Does the Islamic Finance industry need talent development or not?

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More and more educational institutions, around the world, are offering degree & certificate programs and diplomas in Islamic Finance and banking.  The Global Islamic Finance Education Report   was the first attempt in having a concrete collection of the various academic programmes available globally. 

The fact that more and more people are undertaking the required academic educations is a good trend as it indicates that the global Islamic finance industry has a rising demand for competent and trained talent.

So, given that the industry is in growth mode and there are education service providers enabling talent in obtaining the necessary qualifications, why can’t those undertaking industry qualifications get jobs?

Does the global Islamic finance industry need talent development?

Whilst industry news reports spout various numbers, by countries, of the qualified talent requirement, the scenario on ground belies the fact that the industry organisations are doing anything concrete towards talent development. Studying the industry shows two clear trends:

  1. Most Islamic finance operations started as windows. The conventional products were ‘wrapped’ in an Islamic cover and offered. Inadvertently such a practice impacted the talent recruitment practice of an organisation wherein the preference was for regular conventional finance qualifications.
  2. With this factor in the lack of industry and academia collaboration resulting in slow development of professional standards and the required practical educational content.

These two trends amidst the backdrop of the global financial crises that forced organisations to make do with available talent resources, gives us the background of where talent development in the Islamic finance industry is at presently.

Whilst respective international financial centers are attempting certain actions towards a formal talent development policy on its own initiative the global industry is yet to take up this issue as a critical one.

Talent is one of the 3 key organisational assets

TLC– Talent, Leadership & Competency are the three core assets upon which an organisation builds its business.

Talent is the most crucial element in the success of an organisation.  Recruiting, engaging and managing talent, career planning and developing the talent to be an organisational leader, all of these ensure sustainable growth and success of an organisation.
For the Islamic finance industry lining up the ducks that result in excellent talent will only be beneficial in all ways.

A key first step is to define what talent is.

A common definition, across the industry, would help in establishing parameters that would aid in developing a talent development policy, at an industry level, and aid in developing their independent talent management strategy.

Some key parameters to put in place would be: 

  1. Clear set of competencies and a grid to score the competencies on based on identifying areas of development.
  2. Identifying talent based on these competencies.
  3. Ensure the organisation has an environment that speaks to personal growth – people must not only want to get better but must be allowed to.
  4. Lastly ensure identified talent has progressively meaningful work and gaining influence. These are two critical success factors for talented staff in terms of retention and productivity.

The second step would be the route of collaborations between industry organisations and academia and actively investing in the collaboration to obtain the desired quality talent. As talent is a primary requirement of the organisations in keeping their business running, the lead on this has to come from the organisations themselves. The way forward could be to collaborate with the academic institutions’ for research requirements that the organisations need to grow their business.

Thirdly, use the output of the research to develop case studies that can then become part of academic programme content in order to provide a more experiential knowledge base for incoming talents.

Lastly, a globally accepted set of competency standards needs to be in place as guideposts to what is expected from the talents in terms of educational competencies.

There are dual benefits of having in place an industry focused talent development policy.

  1. Locally the organisations would be seeding in the competencies they seek in a talent, through the collaborations with academia.
  2. The talent gains both knowledge and competencies that the industry organisations require to keep their business growing.

At a country level, this would act as a stimulus for the financial services and the education sector. As the collaborations are actioned, the talents recruited directly by the organisations will create a “word-of-mouth’ scenario through social media by talking about their jobs. This in turn will lead to potential talents looking at the industry and evaluating career benefits. From there it’s a short step to obtain required qualifications. So the academic institutions start benefiting as demand for their programmes rises.  Net result the industry gains by having a continuous pool of planned for talent that has the competencies the industry wants.

At an international level centralised collaborations, between industry bodies in different financial centers, will bring together organisations and academia to work on enhancing specific areas of the existing academic content. This in turn, will help in the generation of cross-border academic content.  Which benefits talents all round by providing them the cross-jurisdiction knowledge they need.

For a talent this provides a huge benefit as he or she becomes a “true knowledge worker” and is able to value-add to an organisation irrespective of the geographical market.

Easier said than done?

A common grouse of the industry CEO’s is on the issue of ‘how can the sharia specialists understand the bottom-line business pressures and how can the commercial specialists understand there are strict ethical principles to adhere to.” This constant mode of internal challenge actually inhibits progress.

So what can the global industry do in aiding the organisations in resolving this issue, as a start towards having effective talent development strategies?

  1. Co-create short training content that provides an overview for the respective teams i.e. the sharia specialists get a business overview and how their decision impact a business’s bottom line & the commercial specialists get an overview of what are the key guidelines to know in ensuring they can deliver a sharia compliant product.

Taking it one level down, at an organisational level, the team i.e. of commercial and sharia specialists could perhaps be given “joint” business targets for achievement and joint rewards for achievement.

This would bring about joint talent development in the organisations and allow them to maximise the knowledge and competency of their talents for the benefit of the organisation.

  1. Accept and Implement a common global standard for qualifications— like other professional qualifications develop and implement a global standard for qualifications, including short-term courses, which all educational institutions and educational service providers have to adhere to.

This will bring about a rise in the quality of the talent as well as enable the industry organisations to have a standard on which they can base their recruitment policies.

The advantage the Islamic finance industry organisations have over other industries, is that there are vast amounts of expertise from their conventional counterparts already available for use in rolling out effective talent development plans. 

But talent development will stay on the backbench, unless and until, organisations take it upon themselves to align their business goal, organisational values and talent competencies and approach the academia with what they need.