Fatima Iqbal: Reflecting on 10 years with Azzad
Ten years ago, Fatima Iqbal joined Azzad as a financial advisor and the company’s first CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™. She joined while the Global Financial Crisis was unfolding, just a few weeks before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and a couple of months before President Bush signed into law the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which included the $700 billion asset purchase program to bail out financial institutions.
Markets bottomed out on March 6, 2009, but immediately began to bounce back, beginning the historically long bull market that we’re enjoying today. In 2010, the economy started adding jobs on a consistent basis. In fact, the U.S. hasn’t had a single month of job losses since October 2010 — the longest stretch of job gains on record, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As we look back on the last 10 years, we asked Fatima to share her reflections on how Azzad responded to the financial crisis and how the company developed new products to meet the needs of American Muslim investors.
I joined Azzad at the end of July 2008. At that time, the markets were volatile and investors were on edge.
Some may think it was the worst time to join an investment advisory firm, but I found it to be a great opportunity to focus on diversification, good portfolio managers, halal screening, and other factors that should matter most to investors.
Beginning at that time defined my perspective on the role of an advisor: to guide clients to their financial goals regardless of how the markets behave. Two weeks after I joined, I gave my first presentation titled, “Investing Wisely in Turbulent Times.”
Obviously it was a challenging time for the investment advisory industry. We spent significant time advising clients to stay calm and focus on their long-term goals, but we also began actively developing additional services to help clients regardless of market conditions.
We delved more deeply into how clients can increase their charitable impact by using different forms of planned charitable giving. We developed the first waqf al-khairi, a specialized form of charitable trust, that follows the fundamentals of an Islamic charitable waqf and also complies with all federal and state laws.
At that time, there was not an accessible halal fixed income option for Muslim investors to turn to in volatile markets. This need became especially glaring during the financial crisis, so Azzad began structuring the first halal fixed income mutual fund, the Azzad Wise Capital Fund. It launched in April 2010, and is now managed for us by Federated Investment Management Company.
Azzad also began developing our financial and estate planning services. While we already had a halal solution for investing, we spent significant time researching how to tackle issues of insurance and Islamic estate planning for our clients. At the time, the federal estate tax exemption was set to reduce to $1 million, which would have created substantial estate tax liabilities for our clients who wanted to follow Islamic principles of inheritance. Our work with [Azzad Shariah Advisory Board Member] Dr. Mohammed Adam El-Sheikh over two years culminated in the creation of the waqf al-ahli model, or specialized family trust.
We also started our monthly newsletters with educational content about investing and handling personal finance manners in a halal way. This was an effort to grow our community education work from on-site seminars to email newsletters and other digital resources that can reach more people.
The challenges we faced during the financial crisis fueled Azzad’s creativity and innovation to bring more products and services to our clients. It’s fulfilling to see these services help people succeed financially while adhering to their beliefs.
Thank you, Fatima, for 10 years of outstanding service to Azzad’s clients and mission.