5 Key Trends for the Twin Worlds of Islamic Finance Education and Industry in 2016

2015 has been a phenomenal year from the perspective of seeing specific trends emerging in the higher education and Islamic finance services sectors.

Here the top five that I’ve been able to identify:

Crystall Ball


#1 Leadership

Topping at number 1 comes in leadership.

Lesson #1 is the buzz around leadership. In the environment of higher education and professional development of talent for the Islamic finance services sector the clamor for having talent with strong leadership skills is increasing.

Whilst the issue needs to be addressed urgently there needs to be focus in developing the leadership skill required by the industry sector. In order to do that it’s necessary for the academic and industry worlds to do what each does best—identify the key leadership skills required which the industry captains can show and get the same developed into teaching curriculum in a manner whereby the leaders develop leaders.

Two key areas to look at would be emotional intelligence— in order to read the organizational climate and culture and individual vulnerability—in order to earn respect from the team and have the guidance valued, appreciated and recognized.
As a leader why is it so important to recognize and accept emotions? It’s because as humans we are emotional beings and our emotions impact on our behaviour which in turn affects our business actions.

Lesson #2 is the value of authenticity.

When a leader is there in person, with the team on-ground, and participating in activities that are the teams’ KPIs the leader shows respect, value and need for the team. This is leadership authenticity as it says—without the team the leader can’t achieve. It creates camaraderie and team-bonding resulting in higher engagement.

In the Islamic finance sector worlds of academia and industry current leaders, from both worlds, need to set an example of leadership authenticity by being hands-on with their teams to create examples and foster behaviour that would create the next generation of leaders.

#2 Culture

“Company cultures are like country cultures. Never try to change one. Try, instead, to work with what you’ve got.” Peter Drucker.

For an organization culture is created through the behaviour of its leaders. Remember the phrase—monkey see monkey do?—People, of an organization, manifest exactly what they see their leaders do.

Where the worlds of Islamic finance higher education and industry are at today
there is a massive need of understanding the cultural perspectives of people, organizations and global financial centers, within which they exists. Whilst technical competency can get one ahead it’s the culture understanding that would aid in having the ability to manage upwards and downwards.

As with the #1 trend, leaders from the Islamic finance worlds of academia and industry need to sit down and get this into the requirements of talent development.

#3 Employee Advocacy of the Brand

Employee advocacy is, perhaps, the least visited area among Asian organisations. One wonders why when business is by the people for the people. People are the only asset that organisations today, can use to create competitive advantage for themselves.  Providing peer and social recognition, of an employee, leads to a massive increase in commitment from that employee leading to advocacy that impact positively on the bottom-line. Yet the lack of specific employee engagement strategies in the twin worlds of Islamic finance academia and industry leaves one wondering about the value an organisation gives to its employees.

Is that why we see entrepreneurism in this sector on the rise?

Today with Millennials coming into both the education and industry sectors’ organizations has to have the ability to manage workforce’s comprising of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y and the Millennials. This ability specifically needs to focus on knowledge and experience transfer in order to develop necessary talent pools of next generation leaders to ensure growth and continuity. Advocacy of the employee and of the brand by the employee goes a long way in obtaining commitment, loyalty and creates motivation towards achievement of goals.

#4 Growth

All reported data show significant growth of the Islamic finance services sector. A correlated result is the mushrooming of corresponding educational and professional development programmes. Yet data on talent requirement by functions and industry segments seems to be lacking.

Having being involved in business strategy in the corporate world for over two decades a key learning I have is that of their being a direct correlation between business growth and employee career growth. Alignment and line-of-sight between an individual’s goals, functional role and the business goal of the organisation is critical in obtaining employee commitment with accountability.

The quicker the worlds of Islamic finance academia and industry recognize this the better it would be for both the educational institutions and the industry organizations.

#5 Profit or Social Responsibilities

For as long as we can remember the basic purpose of business has been to make profit. There is a major amount of literature on this topic on the public domain. Given the changing consumer behaviour, as a result of the financial crises and increase in technology usage, businesses have had to re-look at the profit-maximization model that had been in use. Trust, word-of-mouth referral and most importantly brand experience  that delivers a tangibly perceived value has become the order of the day.

The Islamic finance industry has woken up to the chatter on responsible financing and social impact investing. Whilst it grapples with the similarities conceptually, for now, a focus needs to come into developing organizational business plans and profitability that are based on social responsibilities. This is akin to having a paradigm shift.

Profit today cannot, any longer, come at the expense of the social community within which any organization, be it a NPO or a commercial profit oriented one, operates. Without an identified, simple and clear social benefit clearly articulated the sustainability of that entity will be in question. By having key social responsibilities as the primary objective and articulating clear actions to achieve the same organizations will be able to achieve their profit targets.


The above 5 trends are my individual observations based on published news and data on the Islamic finance education and industry over 2015. Trends wise there are still a few more that are emerging and I’d be delighted to learn of them from you. Please feel free to share your observations.

Wishing a very Happy, Collaborative and Progressive 2016.