PETALING JAYA: At least two banking groups – CIMB Group and Kuwait Finance House (KFH) – have big plans to exploit the virtually untapped Islamic banking and finance market in Australia.
Sources told StarBiz that the groups were going on their own to explore ways to play a role in Australia's banking scene, given that there was interest, at least among the Muslim community, to invest in syariah-based products.
It is learnt that KFH had recently sent a team of officials Down Under and may be working with the Muslim community there to structure some deals, which may involve the property sector.
Operating out of Kuala Lumpur, KFH is on an aggressive drive to tap the vast opportunities in the region.
It has recorded some success in structuring products in Singapore to China and is working closely with several parties in Australia.
Even though none of the Australian banks is really into Islamic banking and finance, KFH is likely to work with Muslim cooperatives and an Australian bank for distribution of its structured instruments.
As for CIMB, it is a known fact that its Islamic banking unit has structured a lot of deals for its customers in Malaysia and other countries in the region as well as the Middle East.
Sources said Australia remained on its agenda for future expansion but it was unclear if CIMB would set up an office there like it had done in Brunei, Dubai and Jakarta.
CIMB Islamic has more than RM4bil of assets under management and has offices in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.
In Brunei, it offers investment banking and financial services. CIMB recently said it intends to set up an Islamic fund in Brunei which will invest in US dollar-denominated assets.
It is also looking to offer private banking that complies with syariah principles as part of its Islamic wealth management products.
Australia has several banking groups such as ANZ Bank, National Australia Bank, Westpac Bank, Commonwealth Bank, HSBC Bank, Suncorp Bhd, St George Bank, Bendigo Bank, Bank of Queensland, Bankwest, Greater Building Society and AMP Banking.
But none offers dedicated Islamic banking and finance products at this juncture.