Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I began my career with Prudential Assurance Company, holding various positions until my appointment in 1991 by a local banking group to start up and manage a group of financial services companies that included unit trusts, asset management, trustee services and will-writing. I rejoined Prudential as CEO of Prudential Fund Management in 2000.
What does your role involve?
My role largely involves building and driving the business, which covers retail and discretionary fund management.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Building Prudential Fund Management to what it is today – a thriving, profitable fund management business. I remember starting the company with just a handful of staff. Today, we are one of the top five largest fund management companies (in terms of funds under management), managing RM4.2 billion (US$1.21 billion) of assets.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
We have about 30 different products to meet the different financial needs of our investors. They range from the low risk capital guaranteed funds to high risk (but potentially higher returns) small cap funds. Different products meet different needs and therefore have different investment objectives, so we cannot compare our products as peers. Nonetheless, most of our funds have performed amongst the top quartile performance of their respective categories and three of our funds have been accorded awards this year.
What are the strengths of your business?
I would say “people.” The Prudential Group worldwide has a strong track record of building successful businesses, and all this is centered on having the right people in the right place. We give high priority to attracting, retaining and developing the industry’s best people to support all this strong growth and development.
And, of course there are also other important factors that play to our advantage. Prudential has a rock solid brand reputation globally and across the region.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
The DFSA started out as a new regulator in September 2004. As a new regulator, we had no “legacies” and were able to develop a regulatory regime from a “clean slate.”
I mentioned above that we have assembled a highly talented team. DFSA leaders emphasize that results (versus process) orientation and individual and team performance is rewarded based on results that align with the organization’s priorities and strategic objectives.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
We share the same challenges most fund management companies face in this business today: the industry is becoming saturated with products that are similar and the way to stay ahead is to offer products with distinctive differentiation. The challenge is further aggravated by the fact that there is a short supply of sophisticated capital market instruments. This means we are rather limited in creative innovative solutions for our customers’ ever-changing needs. This is one of the reasons why most of our funds are derived from existing products within the Prudential group.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
Great progress has been made in the Islamic capital market as its development has received much focus and prioritization by the Malaysian government. Nonetheless, there is still room for growth and improvement. I believe that much of the development in the next five years will be the realization of many of the recommendations stipulated in the goverment’s Capital Market Masterplan, which was launched in 2001.
Also, with the shortage of supply of sophisticated capital market instruments, especially those that work within the framework of the underlying tenets of Islam, much of the focus will be on creating innovative products and encouraging the development of people skilled in Islamic finance to understand the opportunities and create the instruments to meet unmet needs.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
I would like to see more uniformity in the interpretation of Islamic principles as there are different understandings in different jurisdictions. A more harmonized understanding of Islamic principles across the globe would mean that products can be sold to more markets.
In Asia, Prudential is the leading European life insurance company with a vast network of 23 life and mutual fund operations in 12 countries – China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. Since 1923, Prudential has championed customer-centric products and services, supported by over 100,000 staff and agents across the region.