Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
The awareness that I have been building bridges between cultures all my life motivated me to build a new bridge between cultures. I joined Credit Suisse in 2005 with the mandate to build up its Islamic banking business, focusing on asset gathering and building an Islamic private banking culture. The business bases its activities in compliance with Shariah, while harnessing Credit Suisse’s long tradition in the field of private banking.
I was previously director of asset management at UBS AG for fixed income, based in Zurich, Switzerland. My career at UBS AG started in 1995 when I joined SBC’s Luxembourg entity as a senior portfolio manager to the Fixed Income Team. Due to a change in the Swiss taxation law, SBC’s management decided to concentrate the management of its mutual funds in Basel, Switzerland. SBC moved me, along with the business, to Switzerland. In 2000 I embarked on another project focusing on Islamic asset management.
What does your role involve?
I have various roles: I act as a facilitator, providing solutions to our clients, increasing awareness of Islamic finance, as well as marketing activities.
In addition to various activities that aim to integrate cultures between the orient and the occident, I also love the role of a father and being with my family all the time they need me.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
From 1993 to 1995, I was a dealer and member of the supervisory board at Arab Bank, based in Frankfurt. Arab Bank is the oldest and one of the largest and most widely distributed Arab banks in the world. As a result of UBAE’s closure, Arab Bank in Frankfurt – as a wholly owned subsidiary of Arab Bank – was created in June 1993. I was the only staff member of UBAE Luxembourg who was asked by the management of Arab Bank to move to Frankfurt am Main. Although the bank was newly created and did not merit the guarantee of its owner, I managed to obtain bank deposits exceeding US$500 million, with a daily foreign exchange volume of US$20 million from non-banking organizations.
The two Shariah compliant mutual funds I created during my time at Credit Suisse have also been very successful. However, my greatest personal achievement is when a satisfactory solution has been designed to suit the customer’s needs.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
Each product was created to address a certain need. Two Shariah compliant mutual funds I have created in the past have been very successful. The Islamic Banking Unit at Credit Suisse speaks for itself, with its two teams based in Zurich and London. The latter focuses mainly on financing issues, while the Zurich team focuses on investment-related issues, with the understanding that the needs of each team determine product development, with continuous coordination between marketing and structuring.
Currently, Credit Suisse also offers Islamic banking activities out of its offices in Switzerland, the UK, Singapore and some countries in the Middle East.
What are the strengths of your business?
A quick answer is the trust clients put in us. This trust is based on our client centricity, our innovative thinking, as well as our global presence with a local approach which addresses clients’ needs.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Besides our strong client focus, in my view our internal working culture enhancing innovation based on solution-finding is our main success factor.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
“Obstacles” is a word that I don’t know. In every obstacle is an opportunity that leads to new ways and horizons. So in my view, every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
I see a growing acceptance of the industry in the west, especially as Islamic products offer an alternative investment scheme.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
I’d love to see the industry focusing on genuine Islamic products rather than offering new products that are Shariah compliant. Islamic finance should present itself as it is and avoid replicating what conventional banking is offering.
Credit Suisse Group is a global financial services company headquartered in Zurich. As an integrated, global bank, Credit Suisse provides its clients with services in the areas of investment banking, private banking and asset management worldwide. Founded in 1856, Credit Suisse can call upon a long tradition and many years of experience in the banking business. It provides companies, institutional clients and high net worth private clients worldwide, as well as retail clients in Switzerland, with advisory services, comprehensive solutions and innovative products.