Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I began my banking career with Maybank in April 1978 when I was selected to join its international department as a foreign exchange and money market dealer. In May 1981, I was transferred to Maybank’s London branch and became its manager in 1984. I returned to Malaysia the following year and worked with Maybank until July 1987.
Before Affin Fund Management, I joined Affin Merchant Bank (as it was known then) in July 1990 as manager in the treasury division and the last position I held there was first vice-president in the treasury and investment division until August 2002. I was appointed CEO of Affin Fund Management on the 1st March 2004.
What does your role involve?
As the CEO, I am responsible for the overall profitability of Affin Fund Management, devising business strategies and charting out a road map for the company in terms of asset growth as well as ensuring our operations complies with all regulatory guidelines and requirements. I also offer guidance to my staff and help plan their career development within the company.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I helped to introduce the ACI Malaysia Certificate Examination as part of the licensing requirement for all future foreign exchange and money market traders in Malaysia. I consider that to be one of my greatest achievements and major contribution to the industry. The examination was first conducted in Affin Merchant Bank and has since become an industry standard.
As far as the company is concerned, we successfully merged the operations of Affin Trust Management with Affin Fund Management in 2007. This has enabled the new organization to manage both corporate and retail entities such as unit trust companies, pension funds, insurance companies and high net-worth clients through discretionary and direct mandates. Assets under management have also increased from RM75 million (US$20.7 million) in 2004 to RM480 million (US$132.5 million) in December 2008.
Which of your products / services deliver the best results?
To date, our Shariah compliant trust fund, Dana Islamiah Affin, has been performing very well and consistently yielding double-digit dividends. We expect the fund to continue generating good returns.
What are the strengths of your business?
We have developed our own in-house Investment Decision Model (IDM), which we have used successfully since 2005. IDM is a quantitative and disciplined process that leverages on technology to overcome the natural limitations of human decision-making.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Affin Fund derives its strength from its ultimate shareholder, the Armed Forces Benevolent Fund (LTAT) and board of directors who has always believed in our capabilities and has continued to provide guidance and support to us.
We are also fortunate to have committed, dedicated and talented people with us. Most have been with Affin Funds since it began operations in 1997 and grown along with the company. By employing the right methodology, working alongside dedicated staff, and with the steadfast support of our shareholders, we have been able to achieve success, slowly but surely.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
One obstacle is that Affin Funds’ distribution outfits are not as strong when compared to some of our peers in the industry, as we are reliant on the bank branches of our sister company Affin Bank to support us. Fortunately, some institutional unit trust agents have since come on board as authorized distributors of our funds.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry in, say, the next five years?
Looking at the Islamic finance industry as a whole, I believe there is tremendous opportunity for its continued growth. As long as the products are competitively priced and innovative, they will appeal not only to Shariah compliant investors but also to those who have consistently used conventional structures. Going forward, I believe Islamic finance will play an important role in the current financial system as a strong and credible alternative to conventional financing.
For its part, Malaysia has a head start over many other countries as it ventured into Islamic finance very early on, and other countries now look to it as a reference point. With the emergence of regional markets also vying to be international Islamic financial hubs, Malaysia has to iron out any compliance issues on Shariah requirements to keep its position.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance.
There are some Shariah compliant products in the market, in my opinion, that are merely a mirror of their conventional counterparts. Therefore, innovation and originality for Shariah compliant products need to be addressed.
Although I am not an authority on Shariah matters and I do not have an in-depth knowledge of compliance requirements, I sincerely believe that whenever there’s a doubt, we should always go back to the basic tenets of Islam.