BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN - Brunei needs to encourage more Syariah graduates to enter the finance sector if it wants to become a legitimate player in the Islamic finance industry, said an expert here yesterday.
Executive Director of Malaysia-based International Syariah Research Academy for Islamic Finance Dr Mohamad Akram Laldin said building human capacity is the key to developing Brunei's niche in the market.
"The challenges are integrating the Syariah knowledge and market knowledge. We need to have more Syariah graduates to go into the area and understand the market."
"We need people who are able to run the business, who are capable, and can plan. I believe with the establishment of Centre for Islamic Banking, Finance and Management (CIBFM), Brunei has taken a very good step," Dr Akram said on the sidelines of yesterday's International Conference on Islamic Finance held in the capital.
CIBFM was officially launched earlier this year and offers a range of short courses for banking and finance staff to acquaint them the tenets of Islamic finance.
"We have started seeing more and more people who are trained in Islamic finance coming up. This is a very good sign... The majority (of the) population of Brunei are Muslims, so that is another encouraging factor to improve manpower," he said.
However, working in the English language medium has proven difficult for Syariah graduates and remains a barrier to them entering the finance sector, said Dr Akram.
Accustomed to using Malay and Arabic in their professional lives, graduates will need to become proficient in English as it remains the language medium of finance globally.
"Syariah graduates sometimes feel very uncomfortable using English. I believe we can slowly overcome this."
The need for staff well-versed in Islamic finance becomes more pressing with non-Islamic banks entering the fray.
Dr Akram, who also acts as a consultant for HSBC Brunei, said the bank is also entering the "Islamic window" by drawing up Syariah-compliant financial products.
"In most jurisdictions this is allowed, only in some places such as Qatar they do not allow (conventional banks to offer Islamic finance products). They will have what they call an Islamic window."
Southeast Asia can capitalise on the growing Islamic finance sector, projected to be valued at US$2 trillion by 2017, he added.
"In Southeast Asia, each and every country has their own strength... From what I can see, in Brunei, maybe wealth management, in Malaysia, we have sukuk, in Singapore corporate and investment banking, Indonesia, because of the huge population base retail banking."
(Asia One Business / 16 May 2012)
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