Italian money manager Azimut Holding will jointly manage its Islamic bonds fund with Maybank Asset Management Group to cater to growing demand for hard currency sukuk products. The partnership will allow the fund to penetrate new markets including Malaysia and Singapore, where Maybank Asset Management already operates. Azimut launched its global sukuk fund in 2013 which has over $130 million in assets. Maybank Asset Management launched a U.S. dollar-denominated sukuk fund of its own in 2014. Sukuk funds remain tiny compared to their conventional fixed-income counterparts, but the sukuk market has widened in recent years thanks to an increasing number of issuers and investors.
Baiza Bain had the opportunity to attend the recent World Islamic Economic Forum.
“It was a surreal experience as I had the opportunity to interact with a number of international delegates on areas that are outside my realm of Islamic finance. The various conversations I had certainly allowed me to have a different perspective on my area of practice. It made me realise that there are many ways in which Islamic finance could evolve to keep up with the rapidly changing times.
So, in what way has Islamic finance tried to keep up with the times? I remember having a conversation with an old friend who highlighted a unique initiative that is currently being worked on. This initiative was actually announced under Budget 2015. Called the Investment Account Platform (IAP), its aim is to diversify the roles that are currently being played by the Islamic financial institutions by way of adding on the responsibility of being an investment intermediary.
The asset management arm of Malaysia's Malayan Banking Bhd has launched its first U.S. dollar-denominated mutual fund that invests in Islamic bonds. The new fund will invest partly in sukuk issued from Gulf countries. This is rare for Malaysian funds, because there is an abundant supply of local ringgit-denominated sukuk, but demand for dollar-denominated paper has been growing. The fund will initially be available to Malaysian investors only, although the firm plans to distribute the fund overseas as well, Nor' Azamin Salleh, chief executive of Maybank Asset Management Group Bhd, said.