Islamic finance job seekers: shot of realism
Regular readers of The Islamic Globe will know that one of our recurrent themes concerns the poor prospects for young people trying to get a start in the Islamic finance industry. We are not talking about lowly-paid or even unpaid intern-type roles, but proper jobs with a realistic career path at the end of them.
At regular intervals throughout the year I tend to check www.efinancialcareers.com to see if the prospective job market has turned up for Islamic finance graduates and I am routinely disappointed. I checked again today and once again there are only six jobs listed.
For an industry that is purported to be on the verge of $2tn, that seems like a very low number of job openings. Consider that there are 507 jobs listed in Private Banking & Wealth Management or 364 in Private Equity & Venture Capital, not to mention 346 in Hedge Funds and the total of six in Islamic finance looks as pathetic as it is.
Consider for a minute the number of Islamic finance graduates and MBAs that are churned out every year and there seems to be a serious disconnect between hopes and reality. Not that the Islamic finance education sector is having an easy time of it either. A colleague, who is associate professor in the Department of Finance and looks after Islamic finance at La Trobe University, tells me that his course is to be closed soon due to university cuts.
The bitterest blow is yet to come, however.
I am in the middle of a big project at the moment that looks at a variety of practical ways that we can attempt to solve some of the problems of the Islamic banking sector. One of the recurrent themes is that there is little or no future for bright young things to enter the industry and do well. I have asked a number of very senior bankers what we might do to tackle the job shortage and the responses have been discouraging, to say the least.
One of the bankers I spoke to at length summed it up rather neatly, and I am taking the liberty of leaking one of the comments made that banker made ahead of the publication of the major study itself, because I think it encapsulates the core of the problem.
He said, “My advice to someone who wants to get into Islamic finance as a novice? Even with an MBA in Islamic finance, you will not do well. The reason is that you should come with more experience. With your Islamic finance qualification and your MBA in finance, if you were to get into conventional finance and get five or six years’ experience of that industry and then you come in, Islamic finance will take you with open arms. That is the dilemma and it is very real now. I don’t see Islamic banks taking people with open arms who are not corrupted by the conventional banking and finance system and saying, ‘Fine. Come in and we will make you a perfect Islamic banker.’ Because the system that the Islamic banks use is not perfect. They prefer people who know conventional banking and then they can put an overall wrapper of Islamic finance on them and say, now you are certified as an Islamic banker.”
This is not intended to discourage, although I know it may. But it is necessary to accept the nature of the problem before we can take meaningful steps to solve it.
Light at the end of the tunnel?