Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
My extensive experience in international banking, asset management, structured investment products and alternative investments, including hedge funds and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) culminated in my present position. I enjoy working for an entrepreneurial fast-expanding financial services group that specializes in bancassurance, bancaTakaful and quantitative asset management programs. My primary responsibility is international business development focused on acquiring and expanding bank distribution capacity and establishing strategic tie-ups with Takaful product providers.
What does your role involve?
It involves understanding bank customers’ financial planning needs; making presentations on the consumer value proposition and articulating consumer benefits; customizing family Takaful offerings; structuring, negotiating and managing the entire deal process, including the distribution agreement; working with different departments within the bank and other external service providers; and bringing the group’s overall team expertise together to deliver a “win/win” solution.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I originated and successfully closed three bancaTakaful deals and two strategic tie-ups with local Takaful product providers. I also spearheaded the group’s international business development into Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Malaysia.
I have edited several Euromoney publications including Islamic Asset Management, Islamic Retail Banking and Finance and Islamic Insurance: Trends, Opportunities and the Future for Takaful. I have also authored several articles for various international publications and have been invited as a speaker at various global and regional industry events.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
The FWU Group is valued for its international product and process innovation, and in creating and delivering “white label” family Takaful investment-linked plans. The differentiating factors include a state of the art internet-based point of sale and administration system available to both the bank’s distribution partner and the Takaful product provider. We also offer an open investment architecture embedding active risk control and a proprietary dynamic fund allocation model, thus pioneering the development of a unique re-Takaful solution with a global reinsurance company. The company domiciles a significant wealth of Shariah expertise in family Takaful and quantitative asset management services, and provides ongoing quality training and wholesale service support for the different bank distribution partners.
What are the strengths of your business?
I would have to say product development, process innovation, our ability to tailor the product features to match the needs of the bank distribution partner, teamwork, deal structuring, management and implementation, as well as after-sales customer care.
The FWU Group is an international financial services group based in Munich, Germany. The group has a strong entrepreneurial culture led by our chairman Dr Manfred Dirrheimer and other shareholders who include prominent institutional investors. Its core business comprises bancassurance, bancaTakaful and asset management. FWU Group is a market leader in family Takaful and unit-linked investment plans. The group has strategic tie-ups with Takaful product providers and major bank distribution partners in several important markets and is currently active in Europe, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific. Its international network includes offices in Luxembourg and Dubai and it is in the process of establishing a regional hub for its Far East business operations in Kuala Lumpur.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
An entrepreneurial culture, passion for product development, strategic vision and the ability to transform top level business vision into ground level market reality are the main factors. Our group’s customer relationship management and habit of proactively working with regulators, trade associations and industry bodies like the Islamic Finance Services Board have also propelled us to where we are now.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
The challenges primarily involve managing the speed of change, quickly responding to market and regulatory changes, developing Shariah compliant solutions that meet customer expectations, harnessing new technologies effectively, raising consumer awareness and education, maintaining productivity and enhancing service quality.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry in, say, the next five years?
Islamic finance is poised to transform from a regional business into a global one. Several global brands are active players and have successfully replicated their success from one market to another. Asset securitization, Sukuk, real estate and infrastructure development and wealth management are some of the key catalysts for growth and change in the future.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
I would like to see more product innovation, access to a wider pool of Shariah expertise, building a truly global business franchise, availability of trained industry professionals, and offering customers a much wider array of competitive choices and differentiated service standards.
The Germany-based FWU Group is in the business of creating high performance investment concepts with broad and flexible applications for institutional investors, high net worth private clients as well as affluent customers and salaried individuals.