EFFORTS IN CONCERT

Malaysia 2017 | FINANCE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ismitz Matthew De Alwis, CEO of Kenanga Investors, on the range of services required to meet the investment needs and working towards unlocking the Islamic wealth pool.

Ismitz Matthew De Alwis
BIOGRAPHY
Ismitz Matthew De Alwis is the CEO for Kenanga Investors, the asset management arm of Kenanga Investment Bank Berhad. He has 24 years of experience, starting his career as an investment analyst with a regional research and advisory firm, where he obtained regional exposure in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Dubai, and Singapore. He joined Kenanga Investors in 2013 upon the acquisition of ING Investment Management’s Malaysia outfit. He has attended the Advanced Business Management Program by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Lausanne and holds a MBA. In addition, he has a bachelor’s degree in business administration and qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Marketing UK and is a certified financial planner (CFP).

How are financial services horizontally integrated within the Kenanga Group?

Kenanga Investors Group is the asset management arm of Kenanga Investment Bank Berhad which consists of both conventional and Islamic entities. Kenanga is proud to be an award winning asset Management Company recognized for its investment performance and strong growth in recent years. We are one of only eight private retirement scheme licensed providers in Malaysia. We serve multi-segment investors from retail, corporate, institutional, and high-net worth individuals via a multi-distribution network. Our commitment to our clients drives us to achieve consistent top performance in our business. Previously, we were predominantly known as an institutional player. We managed pension funds, Malaysian GLCs, and large corporate clients. We have now diversified our strategies to include mass retail markets through multi-distribution channels. Over the past few years, our company has recorded consistent track records, solid investment strategies, and good risk governance for a more balanced value proposition for our clients. Moving ahead, we plan to further grow our clientele in the mass affluent to high-net worth segment market. In international standards, this includes individuals with assets ranging between USD100,000 and USD1 million. With the growing economy of Malaysia, there is also an increase in the segment of working and educated professionals with disposable income. We have initiated our private wealth arm to focus specifically on this segment market to provide financial advisory to meet their investment needs and accelerate their wealth accumulation.

How do you position Malaysia within the larger ASEAN region?

Our current strategy and strength is primarily for the Malaysian centric market. We do have a growing clientele across ASEAN; however, our investment focus has been Malaysia; therefore, we do build strategic alliances with our counterparts in other investment destinations. In today's volatile and highly specialized markets, it is much more efficient to work in this manner than to set up offices abroad; and this strategy has led to much better results for us. For example, Kazakhstan, a country that would normally look to London or Dubai as their financial hub, could now consider Malaysia as we are geographically and culturally closer. In practical terms, companies in the same time zone as their investors would have additional benefits; from Malaysia, we will be able work with Singapore, Japan, China, and Hong Kong with ease. The global investment world is not yet entirely borderless; working with specialized boutique investment mangers with on-the-ground knowledge reaps more benefits. We are a homegrown Malaysian investment firm with more than 40 years of experience, serving many international investors looking for a Malaysian strategy.

How did Kenanga become the investor of choice for Malaysian GLCs and institutional investors?

This is mainly due to concerted efforts across the group and to being focused with our strategy in delivering consistent top-performance, remaining true to our investment objectives and having a vibrant investment team. Also on the governance side, our investment risk management consists of a highly skilled team that monitors all the parameters in the Malaysian standards whilst adopting international standards and best practices into our system. Investors prefer this long-term vision and sustainable performance as it fits their investment appetite. For three-, five-, and 10-year mutual funds, we have consistently been recognized as the top equity manager in Malaysia. For the past two years, we have been building our expertise and track record for regional equities in Asia Pacific, ASEAN, and our fixed income (sukuk and conventional), which will continue to open new avenues and unlock funds among institutional and private investors in both the conventional and Muslim world. Our Islamic products are now focused on equities and fixed income funds whilst we believe there will be further growth in this area. There is a global Islamic wealth pool of around USD11-12 trillion that could be unlocked in the years ahead.