Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I am the founder, director and chief executive officer of First Islamic Investment Bank (renamed Arcapita Bank), Bahrain, which was formed through the acquisition of another company I had earlier launched, Majestic Global Investments.
I also founded Commerce MGI in Malaysia and was a senior executive in investment banking with the Dallah Al Baraka Group in Saudi Arabia, where I established the Kuwait Reconstruction Fund with issued capital of US$175 million. I also worked in Kuwait Finance House, where I was made responsible for a US$420 million trade financing portfolio. I was also a partner in The International Investor, where I was in charge of developing global business.
I established a close relationship with UBS Investment Bank (USA) and engaged them to assist in the capital-raising for the unique, multi-line Islamic business model represented by Unicorn Investment Bank.
What does your role involve?
I am an entrepreneur and I see my role as bringing the vision and passion to Unicorn.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
As well as founding Unicorn Investment Bank, I also founded First Islamic Bank (now called Arcapita).
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
The point about Unicorn is that we have adopted a western-style investment banking model based on multiple businesses: asset management, corporate finance, capital markets, treasury, mergers and acquisitions, private equity and Takaful. Across all of these divisions we are committed to performance and compliance with Shariah principles. We deliberately do not focus on one particular product or service and have launched a number of innovative funds and Sukuk that are noteworthy: KSA 1 Real Estate, KSA MBS 1, TID Global Sukuk, Gulf Springs, etc.
What are the strengths of your business?
The experience of the management team and our Shariah board enables Unicorn to fuse the best practices and performance levels of western banking with the ethics of Islamic finance.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
The market is buoyant and we have discovered there is a strong appetite amongst our clients for innovative advice and new products. Business leaders and owners are waking up to the fact that there are more effective ways to capitalize and grow their operations than just by taking a bank loan.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
We are fortunate to have attracted such high quality people to Unicorn, because it is the human capital of any firm that determines its success.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
I hope we will continue to see the development of a sophisticated and liquid capital market in the Middle East where all types of businesses actively embrace Sukuk issuance and equity finance as effective instruments to raise their capital. Smaller businesses and family-owned business still default to bank loans as sources of capital because they may be unaware of the better options now available.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
Above all, I believe Islamic financial institutions should embrace research and development. This is a valuable lesson we can learn from western institutions, which invest heavily in research and development. Research and development is sometimes seen as an expensive business cost, but I believe it is a vital investment, essential for innovation, growth and performance.
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.