GLOBAL - Chris Walker, former managing director of Scottish Widows Investment Partnership (SWIP), has joined alternative asset manager BMB Group ahead of the firm's move to launch Shari'a compliant products for European pension funds.

The group this week announced it has taken over $7bn (€5.54bn) private equity house EMP Global for its emerging market direct investment arm, giving BMB "a large footprint across all of the emerging markets".

The organisation expects to make further announcements on Shari'a compliant products for European pension funds via its subsidiary called BMB Islamic, an advisory business which was lifted out of Deutsche Bank two years ago and is lead by Humayon Dar.

Walker, who left SWIP last year to join Lombard Odier Darier Hentsch, said its subsidiary has noted there is in the pension fund world "more interest coming from institutional investors who wish,. for their own ethical reasons, to be Shari'a compliant".

"Some institutions wish to offer scheme members sharia compliant investments, but there will also be some pension funds where the ownership and membership wishes to be Shari'a compliant - that is the new trend in the European pension industry which is just beginning," he said.

Shari'a compliant investment products follow the religious principles of the Islamic Shari'a principles-based legal system governing commercial dealings that prohibit, for instance, the receipt and payment of interest.

Walker also told IPE BMB is keen to expand its presence throughout the emerging markets, in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America via further acquisitions or lifting out investment teams, as well as recruiting further people.

"At a time when so many group are cutting back, we are on the other side," concluded Walker, who added BMB is completely unleveraged.

BMB is majority-owned by its senior management, with additional backing by a series of the ruling families in the middle East and South East Asia.

EMP's Don Roth has been made head of principal investments for BMB Group.

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