Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I have been involved in the financial services industry for over 25 years, holding various senior management roles. In 2004, I took up the challenge of setting up ING Funds and that is what brought me to the current position.
What does your role involve?
I currently serve as CEO and CIO of ING Funds. My role as CEO is to expand and grow the business. As CIO, I have to ensure that the products and services we offer are those which meet our clients’ needs and requirements, given the continuously changing investment environment.
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
We have achieved a lot since our humble beginnings in 2004 and we are now a significant player in the domestic fund management industry. Not many know this but we have always placed emphasis on Shariah-based investments. I am particularly proud of the fact that a major amount of the funds we manage are Shariah compliant.
We are also a great supporter of the government’s Malaysia International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) initiative. We have recently been able to structure, for a client, a Shariah-based global equity portfolio which leverages on the skills and systems available here at ING Funds and the ING Group.
In essence, we have brought together the best elements to provide Shariah-sensitive investors a portfolio which can match any in the conventional space insofar as a return on optimization and risk management are concerned.
We are proud of this achievement, which took a lot of effort and work by numerous parties here and within the ING Group, and this is an important first step for us towards making ING Funds and, ultimately, Malaysia as the world’s center of excellence for Islamic finance.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
While performance, return and size are the usual benchmarks to measure a product’s success, we place more emphasis on being able to match a client’s requirements and constraints with an optimal solution.
For example, delivering the best kind of result is when we are able to apply our skills and resources to structure a portfolio which allows access to markets or strategies which would otherwise be unavailable to Shariah-sensitive investors.
What are the strengths of your company?
I would say that ING Funds’ greatest strength is its people and its ability to tap ING Group’s resources. This allows us to not only offer our clients a huge suite of products and services, but to also provide them with exceptional servicing.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
An important factor is that we operate in a jurisdiction with an established regulatory framework and Islamic infrastructure along with a high level of investor sophistication. The objective for us is to now apply what we have learnt from our successes here to meet the challenges of offering Shariah-based products and services to a global clientele.
What are the challenges/obstacles the company faces today?
The main obstacle is probably the lack of experts in Shariah-based investing. Going ahead, however, we may see an increase in the supply of capable people produced by institutions such as the International Center for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Also, the current lack of depth and supply shortages in the global Sukuk market has also made it somewhat difficult to meet the needs of Shariah-sensitive investors who wish to diversify into global fixed income.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry in, say, the next five years?
Going ahead, Shariah-based investing will be more appealing to non-Muslims greater emphasis is placed on the “ethical” aspect of such investing. I would like to see Islamic finance, and particularly Shariah-based investing, become more mainstream and not viewed as being created by Muslims for Muslims.
Also, large investors such as pension funds and sovereign wealth funds, which have no predisposition towards Islamic investments, may also increase their allocation based on the ethical nature of Shariah-based investments.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance.
You would have heard this many times, but it is worth repeating that the world of Islamic finance needs standardization. An increase in the mutual recognition of products would certainly facilitate the management of Shariah-based investments, especially for those of us who operate across jurisdictions.