That is, the distribution of financial products are run much more along a brokerage model, which is how financial products were overwhelmingly distributed in the the US, and still are to some degree. However, the rise of investment advisors, who are not reliant on commissions for determining investments, and a general growth in discount brokerages (which has made many investors more cost conscious) has made the relatively cheap, passively managed ETFs more popular. The investment advisor model is not as prevalent in the Gulf, but Tariq Al Rifai of Dow Jones Indexes says "At some point it will take off...Give it another three years."In the Gulf, institutional investors are usually catered to by placement agents and fund marketers, not financial planners. These agents, who charge commissions on their sales, prefer to sell private equity, hedge funds and real estate, where margins are higher for them - a hedge fund can charge a 2 percent management fee and a 20 percent performance fee.
However, one of the areas that Reuters only mentions in passing is:
"One attraction of ETFs is that they can provide investors with access to themes that have a low correlation with equities markets. But Islamic ETFs focused on asset classes other than equities have yet to appear, even though major index providers offer large families of sharia-compliant indexes."Many of the ETFs that provide investors with alternative investors, whether those are hedge funds, individual commodities, and a number of other asset classes (e.g. the VIX index) do not hold the underlying assets themselves, but instead use swaps and other derivatives to gain exposure, either as ETFs or Exchange-Traded Notes which expose the holders to the credit of the issuer and provides return based on the performance of an underlying index.
The asset classes beyond equities represented by ETFs and ETNs have attracted controversy (ETFs, ETNs) because they are not doing what a normal fund would do--hold a diversified portfolio of investments directly in the fund. They would also be more difficult to create Islamic versions of, so it is neither clear whether there would be a demand for these products or if they would provide a valuable product for Islamic finance to endeavor.
In particular, many are leveraged products, and all are designed to be trading vehicles, since they tend to decay in their underlying values regardless of the performance of the underlying indices. Encouraging extra leverage and frequent trading is likely to not be something that will get favor from Shari'ah scholars approving these products.
As for plain-vanilla equity ETFs that actually own a portfolio of equities, they may have their day, but it is clearly not upon us yet.