Mohammed Khnifer is regarded as part of a second generation of
Islamic banking practitioners who have a solid academic background in Islamic
finance. He is a holder of an MSc. in Investment Banking Islamic Finance from
Reading University and is a Chartered Islamic Finance Professional (CIFP) from
INCEIF. He is one of the most prolific and well-known journalist specializing in
Islamic Finance today. For the past six years he has been in charge of the
editorial content for the Islamic Banking section of Al Eqtisadiah (Kingdom of
Saudi Arabia). By 2011, he is expected to earn his MBA in Islamic Banking &
Finance after he won the Silver Scholarship Award from Bangor University. He has
authored various papers and articles on Islamic finance (see
Haseeb Muhammad was supposedly destined to become a so-called Islamic banker.
Instead, he is now working for an international hotel chain! This is the untold,
and unfortunate, story of how the Islamic Finance industry is about to lose its
second generation of bankers who we never tried to connect with. These are the
desperate voices of the unheard.
"I was forced to earn my livelihood in a complete contrary industry to my
relevant degree", said the holder of MSc, Islamic Banking & Finance. "Is this
the treatment we expect to have for those who have chosen ethical Banking as
their career", he added while feeling some regret of taking this costly degree.
"Isn't that just a waste of talent", he wonders.
Unfortunately, many of these graduates, who are not lucky enough to hold a
nationality of a country that really does cater to the development of its
Islamic Finance human capital, might follow Haseeb's path if the stakeholders of
Islamic Finance (IF) do not interfere and save them from this grim reality.
Islamic finance courses have become cash cows to other institutions who jumped
to the bandwagon. But we are not talking here about online degrees which might
be questionable in terms of quality of the training and education. Instead, we
are talking about the cream of the crop. Those savvy graduates who have
graduated from the Top Business School in Europe that offer a blend of
conventional and Islamic type of financing degree.
For instance, Henley Business School is in the forefront of IF education in the
UK - with the first collaborative degree, the first programme to educate
students alongside professionals in another country, and a roster of
internationally acknowledged specialists and practitioners in the field. ICMA
Financial Studies Center at Henley boast of its MSc in Investment Banking &
Islamic Finance degree. Unlike the other degrees, this one has as academic
portfolio constitutes of almost 65% mainstream finance & 35% exposure to
specialized area of finance, resulting in unique technical skill that proves
useful in structuring corporate & debt products.
The MSc is taught jointly with INCEIF (International Centre for Education in
Islamic Finance). At the end of third term, the students become Chartered
Islamic Finance Professional (CIFP). Indeed, the second generation of Islamic
bankers is in the making and for a handful of them, the aggregated global
professional qualifications they have are hardly seen in the practitioners of
the Islamic Banking of today. The first generation of Islamic bankers is the
group who crossed the trading floor from conventional to Islamic banking to take
up employment and were provided with either bespoke training or learned their
Shariah compliance on the job, as David Williams, the Chief-in-Editor, of
Islamic Banking & Finance magazine highlights in his editorial about the
upcoming wave of the second generation of Islamic Bankers.
According to a research paper by INCEIF, in the next decade, the Islamic finance
industry need to produce 50,000 graduates. However, a cursory review of the
possible number of graduates produced by various institutions of higher learning
does not exceed 1,000 per year.
Brave New World
In a perfect world, these IF graduates should have higher starting salary
due to the technicality of their field. This is what the industry would regard
as a premium for talented staff. "Even though there is a propaganda of
shortage of islamic bankers, none can be seen in the recruitment process",
said Aatef Baig who has recently graduated from ICMA. "Our students are finding
that searching for jobs in IF has never been harder at a time when demand for IF
services has never been stronger", wonders John Board, Dean of Henley Business
"As a Business School, we train people for active professional involvement
and rapid career progression. Thus, the apparent paucity of employment prospects
is puzzling - times may be tough for banks, but their apparent unwillingness to
develop this sector and to make the HR investment necessary to ensure its long
term viability will surely damage the IF industry in the UK", he added. "While
HR policies are the preserve of the firms implementing them, the apparent lack
of opportunity for well qualified specialist masters students is a matter for
some concern - especially in the UK which has often claimed its wish to be a
significant participant in the global market for IF products and services".
Aatef, who aspires to join an Islamic private equity firm, concurs that this
grim reality could possibly "demotivate young students that think of undertaking
the islamic finance specialized courses."
"the urge of true ethical banking is now fading away", said Haseeb who now
labeled himself as "Depressed & Demoralized Islamic Banking practitioner." "What
good is my IF education especially [now] that I am unable to implement it in
reality", he elaborated after moving to the hospitality industry." "I have
knocked for any opportunity at almost all the Islamic Banks of UAE for past six
months but none even bothered to call back , instead jobs are just being
distributed to people who are well connected", he elaborated. Professor Board
thinks that it is likely that the IF industry has turned its back on these
graduates. He concurs that this treatment may demolish the 2nd layer of IF
The Islamic finance industry is losing slowly its human intellectual capital.
Once they graduate, they see many closed doors in front of them. Recruitment
agencies do not come near them as they are not considered their main profitable
resources. The deep pockets lie in filling the job opening for the senior level.
Where shall these talents go?
Malaysia is a prime destination as it exports its own IF talents worldwide.
However, banks operated in Malaysia are unable to hire nor train these foreign
Muslim students as they come under an employment law where each bank has a quota
for hiring foreigners. If you ask any of these IF graduates, they would say they
are willing to take a haircut on their salary as long as they are learning from
Trees die standing up
Our sector is supposedly to be reshaped from top to bottom by graduates from Far
Eastern, Middle Eastern and Western universities. However, the talents of our
future leaders are being killed slowly, painfully and silently. These are the
voices of the unheard!
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