Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I have had an interest in Islamic banking since I was at secondary school. I decided to do law as I believe that in order to do Islamic banking, you must understand legal matters.
After I graduated I joined Bank Islam in Labuan, which provided me with an opportunity to learn how cross-border transactions were carried out. Then, in mid-2002, I joined the Islamic capital market division with the corporate finance section of CIMB, and within a week I was called to discuss the setting up of an Islamic arm of the bank and that materialized – CIMB Islamic.
Despite being the head of CIMB Islamic, I have also been appointed to my current position as the chief executive officer of Commerce Tijari Bank, a member of the CIMB Banking Group.
What does your role involve?
I oversee all Islamic transactions within the CIMB group.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
My greatest achievement has been to contribute to the development of the global Islamic capital market. I was involved in the first Sukuk issuance in the world by Kumpulan Guthrie even before the government or other issuers started it. In fact, it became the template for the other issuers.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
Sukuk is very near to my heart as I was involved with the first Sukuk in the world. As such Sukuk will always be the best products among the other competitive products or services, especially when the government has resolved the tax issues on Sukuk.
What are the strengths of your business?
In most organizations, the Islamic banking department does not have any management control over the department. In CIMB, we started as an independent business division of the bank, operating like a separate bank. Other institutions with Islamic banking windows, although they have a separate balance sheet, are still not run independently. At CIMB, we manage separately. From there we can have the control over how things are handled; we can decide what products we are selling, the quality, etc. In other institutions if the products do not sell, the management scrap them.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Factors contributing to the success of CIMB Islamic:
1. Strong commitment from senior management.
2. Strong commitment of the shareholders.
3. Strong commitment of the staff.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
In any jurisdiction, obstacles will be regulatory in nature. The main one being man-made rules, which actually complicate the whole process. In one transaction you have to take care of tax, land law and so on and so forth. More often than not, we will be stuck with the regulatory framework.
To convince regulators is another obstacle. They need to be educated. We have to start explaining from scratch to resolve an issue and repeat the same issue with another department, even within the same organization. That is slowing down the process.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
At par with conventional banking products in terms of quality and competitiveness, but not so much in terms of market share, as Islamic banking has just started as compared to its conventional counterpart. The industry will definitely grow.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
Islamic finance should be the proxy to the Islamic economy and not looked at in isolation. Harping on about Islamic finance will only make it grow, but sooner or later it will stop because the body, i.e. the Islamic economy itself, is not there.
CIMB has the largest in-house dedicated Islamic capital market team in Malaysia, and one of the largest in South East Asia, overseeing all areas relating to Islamic financial transactions. It is a dedicated Islamic financial solutions boutique offering investment banking products and services in compliance with Shariah.
CIMB Islamic is responsible for CIMB Group’s Islamic finance business onshore and offshore and aims to develop a comprehensive system and range of products for our clients. CIMB Islamic also recognizes the importance of the role of financial institutions in developing the Islamic finance industry and is committed to research and product development.