Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I have been working for JPMorgan for 20 years, most recently as the head of the emerging markets structuring team. Early last year, I was asked to develop JPMorgan’s presence in Islamic finance globally across all the bank’s business lines. Things have really taken off this year, so I have given up all my other responsibilities to concentrate on the growth of this business.
What does your role involve?
Together with Safdar Alam, who joined us from Calyon earlier this year, I have developed a range of Shariah compliant products. We have discovered huge demand within the bank for our Islamic structuring capabilities, and much of our time has been spent responding to requests from all corners of the organization, not just from the traditional centers of Islamic finance.
In such a large and varied organization, it is essential that we maintain a coordinated approach so I have spent a sizeable amount of time educating the front, middle and back office teams on the nature of Islamic finance and the opportunities and challenges it brings.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I am pleased with how much we have achieved in such a short time. Transactions that stand out this year are our bookrunner roles in the high-profile Khazanah exchangeable and the more recent Dana Gas convertible Sukuk. Deals like these enable us to show our expertise and ability to structure deals that maximize value for clients.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
Together with our scholar Sheikh Nizam Yaquby, we have developed a platform that enables us to issue Shariah compliant certificates linked to a variety of asset classes and indices. This is proving highly popular among our business groups because of its flexibility.
What are the strengths of your business?
As with any business in this bank, our greatest asset is the JPMorgan brand. It gets us a seat at almost any table, so our challenge is to translate our huge conventional banking capabilities into attractive and competitive Islamic offerings.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
As a structurer, it is great to be part of an organization that has such deep and diverse product capabilities. There is almost nothing we cannot do if we put our minds to it, but without the strong partnership culture of the firm, we would never have been able to move forward so quickly.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
It’s not enough just to have fantastic products. We have to make sure that appropriate controls are in place so that our clients get high-quality and consistent service. My team has to set the standards for our Islamic business and make sure that we maintain them.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
It is clear that the Islamic capital markets are going from strength to strength, and I can only see that continuing. As the volume of Sukuk issuance increases, we will begin to see meaningful secondary markets, which will open up a range of new product development opportunities. Our challenge is to make sure that we can develop these products to the standards the scholars and our clients demand.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
For this market to really take hold, we need to achieve some standardization in products and structures. Conventional markets develop through standardized legal and regulatory frameworks but Shariah judgments are often much more subjective, which means that virtually every transaction has to be reviewed independently. Given the scarcity of qualified scholars, failure to standardize may prove to be a restraint on growth
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