Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I first started my career in conventional banking doing trade for money market, foreign exchange, bonds (domestic and foreign) and derivatives. I then became a fund manager managing a RM2 billion fund known as Dana Al-Ihsan, a Shariah compliant equity fund which was ranked second worldwide in 1998 by Falaika International Incorporated, an Islamic financial research and product development company based in Kuwait and Chicago.
I was also head of treasury at Danamodal, a recap agency under Bank Negara Malaysia, where I managed funds and a team of fund managers. My experiences in previous employment have enabled me to nurture priceless fund management skills which are of assistance to my current role in understanding the industry’s requirements, especially in crafting new Shariah products.
What does your role involve?
My role as director of Shariah investment in Prudential Fund Management Bhd (PFMB) entails building its Shariah investment business locally as well as positioning PFMB as a regional hub for Islamic fund management for the Prudential group.
To achieve these outlined objectives, we have to ensure that PFMB’s business operations are geared up to assume this new role. This preparation entails employing well-trained team members who are competent at developing and managing Shariah compliant funds.
It is also essential for PFMB to have an appropriate operational support in place and eventually set up an in-house Shariah advisers unit.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
The inception of my very first Shariah compliant equity fund, Dana Al-Ihsan, coupled with its groundbreaking performance in 1998, when the fund issued impressive returns of 107% outperforming the Kuala Lumpur Composite Index — which was recorded at a mere 69% back then.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
Again, Dana Al-Ihsan, a Shariah compliant equity fund that I developed during my tenure as a fund manager. Despite being a Shariah compliant fund, 50% of the fund’s investors were non-Muslim. I regard this as a breakthrough achievement which marked the progressive development among local investors in accepting new investment avenue.
What are the strengths of your business?
Being ‘Prudential’ is definitely our greatest strength, leveraging on our brand’s accumulated experience of over 160 years in providing investment solutions to millions of customer worldwide is of assistance to our foray in Malaysia’s financial management industry since 2001.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
The two main factors: Our network of fund management expertise in three continents, namely the US, Europe and Asia, opens doors for our business to spread its wings to an international level playing field with our locally made Shariah compliant products.Secondly, our Islamic or Shariah compliant funds have received local and international recognition, namely from The Edge-Lipper Malaysia Fund Awards, Standard & Poor’s Fund Services Ltd and Falaika Islamic Fund Award. The most recent was the Terrapinn international awards. All these attest to our fund’s aptitude in weathering both bullish and bearish market conditions.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
There are THREE challenges that could have an effect on our plans where time is concerned. First, on the global front, Shariah is interpreted widely based on mazhab, or the Islamic belief of particular countries. Second, limited human resources could have a significant impact on turning our plans to reality. Third, shortage of good human capital locally due to a small number of Shariah professionals in the market.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry, maybe in the next five years?
The increasing volume of newly set up Islamic banking institutions worldwide and the exponential growth of untapped Islamic funds, which are currently valued at a whopping US$1 trillion, have indicated an abundance of opportunity for growth.
With this in mind, Islamic finance worldwide will be seeing a flock of competitive products and services aiming for a small yet scrumptious piece of this humongous Islamic wealth.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
I want to see a level playing field in order to compete with local fund houses. Therefore, GLCs should provide room for international fund houses to compete against local peers by diversifying their investment partially.
Established in Malaysia in 1924, Prudential Assurance Malaysia is part of Prudential plc, a leading international financial services group headquartered in the UK. The company has over US$400 billion in funds under management worldwide.