SEI Starts Islamic 'Manager of Mangers' Fund

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Investment funds that comply with Sharia, or Islamic law, moved further toward the mainstream as two prominent global institutions launched an Islamic manager of managers program for equities.

The product is the first of its kind, says Pennsylvania-based SEI Corp.

SEI describes its new Islamic Investments Fund Plc as the initial phase in the company's expansion plan for the Middle East and Islamic finance market. In the month since the launch, the fund has attracted $160 million in assets from high net worth investors "in partnership with a major global private bank," SEI said.

The product is an "umbrella fund," made up of four regional sub-funds covering the U.S., Europe, emerging markets and Pacific Basin markets. Each sub-fund combines different managers who invest in companies in its region and follow Sharia principles. Managers' compliance with Sharia is overseen by a division of HSBC Group dedicated to Islamic finance.

In a press release, SEI said the funds "can be used to build global asset allocation models and benefit from a rigorous manager selection process designed to limit volatility, manage risk and deliver consistent returns.... Sharia compliance is specifically included in the investment objective of each SIIF sub-fund, with customized Sharia guidelines for each underlying fund manager."

Manager of manager funds are a widely used tool that let institutions divvy up assets among several separate management firms, whose performance and processes are then closely monitored.

SEI offers outsourced asset management and processing services to corporations, investment advisors and wealthy families. Its offerings include a well-established manager of managers program for pension funds. The publicly traded firm has offices in more than a dozen countries and had $190 billion assets under management as of March 31.

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