What can we expect from Maybank Islamic with regard to the theme of the 10th annual World Islamic Economic Forum, "Innovative Partnerships for Economic Growth"?
HISHAM: This is our third year in collaboration and of being a strategic partner with the World Islamic Economic Forum. We're excited at the potential prospect that the World Islamic Economic Forum provides, the platform whereby not only the global leaders are attending, but also the top business leaders as well. Now, I'm a believer that continued prosperity, continued growth, is based on economic values and the theme at this year's WIEF, innovative partnership, is timely because the global economy is getting more competitive. We are opening up our borders and this innovative partnership is the right platform and conversation that I hope and expect the World Islamic Forum could have the right conversation.
What does innovation in Islamic finance mean?
HISHAM: Islamic finance, by itself, it's innovative, it's innovation. Why I say that is because in terms of Maybank Group, over the last three or four years, we were contributing intensive asset size to the Maybank Group, about 19-18%. Now, as at the mid-year of 2014, we are already contributing about 42% of the Maybank Group in Malaysia. Now, the type of product and services, the value that Islamic finance is able to put forward, now that is in itself innovation. Or else we would not have been able to contribute to that growth, contribute to the profitability and contribute to the values that we put and that we cherish not only to our shareholders, but to our customers as well. So that's, by itself is innovation and I do hope that we can have more, and explore this conversation in the next coming WIEF.
How do you see Islamic financial services playing a pivotal role in enabling trade?
HISHAM: Islamic Finance could bridge, among others, the OIC countries and also to the western world; and I'm confident that using Islamic Finance as a platform to bridge the trade and to bridge the economies. I'm a believer that if the economic value, the economic growth prosper, that would not only benefit the industry, but also benefit the country. Again, using Islamic finance as a bridge to prosperity and economic growth of the various OIC and non-OIC countries.
What is your outlook for the Islamic finance industry globally?
HISHAM: Well, we are blessed. We are the region which has tremendous growth, in ASEAN, and what Islamic finance can do, and we've seen this over the last 3-4 years, is compliment that growth. Now, for ASEAN, it's not only the inter-trade among the ASEAN countries, but also talking about ASEAN trade going abroad to the global market, particularly in Europe, the Middle East, and of course in America, in the United States as well.
Our focus is connecting the growth of ASEAN to the various regions. Of course, most definitely in the GCC, you have more of a mature market for the Islamic finance side, whereas the new markets, we would like to target more stable enterprises and sovereigns as a start. So, I think the name of the game is to look at both links, trade between ASEAN and trade with the rest of the world.
Our focus is connecting the growth of ASEAN to the various regions.
What challenges do your foresee with regard to Islamic financial sector growth?
HISHAM: The challenge in Islamic finance and also in the global economy is to predict or to identify what is the next shock. I am a believer where there is always an economic cycle. But the key important part, not only in terms of Islamic finance, but also in general for the economy of any country, is to ensure the fundamentals of a country, the fundamentals of the economy are intact and prepared for any potential shock that we may be facing. The best example was seen in the 1997-1998 financial crisis and of course the 2008-2009 financial crisis as well. The question is how we are able to absorb that shock, and the focus is to ensure the country is fundamentally well prepared.
What does an institution such as Maybank Islamic gain from the upcoming WIEF event in Dubai?
HISHAM: Well, first and foremost, it's a privilege and an honor that we are able to partner with the World Islamic Economic Forum. The World Islamic Economic Forum itself is a platform where world leaders and the top business leaders converge and have conversation and discussion. So, that by itself in our association with the World Islamic Economic Forum, is a privilege and an honour on it's own. I'm looking forward especially to the topic of conversation about innovative partnerships that we are looking at. Year on year, that we're seeing at the World Islamic Economic Forum, be it last year in London, the two years ago in Iskandar, in Johor, is not only the potential business transaction, but also the business connectivity that opens up new doors and sustains that partnership. That's very important in business; that's very important in finance.
Which topics and points of discussion do you think are most important and relevant today with regard to Islamic finance?
HISHAM: Well, I hope there's still a lot more conversation about trade and cross-border transaction. I'm particularly interested in Waqaf, or endowment, and also Zakat, and hopeful that conversation is ongoing in the upcoming World Islamic Economic Forum. The key topic as we all know over the last couple of years, be it in the West or in the East, is about equality. Conversation about fund endowment, such as Waqaf and Zakat, would be able to hopefully shed some light in terms of potential solutions that we could provide to the society while we have this super economic growth in our countries.