Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I was approached by the Muslim Community Cooperative (Australia) (MCCA) board in 2002 to turn around the organization. The skills required for this included having the ability to deal with government authorities and institutional funders; as well as being able to mobilize the community. For MCCA, while the pursuit of profit is of prime importance, the main focus and thrust is to support and build the community.
What does your role involve?
My role involves providing strategic direction for new business ventures and negotiations; the development of new products; providing leadership for the organization; as well as paving the way to empower the community. Eventually it is to create mutuality by the strengthening of Muslim communities through economics, and the strengthening of economics through community activities.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
There are a few: turning around the business and successfully working with the state revenue office and securing a double stamp duty exemption through legislation from the Victorian government. In addition we have developed off-balance sheet funding through a collaboration with conventional funders and we have launched the Crescent Ethical Managed Discretionary Account using Shariah screened shares for the Australian Stock Market.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
Our Islamic home financing packages offer competitive and flexible variable and fixed rates, and also cater for low and fast documents. The Islamic home financing package captures a wide spectrum of the Muslim market since its rate is as competitive as conventional home financing.
What are the strengths of your business?
The MCCA brand has earned the trust of the community. Even though it is owned and managed as a business, MCCA, with more than 8,000 members, is strongly tied to the community. Wealth generation has always been channelled back into the community.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Muslims in Australia can engage within the system; ensuring product development that is consistent with Islamic beliefs, through appreciation and understanding of regulators and public institutions. A strong management team with a willingness to explore opportunities and take risks with product innovation has contributed to the success of MCCA.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
Obstacles come from legal constraints and interpretations, as well as diverse interpretations of “Shariahness.” Thus MCCA focuses not only on similarities, but also on the differences at both an institutional level and between Muslim groups. Other challenges of limited resources and demography are also becoming relevant to our business.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
I see the prominence of Islamic finance as growing globally. While Muslims are predominantly consumers, I am concerned that the wealth generated from this industry will not benefit in strengthening and empowering the Muslim communities. We need to seek ways for key players to share similar passions and their commitment for community development. Thus more engagements between Islamic finance practitioners and public policy makers are needed.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
The mindset and the commitment for social and distributive justice through wealth distribution. I would like to see wealth not concentrated only in the hands of a few familiar institutions. The benefits must also trickle down into the community so as to fulfil the basic foundation of Islamic economics.
The Muslim Community Co-operative (Australia), better known as MCCA, was founded in 1989. The aim was to provide a practical model of Islamic finance in Australia. Since then MCCA has become the most widely recognized Islamic financial services provider in Australia, with over 8,000 members and about AUS$30 million (US$22.64 million) in assets. The majority of MCCA’s assets are in property.
MCCA’s investments are primarily in the provision of funds for house purchase. Islamic economics is based on Shariah, the Islamic law. The basic objective of Shariah is to ensure general human well– being and socio-economic justice.