As one of the fastest growing industries within the financial services market, the $2trn global Islamic Finance industry offers an alternative career option.
Recap: What is Islamic Finance?
Islamic Finance works on the philosophy of prohibiting transactions considered immoral and promoting greater social justice by sharing risk and reward. The emphasis on Sale & Partnership contract as opposed to interest/usury simultaneously encourages justice and social welfare as Islamic Finance aims to protect society from trickery, fraud and social tension. You can read more about Islamic Finance and how it impacts ASEAN in this article. The elements below illustrate the Islamic Finance equation.
What’s in it for you?
For smart and ambitious young minds, Islamic finance presents a market where both social and financial impacts can be made. Opportunities presented by the industry specifically for the ASEAN member states suggest that Southeast Asia is the ‘Gold Mine’ for prospective careers in Islamic Finance.
1. Professional Qualifications
The development of Islamic finance continues to make a tremendous milestone. However, the speed of growth outpaces the supply of capable talent pool required by the industry. One of the ways to take advantage of this situation is to take up professional qualifications to stay ahead of your peers. There are a number of professional qualifications provided by institutions across Southeast Asia. These qualifications offer an opportunity to top-up existing competencies with knowledge and skills around Islamic Finance.
The Islamic Finance Qualification (IFQ) by ACCA is appropriate for existing and new employees and those seeking a career in Islamic finance. The certificate primarily aims at people who already have professional accountancy qualification. The qualification is based on a computer-based test (CBT) that consists of 100 questions and lasts for two hours.
The CIMA Islamic Finance Qualifications will give you a thorough understanding of the principles that underpin this Islamic finance. The Islamic finance qualifications by CIMA have won awards to recognise their world-leading status in the industry including ‘Best training institution’ at the 2015 Islamic Business & Finance Awards. Valuable for both newcomers and professionals, the IFQ is designed to give to significant market advantages – recognition of a CIMA international qualification and demonstrable expertise in the complex, fast-growing world of Islamic Finance.
The Professional Certificate in Islamic Finance (PCIF) is offered to professionals through an innovative online learning platform. You will be able to specialise in one of the four fundamental areas namely, 1) Islamic Capital Market 2) Shariah for Islamic Finance 3) Islamic Banking and 4) Islamic Wealth Management. Professional Certificate in Islamic Finance (PCIF) programme is developed to cater for industry professionals who wish to gain knowledge in specific areas of practice, in concise yet thorough curriculums.
In Malaysia, the professional focus is given to the practice of financial planning professionals. The IFP is a training and certification programme designed especially for professionals and executives serving the retail segment of the Islamic financial market. This programme is a collaboration between Islamic Banking and Finance Institute Malaysia (IBFIM) and the Financial Planning Association of Malaysia (FPAM).
What are your career options and prospects?
Those with IFQ and CPIF certifications can venture into areas of banking such as wealth management, takaful, regulation and supervision, analysis and consultancy.
On the other hand, those with an IFP certification can become professionals serving the retail segment of the Islamic financial market. They can guide clients through the comprehensive financial planning processes and advise clients on how they can achieve their financial goals through ethical means.
With increasing demand from customers for Islamic Finance products, the lack of experts capitalizing on this industry signal a massive opportunity for aspiring professionals to be at the top of the game!
2. Research and Development
Parallel to any growing industry, research and development are crucial drivers to accelerate the rise of Islamic Finance in ASEAN. Industry development co-exists and sometimes overlap with new analysis provided by researchers in the field. When researchers generate new theories, the industry takes charge by implementing them. Similarly, whenever the industry faces new challenges, researchers are prone to identify the gap in providing intellectual contributions.
Malaysia, as the forefront country in Islamic Finance, spearheaded the establishment of research institutions catering to the industry. More specifically, the Central Bank of Malaysia supported the creation of International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF) in 2006 and followed by the establishment of International Shariah Research Academy (ISRA) in 2008.
Nevertheless, the presence of Islamic Finance is not only felt in Muslim countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. In Thailand for example, the Islamic Bank of Thailand bought Shariah-compliant financial services from Krungthai Bank and now autonomously operates a full financial business under Islamic laws. Initiated to serve the need of Muslims mainly in the three southern provinces of Thailand (Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala), the bank has now successfully expanded to over 26 branches throughout the country.
Additionally, Cambodia’s first microfinance institution (MFI) professing to follow Islamic law is set to offer services soon following the 11th World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF). With these expansions, come the need for further product development and innovation culminating demand for professionals in this Islamic Finance R&D sector.
What are some challenges working in this industry?
The industry is developing and evolving. Yet, it is not globally understood. Therefore, lack of global awareness of the opportunities of Islamic Finance requires professionals to truly engage with prospective customers and embark on a mission to educate the public on the benefits the industry presents.
The Islamic Finance industry offers a remarkable range of opportunities. Holding a postgraduate qualification is likely to increase the chances of employment as well as advancing the career of those already employed. Research and development, on the other hand, allows you to make a tangible impact as academic goes hand-in-hand with industry requirements. As the industry grows, strengthens its infrastructure and engages with a broader audience, we will see the development of human capital becoming a vital part for Islamic Finance to advance its activity.
Written by: Fatihahtul Hanan Binti Md Nor
Hanan is an Associate at ProspectsASEAN and an undergraduate at the London School of Economics pursuing BSc in International Relations. An advocate for women and children’s rights, Hanan dedicates her time to volunteering for charities catering to these causes in London.
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