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Shariah-compliant ETFs: Investment Options for Muslim Investors in Singapore

The global Islamic finance industry is experiencing significant growth, driven by the increasing demand for investment options that align with ethical and religious principles. Singapore, a leading financial hub in Asia, is at the forefront of this trend, offering a diverse range of Shariah-compliant financial products, including Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs).

My friend Aisyah recently approached me about getting started with investing. As someone who respects her faith and values, I knew I wanted to help her find investment options that aligned with her beliefs as a Muslim. While I don’t personally follow any specific religious doctrine, I believe everyone deserves access to financial knowledge and tools. So, I decided to delve into the world of Shariah-compliant ETFs and create this guide to share what I learned.

This blog post explores Shariah-compliant ETFs and their potential benefits for Muslim investors in Singapore.

What are Shariah-compliant ETFs?

ETFs, or Exchange-Traded Funds, are investment vehicles listed on stock exchanges that provide investors with exposure to a basket of underlying assets. Shariah-compliant ETFs adhere to Islamic investment principles. These principles are based on Shariah law, which outlines ethical guidelines for financial transactions. To ensure compliance, Shariah scholars meticulously screen the underlying companies within an ETF. Companies involved in activities like alcohol, gambling, tobacco, and other prohibited industries according to Shariah law are excluded. It’s important to note that Singapore offers a variety of Shariah-compliant investment options beyond ETFs, such as Sukuk bonds and Islamic mutual funds, catering to the diverse needs of Muslim investors.

Benefits of Investing in Shariah-compliant ETFs

For Muslim investors in Singapore seeking to grow their wealth while staying true to their faith-based principles, Shariah-compliant ETFs offer several compelling benefits:

  • Align Investments with Values: Grow your wealth while staying true to your faith-based principles. Shariah-compliant ETFs exclude companies involved in activities prohibited by Islamic law.
  • Diversification Powerhouse: Spread your investment across multiple Shariah-compliant companies, reducing risk compared to putting all your eggs in one basket.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Shariah-compliant ETFs often have lower expense ratios compared to actively managed Shariah-compliant funds. Actively managed funds require a team of professionals to pick and choose investments, which translates to higher fees. Shariah-compliant ETFs, on the other hand, passively track an index, potentially leading to lower costs.
  • Transparency Matters: Know exactly what companies you’re invested in. Shariah-compliant ETFs typically disclose their holdings publicly. This transparency allows you to make informed investment decisions based on your values and risk tolerance.
  • Easy to Buy & Sell: Just like regular ETFs, you can buy and sell Shariah-compliant ones on the stock exchange throughout the day, offering greater liquidity.

ETFs offer a diversified and potentially lucrative way to invest. I’ve reviewed specific ETFs like the VWRA ETF, and this article explores the overall benefits of including ETFs in your portfolio.

Considerations Before Investing in Shariah-compliant ETFs

While Shariah-compliant ETFs offer a compelling option, there are some important points to consider before investing:

  • Understanding Shariah Screening: The screening process for Shariah-compliant ETFs adheres to specific Islamic principles. This may involve excluding companies that derive a significant portion of their revenue from prohibited activities, even if they don’t directly engage in those activities themselves.
  • Underlying Holdings: It’s important to understand the specific companies within a Shariah-compliant ETF. While they are screened according to Islamic principles, some companies might operate in industries with ethical complexities. Researching the underlying holdings can help you make informed decisions that align with your personal values.
  • Investment Fees: While generally lower than actively managed funds, Shariah-compliant ETFs still have expense ratios. Comparing expense ratios between different Shariah-compliant ETFs before investing can help you find the most cost-effective option.
  • Risk Tolerance & Investment Horizon: Just like any investment, Shariah-compliant ETFs come with inherent risks. Understanding your risk tolerance and investment horizon (short-term vs. long-term goals) is crucial before making any investment decisions.

The good news is that the availability of Shariah-compliant ETFs is growing in Singapore. Here’s a brief overview of a few popular options listed on the Singapore Exchange (SGX):

ETF NameInvestment FocusExpense RatioDisclaimer
ISE Global Shariah Equity Index ETFGlobal Developed Markets0.70%Launched in 2017. Average annual return of 8.5% since inception (2017-2024).
UOB Islamic Emerging Markets Equity ETFEmerging Markets0.85%Launched in 2019. Limited performance data available.
SPDR S&P Shariah Singapore ETFSingapore Market0.40%Launched in 2017. Average annual return of 6.8% since inception (2017-2024).
Arabesque MSCI Islamic World ESG UCITS ETF (accessible through brokers in Singapore)Global Shariah-compliant companies with ESG focus0.60%Not listed directly on SGX, but accessible through some brokers in Singapore. Performance data may vary depending on the specific share class chosen.
Amundi MSCI Islamic Malaysia Equity UCITS ETF (accessible through brokers in Singapore)Malaysian Shariah-compliant companies0.65%Not listed directly on SGX, but accessible through some brokers in Singapore. Performance data may vary depending on the specific share class chosen.
Table: Popular Shariah-compliant ETFs in Singapore

Additional Notes:

  • This table is not exhaustive, and there are other Shariah-compliant ETFs available on the SGX.
  • Expense ratios are subject to change, so it’s important to check the latest information from the ETF provider before investing.
  • The past performance data is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a guarantee of future results.

