Islamic Equity Investments: Determinants of Investment Behaviour of Malaysian Islamic Equity Investors under Conditions of Competing Alternatives

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Abdalla, Mohamad

Liu, Benjamin

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Prior to the coming into existence of Islamic finance, Islamic equity fund investment was almost non-existent in Malaysia. With the passage of enabling legislation in 1983, awareness and acceptance of Islamic finance as a competitive alternative to conventional finance emerged, as did interest in Islamic equity funds (IEFs) – albeit very subdued compared to its conventional counterpart. Given that Islam constitutes the religious majority in Malaysia, expectations that the growth and development of IEFs are associated with individual religious norms, value orientations and ethical behaviour, has not been tested empirically in previous studies. One way of addressing this absence is by examining the investment behaviour of IEF participants. This is pursued by studying behaviour under conditions of competing alternatives in a different Malaysian economic setting. This strategy is triangulated from a number of perspectives: from observations in psychology focusing on how individual behaviour and motivations shape investment decisions; the influence of shariah ethical considerations; risk/return expectations; equity fund management and performance; and, from behaviour exhibited in current and expected asset/equity portfolio construction. Traditional investment theory is unable to explain how ethical investors behave the way they do – often exhibiting behaviour inconsistent with choice optimisation and rational decision-making. Moreover, in an Islamic finance setting, prescriptive shariah parameters and non-financial attributes are perceived to impact investment behaviour in ways not fully understood. If individuals are assumed to behave rationally (as neoclassical theory suggests), then given ethical imposts, Islamic investors would consistently make sub-optimal and irrational decisions since choice is not fully exercised. Consequently, equity and asset portfolios will not be fully optimised between competing alternatives. Similar arguments are raised against conventional ethical investors on the basis that negatively screening out profitable equity stocks (through ethical concerns) result in portfolio under-performance (Schwartz, 2003). Does this argument hold for Islamic investors and IEFs as well? Research associated with conventional socially responsible investment (SRI) suggests the non-financial components of investors’ utility functions have much to do with investment behaviour – the dynamic effect of which ultimately contributes in shaping the growth and direction of SRI funds themselves (Domini & Kinder, 1986). Such observations cannot be inferred about Islamic Equity Investment (IEI) since there is a paucity of research and very few studies in which the influence of individual behavioural attributes on investment has been adequately researched. Pollard and Samers (2007) argue this dearth in research has resulted in Islamic finance being “under-theorised”. Moreover, as the literature review indicates, IEI research has been unidirectional – it focuses almost exclusively at quantitative analysis of equity fund performance and risk/return comparative analysis. This research seeks to redress this gap in the literature.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance

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Islamic equity investments

Investment theory

Islamic equity funds

Malaysian economic setting

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