Talent shortages or even a talent exodus could endanger David Cameron’s ambitious plans to make London a global centre for Islamic finance, recruiters say.
Last month, the prime minister set out plans to establish a new Islamic index on the London Stock Exchange, which will help investors comply with Islamic finance principles, such as bans on investing in alcohol. Other principles of Islamic finance include a prohibition on interest, and excessive uncertainty in contracts.
Cameron also detailed proposals for Britain to become the first country outside the Muslim world to issue its own Islamic bond, known as a ‘sukuk’.
Faizal Karbani, founder of Simply Sharia, tells Recruiter that while the UK has a good pool of talent on which to base growth in the sector, “there is a real danger we could lose talent overseas”.
Karbani says that this is already happening, with many British finance professionals, lured by low tax and attractive remuneration packages, working in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Qatar.
Cameron’s announcement has sparked interest in the sector, says Samina Akram, founder of specialist Islamic finance consultancy Samak Consultants, adding: “It is going to be an exciting time for the industry.”
Akram says that while London is generally well placed in terms of skills, there are certain shortages, with a lack of Islamic scholars being a particular problem. Scholars decide whether a particular financial offering or service complies with Islamic law, she explains.
Islamic finance is global in its nature, and this is a problem for the UK, she says, because “very few UK scholars have international credibility”. Indeed, Akram estimates there are only “about 10 in the world” who are true global experts.
A spokesperson at the Bank of London and The Middle East (BLME) tells Recruiter there is no shortage of expertise in London, with many students also looking to enter the sector.
BLME prefers to hire people with experience in Western finance and to train them “to understand the Islamic finance aspects of what we do”, she says.