Remember: Always conduct your own research before investing in any ETF, including Shariah-compliant ones. Consider factors like your investment goals, risk tolerance, and the specific holdings of the ETF. It’s also advisable to consult with a qualified financial advisor who is familiar with Shariah-compliant investing for personalized guidance.

Getting Started with Shariah-compliant ETFs

Getting started with Shariah-compliant ETFs in Singapore is a relatively straightforward process that involves a few key steps. Here’s a detailed guide to help Muslim investors embark on their journey into the world of ethical investing:

  1. Educate Yourself: Before diving into Shariah-compliant ETFs, take the time to educate yourself about Islamic finance principles and the specific criteria for Shariah compliance. Understanding the screening process and the types of investments permitted will help you make informed decisions.
  2. Choose a Brokerage Platform: Select a reputable brokerage platform that offers Shariah-compliant ETFs on the Singapore Exchange (SGX). Ensure that the platform caters to your needs, offering a user-friendly interface, competitive fees, and reliable customer support. I’ve reviewed other online brokers like Saxo Singapore. If you’re keen on a local option, “Open CDP Account” dives into Singapore’s Central Depository platform.
  3. Open a Brokerage Account: Once you’ve chosen a brokerage platform, proceed to open a brokerage account. This typically involves providing personal information, verifying your identity, and funding your account.
  4. Research Available ETFs: Conduct thorough research to identify Shariah-compliant ETFs available on the SGX that align with your investment objectives and risk tolerance. Consider factors such as the ETF’s investment focus, expense ratio, liquidity, and historical performance.
  5. Evaluate Fundamentals: Dive deeper into the fundamentals of each ETF, including its underlying holdings, sector allocation, and geographic exposure. Assess whether the ETF’s investment strategy resonates with your long-term financial goals.
  6. Place Buy Orders: Once you’ve selected suitable Shariah-compliant ETFs, place buy orders through your brokerage platform. Specify the quantity of shares you wish to purchase and review the order details before confirming the transaction.
  7. Monitor Your Investments: After purchasing Shariah-compliant ETFs, monitor your investments regularly to stay informed about market developments and performance. Consider setting up alerts or utilizing portfolio tracking tools provided by your brokerage platform.

Seek Professional Advice:

While investing in Shariah-compliant ETFs can be empowering, it’s essential to seek guidance from a qualified Shariah-compliant financial advisor, especially if you’re new to investing or have complex financial goals. A professional advisor can offer personalized guidance tailored to your specific needs and circumstances, considering your:

  • Risk tolerance: Are you comfortable with higher potential returns that come with higher risk, or do you prefer a more conservative approach?
  • Investment horizon: Are you saving for a short-term goal like a down payment on a house, or are you investing for the long term, like retirement?
  • Financial goals: What are you hoping to achieve with your investments?

Looking to explore conventional investment options alongside Shariah-compliant investing? I offer a wealth of resources to guide you on your financial journey. Check out these articles to broaden your understanding:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do I know if my ETF is Shariah-compliant?

There are two main ways to determine if an ETF is Shariah-compliant:
Check the ETF provider’s website: Most ETF providers will clearly state whether an ETF adheres to Shariah principles. Look for keywords like “Shariah-compliant” or “Islamic.”
Review the ETF’s prospectus: The prospectus details the ETF’s holdings and investment strategy. Look for exclusions of companies involved in activities prohibited by Shariah law, such as alcohol, gambling, or conventional financial services.

Can Muslims invest in index funds?

Yes, Muslims can potentially invest in index funds, but not all index funds are Shariah-compliant. Index funds that track broad market indexes may include companies involved in prohibited activities. Look for Shariah-compliant index funds that track indexes specifically designed to exclude these activities.

Is SP500 Shariah compliant?

The standard S&P 500 index is not Shariah-compliant because it includes companies from various sectors, some of which might not adhere to Islamic principles. However, there are Shariah-compliant ETFs that track a filtered version of the S&P 500, excluding companies that don’t meet Shariah requirements.

Conclusion

Shariah-compliant ETFs offer Muslim investors in Singapore a compelling opportunity to invest in line with their religious beliefs while enjoying the benefits of diversification, cost-effectiveness, and growth potential. However, it’s crucial for investors to conduct thorough research, assess their risk tolerance, and seek professional advice before making investment decisions. With careful consideration and guidance, Shariah-compliant ETFs can be a valuable addition to a diversified investment portfolio.

Disclaimer:

The information provided in this blog post is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. I am not a Muslim scholar, financial advisor, or affiliated with any financial institution.

This content is based on my research for informational purposes only. It is especially important to note that I am not a member of the Muslim community, and I highly recommend consulting with a qualified Shariah scholar and financial advisor for guidance that aligns with your specific circumstances and religious beliefs.

Before making any investment decisions, please conduct your own thorough research and due diligence.

Eugene Chai

Eugene Chai is a seasoned financial expert with over 4 years of experience. His work has graced the pages of prominent Singapore Investment sites. He has also been featured on Channel News Asia - Money Talks. With a passion for simplifying complex financial concepts, he empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their money. Whether it's investment strategies, personal finance, or market trends, Eugene's insights are a beacon of clarity in the world of finance.

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