UAE: Islamic finance talent gap to reach 8,000 plus

By Cleofe Maceda, Senior Reporter, Gulf News

Recruiters currently seeing 50 per cent growth in demand for qualified candidates

EthicaDubai: Companies in the UAE will require a lot more than 8,000 new employees trained in Islamic finance next year as Dubai positions itself as the capital of the $8 trillion Islamic economy, a source from an institute told Gulf News.

The bulk of the additional manpower will be required by banks offering Sharia-compliant products and services. Recruiters in the UAE are already seeing a 50 per cent growth in demand for candidates with Islamic finance experience.

Many companies are currently looking to fill positions across all levels, from relationship management, project management to risk management and marketing.

Tahseen Consulting, a specialised advisor on strategic and organisational issues in the Arab world, recently projected that some $87 to $124 billion could potentially enter the Islamic banking system in the UAE next year, creating approximately 7,800 new positions.

“It’s quite a positive industry right now. The growth is showing a lot of positive movements, so hence there is a good potential or possibility of the number even going higher,” Geetu Ahuja, head of GCC at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (Cima), a provider of Islamic finance education, told Gulf News in an interview.

“The close to 8,000 projected manpower is only needed around Islamic finance banks, but if we’re looking at other institutions, there are a few more hundreds there itself which will be in demand by next year.”

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is set to lead the expansion of the global Islamic finance industry, which is projected to post a double-digit growth by 2016. Estimates show that across the world, Islamic finance will need about 50,000 additional personnel by next year. Adnan Salam, principal consultant at Talent2, a recruitment specialist, said they have seen an increasing demand for Islamic finance professionals in the UAE and the wider GCC market, as conventional banks have been launching new Islamic products.

“At least 40 per cent of the overall roles we are currently working on within the banking and financial services team require Islamic finance qualified or experienced candidates. This is at least a 50 per cent increase compared to the same three-month period in 2013,” Salam told Gulf News.

“We are seeing positions that are in demand across all levels, predominantly within relationship management/sales, business analysis, project management, risk management — more specifically credit risk — and marketing, all related to Islamic finance.”

Analysts have said earlier that while the market is growing, there is a dearth of qualified personnel with Islamic banking skills. The Workforce Planning Study by Dubai International Academic City showed that 50 per cent of the GCC banks find it difficult to hire graduates for entry-level positions, while nearly a quarter (23 per cent) struggle to hire for mid-level roles.

Shailesh Dash, CEO of Al Masah Capital, said the talent shortage can be addressed by utilising the existing pool of professionals working in banks and financial services firms, and providing them with Islamic finance training.

“Instead of relying solely on some sort of certification to determine the authenticity of the professional’s Islamic finance knowledge, one could instead use existing finance [employees] and convert them to Islamic finance experts by giving them the requisite training,” Dash told Gulf News yesterday.

“This would be a far more efficient and quicker way to reduce the gap. By setting up a world-class system, the UAE not only fills a gap in the market, it also provides its national population another opportunity for gainful employment,” he added.

Dubai has announced plans to be the global capital of the Islamic economy, which includes Islamic finance, in the next three years.