DAMON KITNEY – The Australian
Talal Yassine has lost track of the number of times since he started superannuation fund Crescent Wealth, more than five years ago, that he’s been asked why the firm doesn’t invest in banks and insurance companies.
“We don’t get asked that question any more,” quips the managing director of Australia’s first Islamic super fund.
Not that Mr Yassine has anything against the sectors hit hardest by the Hayne royal commission.
“We are not anti-bank in an organisation sense. We use banks. But where banks invest in lever age, we invest in de-leverage,’’ he says of Crescent’s mandate to follow sharia law, which prohibits “usury”, or the charging of interest.
But his firm is clearly a beneficiary of the post-Hayne climate.
In the past three months Crescent has enjoyed record inflows. It now has $270 million under management, up from $250m at the end of December. Mr Yassine has ambitions to get it to $2.5 billion within five years.
About 10 per cent of current Crescent Wealth clients are Australians who do not follow the Islamic faith. The average age of its membership is under 30.
In addition to banks and insurers, Crescent also eschews investments in businesses involved in weapons manufacturing, alcohol production and sales, gambling and pornography.
Instead it invests in healthcare, property and infrastructure, utilities, manufacturing and what Mr Yassine calls “innovative industries”.
Over the past three years Crescent’s flagship diversified property fund has returned almost 11 per cent, ranking it fourth in its sector, according to Morningstar.
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Talal currently serves as a Non-Executive Director on the Whitlam Institute and Western Sydney University Foundation Council Board. He also serves as Chairman of First Quay Capital and Chairman of the Australian Arab Dialogue. Talal has also served on the Australia Post, Board of Sydney Ports, Macquarie University and the Western Sydney Area Health Service and the Chairman of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Council of Australia Arab Relations. In an executive capacity, Talal spent 10 years at PwC as a director and strategist, and at investment firm Babcock & Brown in the Corporate Finance Group and later in the Technical Real Estate Division. Later Talal held leadership positions in Better Place Australia, Platinum Hearing and Star Transport Australia.