Shari’ah investing, a form of ethical investing, is arguably a scarcely understood discipline within discretionary fund management (DFM), even by seasoned investment professionals. With its Quranic basis and grounded in Islamic trite law (Shari’ah law), there is the belief that Shari’ah investing is exclusively for investors who follow Islam. This is a misconception, says Imraan Khan, Research and Investment Analyst at Glacier Invest.
Specific investment objectives
Shari’ah investing helps investors who have an ethical or moral interest in where their money is being invested. Shari’ah-compliant funds avoid stocks and shares in any company or industry whose core business and revenue are derived from non-halaal (forbidden or haraam) sources. They also pursue companies focused on sustainable, planet-conscious processes.
Shari’ah investing presents challenges, says Khan. Of the 164 stocks on the All Share, only 74 are Shari’ah-compliant. The Shari’ah investable universe, therefore, is quite limited. The stocks we focus on are mainly in the resources and property sectors. We focus on transparent companies that have been around for decades, and have limited debt which would make them financially stable, says Khan. And of course, they have to meet our due diligence requirements for consideration.
Choosing Shari’ah funds – as with all other funds available on the Glacier platform – is a complex process, says Khan. Transparency, adherence to strict principles and screening of the funds and their managers are critical to our methodology. Due diligence involves key resources from our team of 31 investment professionals at Glacier Invest. We interview, interrogate, prod and probe, until we are satisfied that all criteria are met. One example is that every fund we consider must have a Shari’ah supervisory board made up equally of clerics as well as financial professionals.
In the main, the banking sector does not feature in our universe, says Khan, because of the income derived from interest and the sector’s emphasis on debt. Instead, Shari’ah funds rely heavily on sukuks – Islamic bonds structured in a way to generate returns to investors through loans that do not generate riba. In SA, murabaha sukuks are used mainly, which means participation of ownership in a company or underlying tangible asset where the cost and profits are disclosed upfront.
For a few reasons, Shari’ah funds are more volatile than the All Share Index, says Khan. The resources sector is cyclical and creates volatility in the market. This is increased in that Shari’ah stocks must be backed by tangible assets. To mitigate volatility, we have created Shari’ah wrap funds – blended Shari’ah funds and management styles – for capital protection as well as growth.
Glacier Invest Shari’ah wrap funds
As a result of the limited fund universe in the Shari’ah space, we have three Shari’ah-compliant wrap funds currently covering three risk profiles, says Khan. Whereas before, our Shari’ah wrap funds only catered for moderate-aggressive and aggressive investors. Now, cautious investors have funds to consider. We are able to cater to clients who need to draw an income – such as those invested in living annuities – and they can do so in a Shari’ah-compliant way.
Glacier Financial Solutions (Pty) Ltd is a licensed discretionary financial services provider, trading as Glacier Invest FSP 770