By Bernardo Vizcaino
LONDON, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Malaysia's Malayan Banking Bhd , the country's largest lender, has launched an Islamic asset management unit to cater to growing investor appetite for sharia-compliant investment products.
The Islamic asset management sector is gradually making a comeback after years of stagnation, having seen a total of 88 funds liquidated globally in the past two years as slumping equity markets reduced investor interest.
Firms such as Britain's Threadneedle Investments, which set-up in Malaysia this month, now plan Islamic funds that screen their portfolios following religious guidelines such as bans on tobacco, alcohol and gambling.
The new unit would leverage the Maybank group's network of business lines, which range from consumer banking to Islamic insurance, as well as its geographical presence across Asia.
"The missing link within the Maybank group is Islamic asset management," Nor Azamin Salleh, chief executive of Maybank asset management said on Tuesday.
The new unit aims to launch Asian-themed investment funds using a bottom-up investment strategy, with products to be marketed primarily in Malaysia and Indonesia, Salleh said.
"We are looking at trying to bring an ASEAN plus North Asia product. Our approach is more on the ground, a bottom-up approach," he said.
Earlier this month, Maybank acquired Indonesian asset management firm PT GMT Aset Manajemen, and it would also explore opportunities in the Middle East through Maybank Investment Bank's stake in Saudi Arabia's Anfaal Capital, Salleh added.