Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shariah banking jobs still in demand

By Habhajan Singh
Islamic finance jobs are still in demand and experts in the field are still having a field day moving around. The present financial turmoil has certainly impacted the conventional banking and insurance sector, with bankers and financial experts dropping off the radar in the Middle East, for example.
However, on the Islamic finance front, the situation does not seem that dire, with the job market still having vacancies, and key players having the luxury of job mobility.
A scan on Islamic finance related jobs listed on the various web portals show an impressive list, provided the candidates are armed with the required skills in this field, which now boasts some 250 Islamic financial institutions globally.
The legal sector features prominently, with law firms looking to rope in lawyers with expertise in Islamic finance, to be based in places like Dubai and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
Almost a year ago, The Malaysian Reserve spoke to two Islamic bankers on the prospects of the job market. Both have since moved on. Then chief operating officer of Asian Finance Bank Bhd Daud Vicary Abdullah has gone back to the consulting world, rejoining Deloittee, while Yakub Bobat, who spearheaded the establishement of HSBC Amanah Malaysia Bhd, a stand-alone subsidiary, is now with an Islamic bank in Saudi Arabia.
In March, Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd (MIDF) announced the appointment of Mohamad Safri Shahul Hamid as its new deputy chief executive officer of MIDF Amanah Investment Bank Bhd. He was with Deutsche Bank Dubai and previously at CIMB Islamic Bank Bhd.
The appointment signals MIDF Investment's move to tap the growing Shariah-approved financing, including cutting sukuk deals.
Safri's colleague in Dubai is also now in Kuala Lumpur. Ali Zaidi left Deutsche Bank Dubai to join Maybank Investment Bank Bhd in March as its executive vice president, and has been tasked with promoting capital structures other than sukuk.

Experts Wanted

The most interesting job found in The Malaysian Reserve's scan is an opportunity to lead an Islamic bank across Africa. The bank, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is looking for a president of an Islamic bank.
"This is an ideal opportunity for an entrepreneurial individual who is looking for a platform to prove ability to manage and grow a business," it said in an advertisement found online.
Who fits the bill? The ideal candidate should "have at least 17 years experience, be one who clearly understands banking (especially corporate and retail), a strategic individual who will be able to visualise a clear path with the ability to enhance valuation of the business".
It would definitely help if the candidate has had some exposure to the African market, understands Islamic banking and has managed sizeable teams with a proven track record, it added.
Meanwhile, a specialist Islamic finance firm is looking for an experienced Islamic finance product structurer for its Dubai office. The job responsibilities include finding innovative new solutions to make conventional products Shariah-compliant and structuring multiasset Islamic finance products for Islamic clients in the GCC region (pricing, preparation of pitch books, modelling).
The person is also expected to redraft and implement conventional products underpinning documentation in order to make them Shariah-compliant.
An Islamic bank in the Middle East has also advertised for an Islamic banking IT project manager to be based in Qatar. Not For Saudi In April, a news agency reported that a growing number of investment bankers whose jobs have been axed due to the global financial crisis are leaving conventional banking to move into Islamic finance. Executives from Islamic banks told the news agency that the number of applications from conventional bankers wanting to enter the industry, seen as having huge growth potential, was rising sharply.
"It's totally changing. I'm seeing CVs from the London market, also the Far East, and more than anywhere else, from Dubai," head of private equity at Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank Gulf Finance House (GFH) Nabeel Kazerooni told Reuters. But there was one blip on the radar.
Based on a report picked up by Bloomberg, Saudi Arabia does not need more university graduates with degrees in Islamic studies entering the workforce, Okaz reported, citing the director of the Jazan University Mohammed Ali al-Hazaa.
The Jeddah-based newspaper cited al-Hazaa as saying that the Saudi job market is "saturated" with graduates with degrees in Shariah law and more would only increase unemployment in the kingdom.
In Malaysia, however, demand for Islamic finance talent will only increase should the regulator's plan to allow the setting up of two Islamic mega banks take shape. In April, under the liberalisation of the financial sector, the government offered two new mega Islamic banking licences to foreign players with minimum paid-up capital of US$1 billion (RM3.54 billion).
On July 8, Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz told reporters that several financial institutions from the Middle East and Western countries have shown interests in setting up Islamic banks in Malaysia, whose closing date is in October.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on July 13, 2009. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on Islamic finance on Mondays, edited by Habhajan Singh)


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