Experts Gather To Debate And Address Skills Gaps In The UAE’s Islamic Finance Sector

In response to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s ambition to make Dubai the capital of the world’s US$8 trillion Islamic economy in just three years, industry experts, government officials, and leading academics met today to discuss the existing and emerging skills gaps within the Islamic finance sector – one of the seven pillars of Dubai’s Islamic economy initiative.

Experts Gather To Debate And Address Skills Gaps In The UAE’s Islamic Finance Sector

Experts Gather To Debate And Address Skills Gaps In The UAE’s Islamic Finance Sector

The senior level debate, organised by Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) in collaboration with the organisers of the Global Islamic Economy Summit, Thomson Reuters, saw participants review the key findings of a Workforce Planning Study , which has identified some of the major themes and skills gaps within the fast-growing Islamic finance sector.

The Workforce Planning Study revealed that dedicated Islamic banking skills are in high demand from GCC banks, particularly at the entry level, closely followed by financial risk management and customer segmentation and analytics skills. Of the 60 banks surveyed;

• 50% said that they find it difficult to hire graduates for entry level positions.
• 23% said that they find it difficult to hire for mid-level positions.
• Just 5% of banks say that they find it hard to hire for senior positions.

The study also offers some critical recommendations about how the UAE can address the skills gaps arising from the sector’s growth, such as genuinely bridging the communication gap between industry and academia.

Commenting after the discussion, Dr. Ayoub Kazim, Managing Director of Dubai International Academic City and Dubai Knowledge Village said: “Islamic finance is a central pillar in Dubai’s strategy to become the world’s capital of the Islamic economy. Demand for skilled workers in this field has never been higher, and as a home for the region’s education and training institutes, we have an important role to play in bringing academia, industry and government closer together to ensure the future success of the sector.

“Roundtable debates such as these, informed by evidence found in the Workforce Planning Study, enable our academic partners and training institutes to tailor their education programmes to the demands of local business. This is a smart and forward-looking approach to education – and it is one that ties back to Dubai’s overarching vision of developing a thriving, knowledge-based economy.”

Essa Al Mulla, Executive Director, Emirates National Development Programme, Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), said: Islamic finance plays a crucial role in the UAE’s financial system. The debate not only highlights the existing skills shortage in the sector, but also provides a platform to discuss innovative ways to encourage sustainable and long-term skills development. At present, there are a number of institutions in Dubai offering programmes in banking and finance; however, we need programmes specialising in Islamic Finance.”

Rashid Mahboob, Senior Vice President, Customer Excellence at Dubai Islamic Bank, said: “This high level discussion offers an early insight into the skills gaps that exist within the Islamic finance sector, as well as how to nurture the human capital needed to meet the sector’s expected growth.

“In the future, there will be an increasing focus on excellence in all aspects of employment, and this will be particularly true for those working within Islamic finance. To prepare for this, universities and training providers must refine their programmes and courses to support the sector, equipping young talent with the level of specialism and sophistication that is required by employers. Similarly, employers must dedicate themselves to providing genuine on-the-job training.”

Professor Abdullah Al Shamsi, Vice-Chancellor of the British University in Dubai, during his presentation, observed: “According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, Islamic financial assets are growing 17% per year and are set to reach $2.67 trillion by 2017. These developments vouchsafe the growing significance of Islamic finance and banking in the aftermath of the global economic crisis.

“Clearly realising the market needs for trained manpower in this industry, the British University in Dubai has already initiated steps to introduce a full-pledged postgraduate program in Islamic economy and finance from the next academic year. Currently, we are preparing the necessary documents to be submitted to MOHESR for its inspection and approval.”

Initial findings from the ICD Thomson Reuters Islamic Finance Development Indicator report show that there are over 533 institutions globally offering courses or degrees in Islamic finance. The UAE sits in third position with 31 course providers and 9 degree providers, which is ahead of the US, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, but behind the UK and Malaysia.

According to a recent analysis by Tahseen Consulting, a specialised advisor on strategic and organisational issues in the Arab world, US$87-124 billion could potentially enter the UAE Islamic banking system by 2015, creating approximately 7,800 new jobs at Islamic banks if the current asset concentration ratios remain similar. Additionally, 500 jobs will be created in other Islamic financial services segments. By 2015, the Islamic financial services sector will double in size from approximately 10,000 employees currently to 20,000.

DIAC and Thomson Reuters’ roundtable took place at the Dubai Knowledge Village Conference Centre. Some of the attendees included; Standard & Poor’s, Simmons & Simmons, Dubai Holding, Dubai Islamic Bank, Sharjah Islamic Bank, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank, Dubai Financial Services Authority (DFSA), Imarat Consultants, the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), and other DIAC academic partners.