Azzad Asset Mangement Thrives with Folio Institutional

Pure chance led to the relationship between Azzad Asset Management and Folio. Azzad co-founders Jamal Elbarmil and Bashar Qasem happened upon Folio's building sign in Northern Virginia while driving to their office one day in 2001. At the time, Elbarmil and Qasem needed a new custodian and broker-dealer for their investment management firm.

Prior to working with Folio, Azzad had established a mutual fund for their Muslim-American clients, many of whom were physicians who wanted to follow Islam's halal investing principles.

Elbarmil and Qasen liked what they heard when they met with FOLIOfn, Inc.'s founder, Steve Wallman, and Folio Institutional's president, Greg Vigrass. Azzad's founders were drawn to the way Folio's technology platform empowered advisors to manage assets innovatively and cost effectively.

What Azzad needed was an investment paradigm that was similar to a mutual fund, but one that didn't come with additional costs.

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"We needed a strategy to give us diversification," Elbarmil said. "We had to figure that out, and we realized Folio could advance our business technologically and strategically."

Not only could Folio serve Azzad's brokerage and custody needs, but it would help them maintain portfolio models that could be easily rebalanced and updated.

"Folio was local and had technology we could not find elsewhere," Elbarmil said. "It was really something, the way we could support our models all on one platform."

Folio Understood Azzad's Mission

Folio's technology helped Azzad grow its offerings and client base more quickly that it otherwise could have, Elbarmil believes. First, it allowed the firm to design and maintain multiple strategies on one platform. Second, it enabled Azzad to build securities exclusion filters into their models.

What also appealed to Azzad was the flow-through functionality of Folio's model management system. With a couple of clicks of the mouse, a trader at Azzad could tweak a model and then have the changes apply evenly through all of the portfolios of the firm's clients. 

"There are a lot of strengths to the Folio platform, like having just one person manage all the trades," Elbarmil said. "It makes a huge difference because we have nearly 2,000 accounts."

Working with Folio Institutional in the Future

Azzad has begun a new chapter in its use of Folio's brokerage, custody, and clearing platform, putting it to use to manage its growing network of registered independent advisors (RIAs), Elbarmil explained.

"We are currently working on this business model and believe it will be a superior growth vehicle for us," he said. "We are developing it now, and we believe the RIAs will do well on the Folio platform."

Folio's platform can help its RIAs better serve retail investors who fit Azzad's desired target client base, Elbarmil said. Having Azzad's RIAs use Folio's platform will help keep a lid on the firm's costs and centralize its business operations, Elbarmil said.

Azzad sees its future tied to Folio because the relationship has been so fruitful, Elbarmil said. "We found what we were looking for in 2001. We hope to continue to build on our relationship with Folio."

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The Virginia-based Azzad Asset Management opened its doors in 1997 with the idea that it would manage the money of Muslim-Americans who wanted to invest according to their religious values.

At the time of its inception, Azzad was one of the first firms of its kind in the United States that practiced halal investing, a financial philosophy rooted in Islamic law.

And Folio innovated for Azzad, creating at Azzad's request the first (and to our knowledge still the only) halal compatible FDIC-insured cash deposit multi-bank sweep  program. 

With Folio's help, Azzad has successfully executed its vision of an investment management firm consistent with the halal philosophy.

The relationship between Folio and Azzad has thrived for 15 years.

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