BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Standard Chartered Securities, a subsidiary of Standard Chartered Bank, is now offering Syariah-compliant investments after establishing the first Islamic banking window in Brunei.

Standard Chartered Securities is the first capital market service license holder in the country to be granted approval by Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam (AMBD) and the Syariah Financial Supervisory Board (SFSB) to conduct Islamic investment business through an Islamic window.

Islamic window is a separate department or section within a conventional bank, which operates under strict guidance from a Syariah body to develop and offer Islamic financial products.

During the launch of the Syariah-compliant investments on Monday, Chairman of Standard Chartered Securities Pg Aki Ismasufian Pg Hj Ibrahim described the formation of the first Islamic window in Brunei as a significant milestone for the bank and financial sector.

Pg Aki, who is also CEO of Standard Chartered Bank, said discussions began with regulators on how they can start offering Islamic investments after the establishment of Standard Chartered Securities in 2016 and taking into consideration that Brunei is a Muslim-majority country.

“However, we don’t have an Islamic license. We are a conventional bank globally, [but] we do have our Islamic banking arm in certain markets, for example in the Middle East. In this region, Standard Chartered Saadiq in Malaysia is our Islamic banking arm,” he said in an interview with The Scoop.

Attendees at the launch of Standard Chartered Securities’ Syariah-compliant investment funds. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Noting that there is only one Islamic bank in Brunei, he said offering Syariah-compliant funds is a positive move for Standard Chartered Securities because it gives an opportunity for everybody — clients, potential clients and the community — more avenues and choices.

Pg Aki added that it also widens the door for Brunei to establish itself as an Islamic financial hub by 2035.

CEO of Standard Chartered Securities Brenda Low said the bank seized the opportunity to set up an Islamic window, which is permitted for a capital market license holder under the Securities Markets Order.

“We are able to launch the window and distribute two Syariah-compliant funds – RHB Global Sukuk Fund and RHB Islamic Global Developed Markets Fund.

“We will continue to grow the [number of funds], so that we will give our clients a wider choice when they are looking for investments or looking to build their investment portfolio,” she added.

Low said its Syariah-compliant funds are separated from conventional investments, and supervised by an independent global Syariah Supervisory Committee.

In his speech, Home Affairs Minister YB Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Kerna Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Hj Awang Abu Bakar Hj Apong said there is an increasing demand for investments despite the COVID-19 pandemic and current economic conditions.

The minister attended the event in his capacity as the deputy chairman of Autoriti Monetari Brunei Darussalam.

“From 2019 to 2020, investor participation in investment funds alone showed an average increase of 61.6 percent year-on-year, of which about 20 percent of the investments are in Islamic funds,” he said.

In terms of fund offerings, YB Pehin Dato Dr Hj Abu Bakar said only about seven percent of funds offered are Syariah-compliant.

He hoped that financial institutions will cater to this growing demand, especially in Islamic funds.

YB Pehin (Dr) Hj Awang Abu Bakar said Islamic windows promote the conduct of Islamic finance and facilitate advancement towards full-fledged Islamic financial business.

“It enables the offering of a wider variety of investment products and services to investors who are looking for Syariah-compliant investments. It also promotes competition among the financial institutions in the country,” he added.