Zainab Ebrahim, operational fund analyst at Takaud Savings and Pensions, has seen the firm's diversified global strategies become the most popular portfolio over the past year.
This is because the outperformance of the strategies as well as the outperformance of global markets to regional markets has made for better fund selection, she said.
The firm is looking to expand in the ETF space, and has so far added index strategies in collaboration with BlackRock that will be offered on their newly launched digital platform.
All this and more in this exclusive interview with Citywire Middle East.
Q: Can you tell us about your team and your role?
A: I work as a fund analyst for Takaud Savings and Pensions where I manage the Takaud investment platform. My role focuses on investment due diligence and analysis, fund selection, portfolio construction, performance monitoring and reporting.
Q: How did you get started in the industry?
A: I started my CFA while I was working as a sales officer in Medgulf Takaful selling unit-linked savings products. I wanted to gain a better understanding of the market and the investment process.
I made the move to be an investment officer at Takaud after completing CFA level II.
Q: What investment sectors and/or funds have been popular with clients this year?
A: Our Takaud diversified global strategies have been the most popular among our model portfolios, most probably due to their outperformance, due to global markets outperforming regional markets and the availability of a wide range of funds, which allowed for better fund selection.
Q: Can you describe any specific calls that have paid off?
A: Diversification is our main risk mitigation, we do not make specific calls. However, we have decreased the overall duration of the portfolios before the US Federal Reserve rate increase last year.
Q: What investment themes are you keeping an eye on?
A: Currently, we are looking to expand in the ETF space. We may look into ESG funds further in the coming year too.
Q: What are essential traits for a fund manager?
A: I believe that in volatile markets with greater dispersion of returns, style drift becomes more common.
However, I want fund managers to stick to their objectives and investment styles. Also, they need to maintain transparency with clients.
Q: What do you expect from the foreign fund managers you work with?
A: I expect regular communication from the fund manager and full transparency.
Q: Are there any types of fund products you would like more access to in the region?
A: A bigger range of Sharia-compliant mutual funds and alternative funds.
Q: How many funds are on your platform and how many fund groups do you work with?
A: We currently have more than 90 Central Bank of Bahrain-registered funds and we deal with around 37 fund managers.
Q: Have you added new strategies this year?
A: We have added ETF strategies in collaboration with BlackRock to be offered in our newly launched digital platform.
We seek to offer the best investment options with the most convenient pricing for mass clients looking to save monthly amounts.
Q: Is ESG a concern for clients?
A: ESG is still not a huge concern for our clients in Gulf Cooperation Council countries. However, we do want to look at the space more closely in the coming year.
Q: If you could ask a fund manager just one question, what would it be?
A: What was your biggest failure and how did you deal with it?
Q: Do you work with many alternative managers?
A: We focus on liquid daily traded funds due to the nature of our saving plans and target clients. However, I meet alternative fund managers and receive their updates on a regular basis.
Q: If you could choose an alternative career outside of finance, what would you do?
A: Fitness trainer.
Q: What’s the toughest part of your job?
A: Our plans target long-term growth, but clients panic about short-term fluctuations and it’s hard to get them to understand and remain calm when the market swings.
Q: Where’s your favourite place to visit in the region?
A: United Arab Emirates.
This interview first appeared in the Citywire Middle East 2019 fund selector supplement.