Malaysia: Dialogue Sets Stage for Upcoming Global Islamic Economy Summit


Dialogue Sets Stage for Upcoming Global Islamic Economy Summit in Dubai on October 5-6
Supported by the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC), the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in partnership with Thomson Reuters and International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF) organised a roundtable discussion on the challenges confronting leadership and human capital development in the Islamic finance sector, in a bid to identify and develop tangible solutions.

The day-long session at Kuala Lumpur’s Sasana Kijang, Bank Negara Malaysia on 1 June served as a prelude to the second edition of the Global Islamic Economy Summit (GIES 2015) scheduled to take place in Dubai from 5-6 October. GIES 2015 is aligned with the ‘Dubai: Capital of Islamic Economy’ initiative that was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai in October 2013.

Converging global industry leaders in the Islamic finance domain, the roundtable included three sessions on ‘Recruiting the Next Generation’, ‘Meeting Today’s Skill Needs and Shaping Tomorrow’s Leaders’, and ‘Supporting Development of the Knowledge Ecosystem’.

As part of the sessions, experts highlighted the existing gap between academic curricula and the industry specific skill requirements demanded by the market. In addition, the sessions focused on the integral link that exists between the evolving nature of Islamic finance and the type of leadership the industry needs to nurture.

Abdulla Al Awar, CEO of Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC)
Abdulla Al Awar, CEO of Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC)

In his keynote address, Abdulla Al Awar, CEO of Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre (DIEDC), said: “Given the highly specialised nature of Islamic finance, experts unanimously concur that acquiring the right competencies is critical. A mismatch between the qualifications of fresh graduates and the skills required by the industry could prove costly for the emerging Islamic economy sector. The experts base their observations on the fact that higher education institutions most often equip students with qualifications that are theoretical rather than practical. This invariably leads to a gap between the competencies graduates bring to the table and the real-time needs of the banking and finance industry.”

Al Awar added: “Another challenge that is increasingly being perceived with the maturing of the sector is the absence of an international accreditation body for Islamic finance. Accreditation is a significant achievement that articulates the maturity and growth of Islamic finance – both for quality of solutions offered and to evaluate the performance of concerned employees – we need to join forces on all levels to overcome this challenge.”

In his opening remarks, Dato’ Seri Dr Zaini Ujang, Secretary-General II at the Malaysian Ministry of Education, addressed the key challenges faced by the human capital development space in Islamic finance. He reiterated the shortage of talent and the mismatch between university curricula and industry needs.

The Malaysian Minister pointed out that in a bid to tackle this void, Malaysia’s Ministry of Education has commenced an initiative in 2015 to recruit company CEOs to teach in public (national) universities. Each CEO registering for the government programme is allotted a maximum of 30 hours annually on the job. This enables CEOs from top local organisations such as Khazanah and Air Asia to engage one-on-one with the next generation of professionals – their prospective employees. To date, 24 CEOs have registered for the initiative.

Addressing company CEOs, Dato’ Seri Dr Zaini Ujang, said: “I ask you to look at career development for your staff as more than just promoting an individual to the next position. We need to expand the concept to include the ability of the individual to contribute to society, while enhancing employee knowledge and improving their area of expertise. If we accept this new definition of career development, it becomes the mandatory responsibility of professional institutions to equip their employees with the required abilities. After all, the true spirit of Islamic finance is to translate benefits to the overall economy in the form of financial intermediation that is well anchored in the real economy.”

In his remarks as discussion leader at the session, Sayd Farouk, Global Head – Islamic Capital Markets for Thomson Reuters , said: “The wide-ranging discussions at this roundtable session confirm that Islamic finance still needs to find solutions to the supply and demand challenge when it comes to the important domains of mining talent and developing research. Furthermore, there is currently an obvious lack of a coherent framework to address such critical industry needs that will fuel the future development ?of Islamic finance. The next logical step for the industry is to come together to develop a well-planned approach to systematically address key talent and research needs.”

In their recommendations that will be compiled into a white paper, participants pointed out that the leaders of tomorrow would need to strike an efficient balance between theoretical research, R&D and the practical application of identified solutions in the market. The panelists also called for greater co-operation among industry stakeholders to tackle the challenges of human capital development in the Islamic finance domain. Some of the pragmatic recommendations include developing a centralised database of the curricula of existing academic programmes and research towards identifying and promoting instruction and research in key ‘gap’ areas.

Taking forward the outcomes of the Kuala Lumpur roundtable, the Global Islamic Economy Summit 2015 in Dubai will offer a platform for over 2,000 policymakers, thinkers, and business leaders to engage in critical dialogue on the main pillars of the Islamic economy: Islamic finance, halal food and ingredients, halal lifestyle, standards and regulations, and digital economy.