An exclusive interview with Ahmed Ali Siddiqui — Founding Director, Centre for Excellence in Islamic Finance
The Centre for Excellence in Islamic Finance (CEIF) has been established at Institute of Business Administration (IBA) with the objective of providing a platform for discovery, enhancement and dissemination of knowledge in the field of Islamic Finance. It aims to be a world class Centre that through education and research, carries on IBA’s legacy of thought leadership in the Islamic Finance industry. CEIF offers Executive Learning Programs and Forums for discussions among various stakeholders. CEIF has signed an MoU with Malaysian based University, INCEIF, as its Academic Partner. Furthermore CEIF has entered into collaborations with Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI) and International Shariah Research Academy (ISRA) to cooperate in enhancing the objective of Research, Training and Development in the field of Islamic Finance. In line with its aim to provide demand driven training, IBA initiated a strategic partnership with Meezan Bank, Pakistan first and the largest full service Islamic bank, to establish the Centre. Following are the excerpts from an exclusive interview with Ahmed Ali Siddiqui, Founding Director of CEIF.
PAGE: THREE CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE IN ISLAMIC FINANCE HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED IN PAKISTAN OUT OF THESE YOU HEAD ONE. WHAT HAS BEEN THE RESPONSE OF STUDENTS AND FUTURE EMPLOYEES?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: With the support of the State Bank of Pakistan three Centres have been established, one each at IBA, LUMS and IMS Sciences. IBA-CEIF focuses on capacity building in the industry and academia. The Board of Management of the Centre includes CEOs of major market players and regulators with Dr. Ishrat Husain as the Chairman. CEIF strong linkage with the industry aims at enabling it to achieve the key objectives that include:
- To provide trained human resource to the industry to take it to the next level of maturity
- To conduct quality research and document case studies for enhancing and disseminating knowledge.
- To be a platform for debate, discussion and discourse on current issues and best practices around the globe. It is actively negotiating with various multilateral institutions to assure quality and best practices in this field.
- To provide a network of global outreach. In this regards, an International Lecture Series has been launched where various leaders of the industry from around the globe will be invited regularly for training sessions to bridge the knowledge gap.
- To advance theory of Islamic Economics and Finance and its role in the society.
- To establish a data centre with best local and international resources.
The response of the professionals and students has been tremendous. We have so far trained over 1,500 industry professionals and employees of various segments of the society that included Media professionals, Judiciary, Shariah Scholars, Academicians, Parliamentarians and School students.
Our MS Islamic Banking and Finance Program has received a good response where 38 students were inducted. Currently we are in the process of admitting the second batch of the MS Program.
PAGE: WHAT IS YOUR PRIME FOCUS OUT OF CERTIFICATE COURSES, POST-GRADUATE DIPLOMAS, BACHELORS, MASTERS AND DOCTORATE?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: Our focus is to develop both Professional Courses for existing banking and industry professionals in the form of short courses, certifications and Masters Program to push the barriers of academia, all of which are being successfully run. We are also in the process of developing a PGD program as well. As regards Bachelors’ program, the courses have been incorporated in the existing system of studies at IBA. On the Doctoral program front it may take a little longer but it is on our agenda.
PAGE: WHAT EXTERNAL (FROM OUTSIDE PAKISTAN) SUPPORT YOU ARE GETTING IN TERMS OF DEVELOPMENT OF CURRICULUM?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: Pakistan has an exceptionally deep resource pool of Shariah Scholars and we are leveraging on that strength. However, for more contemporary understanding of the complex global financial system, we have drawn upon external sources for their expertise as well. For the MS Program, we have been assisted in curriculum by INCEIF, Malaysia, which is the only dedicated Islamic Finance University in the World.
PAGE: WILL THESE CENTERS OF EXCELLENCE BE ALSO CONTRIBUTING TOWARDS IMPROVING SHARIAH STANDARDS?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: Surely, there are numerous research projects being undertaken at these three Centres. Some research in collaboration with AAOIFI is being conducted which will help in improving governance standards. We recently conducted a training on AAOIFI Shariah Standards that resulted in 65% more qualified CSAA in Pakistan.
PAGE: FROM WHERE DO YOU DRAW FACULTY? I.E. DARUL ALUM, SHARIAH SCHOLARS, PROFESSIONAL BANKS, OUTSIDE PAKISTAN
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: For both the professional training courses and MS programs we use multiple sources according to their expertise. We have foreign faculty visits from all over the world, including UAE, Bahrain, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia. Loacla and international Islamic banking experts, scholars are all involved in trainings at IBA-CEIF
PAGE: DOES THE CENTRE ALSO UNDERTAKE DIFFERENT TYPES OF RESEARCH?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: Yes, the Centre is active in academic as well as policy side research. We launched a Country Report on Islamic Finance titled “Innovation at Asia’s Cross Roads” documented jointly with IRTI and Thomson Reuters. We also contributed to a report on Sukuk with Deloitte. There are other researches in the pipeline. We are developing case studies and are undertaking research on SME and agriculture sectors. We have recently organized an International conference which was an academic cum industry forum in collaboration with INCEIF. We are also planning to collaborate with other universities to conduct research based conference.