The Business Year

Ismitz Matthew De Alwis

MALAYSIA - Economy

One-stop Shop

Executive Director & CEO, Kenanga Investors Berhad (KIB)


Ismitz Matthew De Alwis is the CEO of Kenanga Investors Berhad (KIB) and is responsible for its overall asset and investment management business. De Alwis is a member of the University of Cambridge, Judge Business School — ABSEP alumni network. He holds an MBA from the Chartered Institute of Marketing UK. He is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and Islamic Financial Planner (IFP). He has a Capital Markets Services Representative’s License (CMSRL) from the Securities Commission (SC) and is on the board of the Federation of Investment Managers Malaysia. He is the current president of the Financial Planning Association of Malaysia.

As one of the few players in Malaysia with multi-segment and multi-distributional activities, KIB is embracing technology and increasing online accessibility to reach younger demographics.

What are the main accomplishments and milestones of KIB over the past year?

As a firm, we have grown in line with our objectives over the past two years. We have tried to ensure that we can serve multiple segments of the market, and have therefore built a mass retail, institutional, and a high-net-worth individual arm. We are seeing particular growth opportunity among high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals. At the product level, we have moved beyond mere asset management and are now licensed to distribute multiple funds and work with over 20 partners. In early 2018, we were granted a financial planning license by regulators and are now able to offer a full financial planning platform. We are one of the few players in Malaysia with multi-segment and multi-distributional activities. Furthermore, we are proud of our efforts to promote sustainable investment; we officially became a signatory of the Malaysian Institutional Code of Investors in 2017. We are also the first asset manager in Malaysia to be rated by a credit agency. It is vital for us to focus on sustainability and transparency especially with the growing interest in ASEAN and Islamic finance. We have also worked to expand our strategic alliances through which we can leverage the expertise of other firms and vice versa. Together with our partners in the US and Australia, we launched Malaysia’s first AI-based hedge fund, and an Australian income fund in the market, respectively. We are also currently working with the biggest ETF issuer in Taiwan to launch our first leveraged and inverse ETF in Malaysia in 2019. Moving forward, we will continue to build cross-border partnerships.

How has fintech impacted the asset management industry in Malaysia, and how is KIB addressing it?

There are two elements to look at in this area: the financial part and the tech part. In terms of technology, there have been some strong developments, and asset managers must embrace and deploy new technologies. One way in which new technologies help us is by creating a more interactive experience for clients. In the back office, we are focused on making our processes more efficient through the application of technology. It is also helpful in terms of compliance and regulatory requirements, risk management, and facilitating better investment decisions. Asset managers have to start looking at AI and big data analytics closely. Regarding the financial side of fintech, Malaysian regulators have been quite progressive in their efforts. Two years ago, the regulators launched a digital investment management license. This allowed clients to get their investments information online. We are looking at this too, and it will be an important method for targeting the Millennial generation. We foresee a hybrid model becoming especially popular, with robots and humans working hand-in-hand. At the firm level, we are undergoing this transformation, and are in the midst of a two-year IT transformation plan that extends across our entire business.

Are you seeing growing appetite for investment in Malaysia among international investors?

Not yet, but I believe that more and more investors will return to Malaysia. We are trading at fair valuations. Malaysia is moving toward political maturity, which is a positive sign. Over time, we will see changes that lead to more transparency and less corruption. This is a part of the value chain that we are developing within Malaysia, and it promises many positive spillover effects in terms of FDI and development. Properties and stocks are priced attractively, making Malaysia an excellent country in which to reap the opportunities. Highly attuned investors from Europe have a keen interest in Malaysia, and investors should recognize that this is an excellent time for a closer look. KIB is the one-stop gateway to Malaysia, and we offer a variety of services to investors looking at the country.



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