar, having completed my Masters in law. Having decided to do something different after five years of law, I then moved into consulting. I joined a consulting firm, Monitor Group. I joined Calyon in January 2002. I helped the bank in different areas of Islamic banking, including restructuring and loan syndication, on an ad hoc basis until 2003. In June 2004, the bank decided to have a dedicated Islamic banking unit in Bahrain, where I was given the responsibility of heading the team. The Islamic banking unit was officially launched in November 2004.
What does your role involve?
As the head, I lead the team to co-ordinate all of Calyon Group’s Islamic banking activities, which offer a range of Islamic products to meet the needs of our customers in the Middle East and in the rest of the world.
The Islamic Banking Unit also serves as a support for all Calyon business lines and lends its expertise to all kinds of Islamic finance arrangements..
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Our biggest achievement was completing the US$500 million three-year commodity Murabahah syndication for Al Rajhi. This was the first time Al Rajhi had ever borrowed money from the public market. Al Rajhi is the largest Islamic bank in the world. Calyon was appointed as the financial advisor for Al Rajhi – we were the lead arranger as well as the book-runner.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
I wouldn’t want to say which one delivers the best results as we have the full range of financing as well as capital market and investment banking products. Each one has its own strengths that fulfil the requirements of the clients.
What are the strengths of your business?
We are very strong in equity financing, making us in the top five project financiers in the world, the top five in aviation, as well as the top five in shipping. In terms of loan syndication, Calyon is number two now. We have strong track record in asset-based financing.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
The factors are:
- Our excellent client relationship. Our clients have been very supportive of us.
- The approach that we take. We do not try to offer to our clients. We try to understand the customer first and then we structure the product to meet our customers’ requirements.
- We are number five in the world right now in terms of equity and assets. We are in more than 50 countries in the world, including an offshore office in Labuan.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
One of the challenges is to tap into the local market, Indonesia and Malaysia, because we do not have the local licenses. We cannot do Malaysian ringgit and we cannot do Indonesian rupiah, when the bulk of Islamic finance is in ringgit or ruppiah.
The second challenge is the differences in interpretation and the standardization, not only on Shariah issues, but also regarding the documentation. In conventional finance we have common documentation that can be used as a template for other syndications. However, in Islamic banking, we do not have such a thing. So every time we do a deal, we have to start from scratch, have it approved by the Shariah council and we tend to get bogged down.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
It will become the dominant form of finance in different parts of the world, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia, the sleeping giant of the Islamic finance market. The fact is that the people there are Muslims, so eventually they will opt for Islamic finance.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
One thing that I would like to see is the Shariah harmonization, not only intra-regional, but also within the same region. I mean there should be some kind of standardization among the players within the region. I think Shariah boards have too much power, to the extent that they sometimes dictate according to what they consider proper, ignoring other views. However, in some countries, such as Malaysia, the Central Bank is working towards standardization by having a central Shariah Board, or what they term the Shariah Advisory Council.
Calyon is the corporate and investment banking subsidiary of Credit Agricole S.A.. It was formed from the merger of Credit Agricole Indosuez and Crédit Lyonnais’ Corporate and Investment Banking division. Calyon is now a leading player in financial markets and its international network enables it to serve its major corporate clients throughout the world.
With 12,000 staff in 55 countries, Calyon specialises in capital markets, investment banking and financing.