BY JAMIE WILLIAMSON  |  FRIDAY, 14 DEC 2018   12:49PM

A former Liberal Party leader has joined the board of a $250 million Islamic superannuation fund.

John Hewson will join the board of Crescent Wealth as it prepares for significant growth in 2019. Hewson led the Liberal Party from 1990 to 1994.

Hewson is also an economist, having worked for the Reserve Bank of Australia before entering politics, and is a former business journalist and director of Macquarie Bank.

He will join career investment banker Nicholas Whitlam who serves as a non-executive director on the Crescent Wealth board and is chair of its investment committee.

The super fund has already seen what managing director Talal Yassine describes as “explosive growth” over the course of 2018, resulting in the need to partner with larger, more established service providers.

Throughout 2018 Crescent Wealth appointed Equity Trustees as trustee; NAB Asset Servicing as custodian; Mercer as fund administrator; and bfinance as investment adviser.

“Crescent Wealth is growing quickly and has a unique proposition in the Australian market. Our partnership provides a rich multi-layered relationship that supports the core values of Crescent Wealth in building a better world through investments that benefit society, and supports the well-being of our future generations,” Mercer Australia chief executive Ben Walsh said.

The fund currently commands about 1% of the market share of Australia’s working Muslims, a number it hopes to double in 2019.

That said; the socially responsible Islamic fund’s growth strategy will target all Australians, with about 10% of members not followers of the Islamic faith.

Yassine believes a much higher proportion of Australians will be attracted to the fund when they understand what it is all about.

“This is especially the case when they realise there is no sacrifice in terms of returns. For example, our property fund which has returned an average of 14.9% per annum over the past five years is among the best in its sector and has a five-star Morningstar rating,” he said.

Yassine predicts the growth will be driven in part by Australians seeking more socially responsible options for their superannuation on the bank of the Royal Commission. Consumers will also look to invest in real assets, which all Islamic investments must be, instead of speculative products such as derivatives, he said.

“Our Islamic compliant investment approach means we actively have a ‘no-go’ approach to investments in industries such as weapons manufacturing, alcohol production and sales, gambling, pornography and interest-earning financial institutions, such as banks,” Yassine explained.

“We offer an attractive alternative based on socially responsible investing and place funds in healthcare, property and infrastructure, utilities, manufacturing and innovative industries, instead.”

Also commenting, Equity Trustees managing director Mick O’Brien said: “Crescent Wealth’s growth strategy is an example of how to grow a fund the right way. It has built a careful foundation and scalable support services first, rather than grown too fast and then struggle to manage it.”

Finally, the added scale enabled Crescent Wealth to negotiate lower investment fees for members.

In late-November the fund announced investment fees for its balanced option would be reduced from 1.25% per annum to 1.18%. Its conservative option dropped from 0.87% to 0.83%, while its growth option went from 1.45% to 1.39%.

At the same time, the annual account-keeping fee increased by $12.52, rising from $86.28 to $98.80.

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Managing Director

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.

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