Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I have been with the HSBC Group for the past 35 years. I have done most jobs there are to do within HSBC, which included some exciting ones such as managing the Treasury function for four years and thereafter heading the Group Audit function for another four years.
I have also worked in the retail, corporate, branch and area management functions. In late 2002, when I was managing the Klang Valley region, I was offered four job options within the bank to progress to and one of them was to head Islamic banking operations. I did not hesitate to choose the latter as I felt that I could add value to the business, besides it is something that is close to my heart this late in my career.
What does your role involve?
My role is to manage the overall Islamic banking operations of HSBC in Malaysia, with linkages to the Middle East, where the HSBC Amanah head office is located. My focus was to grow the business, which at that time was very small within the bank.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
To have been able to develop and grow the Islamic banking business for HSBC Malaysia from a non-player into what it is today – the largest and leading player in the Islamic finance industry among all the foreign banks in Malaysia.
Amongst all banks we stand at about fifth or sixth depending on the measurement we adopt. This has been achieved over the last three or so years with very good support from the management, staff and more importantly, our customers.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
We currently have two hero products, especially in the retail market, with our Amanah Personal Financing-i being one – better known as Anytime Money, our marketing name. We set the trend and standard in the marketplace, being the very first to launch such a product that is Shariah compliant. We were also the very first to go into the unsecured financing market in a big way.
Secondly we have the recently launched Amanah Smart-i account, which allows the customer to manage his or her personal finance through our internet banking service. Again, we were the first in the market to develop and offer such an innovative product.
What are the strengths of your business?
Besides being very innovative onshore in Malaysia, which is our key strength, we also have the global connectivity with our other group offices and branches elsewhere, especially in the Middle East, to exchange ideas and strategies.
HSBC generally is known for being second to none in service standards, which is also a forte of ours in delivering award-winning customer engagement and experience.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Continued management commitment to the business and also the Malaysian market, which is beginning to develop the Islamic finance industry at a far greater pace than the conventional market. HSBC Amanah is well positioned to take advantage of this through our leading role in the market.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
IT systems are beginning to be a huge challenge for us in the Islamic finance industry, given the need to ensure that Shariah compliance extends into the customer experience arena and yet also to maintain the credibility and authenticity that is required for this business.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
I can only see this going one way, and that is up. There is huge potential for the business to grow and we have just scratched the surface. Muslims around the world will move, over time, towards the need to do their banking in a Shariah compliant manner in line with their beliefs. For HSBC Amanah, we are well positioned to be able to satisfy the needs of these local communities in keeping with our tagline line of “The World’s Local Bank.”
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
Islamic finance is a very nascent industry when compared to conventional finance, which has been around for much longer, and has developed tremendously over the last two decades. As such there is much to do within the industry. As an example, for Islamic finance to grow there is a need for greater harmonization of the business amongst the many countries that are involved in this industry. These would include Shariah, IT systems and cross-border products, to name just a few.
HSBC Amanah is the global Islamic banking division of the HSBC Group, and was established in 1998 with the aim of making HSBC the leading provider of Islamic banking worldwide. With more than a hundred professionals serving the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Americas, HSBC Amanah represents the largest Islamic banking team of any international bank.