Interview with Mr Ahmed Ali Siddiqui – Founding Director, IBA Center for Excellence in Islamic Finance (CEIF)
PAGE: WHY THE NEED WAS FELT TO ESTABLISH CENTERS FOR EXCELLENCE IN ISLAMIC FINANCE THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: The Islamic Finance industry in Pakistan is growing at a fast pace. Market share of Islamic banking assets and deposits in overall banking industry were 11.6% and 13.7%, respectively as of 30thJune, 2017. This exponential growth of the industry has led to a shortage of trained human resource at all levels. The State Bank of Pakistan realized this need and established three Centers for Excellence in Islamic Finance in Pakistan, one each at IBA, LUMS and IM Sciences. IBA-CEIF has been established at IBA with the objective of providing a platform for discovery, enhancement and dissemination of knowledge in the field of Islamic Finance. CEIF has maintained affiliations and strategic relationships with international as well as local financial institutions and trade and industry to align its offerings to the emerging needs. It aims to be a world class Center which, through education and research, carries on IBA’s legacy of thought leadership in the Islamic Finance industry.
PAGE: DOES THE COMPOSITION OF SHARIAH SCHOLARS AT CEIF GIVE IT AN EDGE OVER OTHER TWO CENTERS?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: Pakistan has an exceptionally deep resource pool of Shariah scholars and CEIF is leveraging on that strength. We have been working with many distinguished Shariah scholars; having them at CEIF’s Board of Management and collaborating with them for trainings. CEIF is continuously striving for bringing Academia, Industry and Shariah scholars together for bridging the gap amongst them to strengthen the Islamic Finance industry in the country, which gives it a competitive edge over others.
PAGE: WHAT GIVES IBA EDGE OVER OTHER UNIVERSITIES?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: IBA is the oldest business school outside North America. It was established in 1955 with initial technical support provided by the world famous Wharton School of Finance, University of Pennsylvania; later, the University of Southern California set up various facilities at the Institute and several prominent American professors were assigned to the IBA. The journey of excellence started in 1955 and since then there has been no looking back. It has been headed by 10 visionary leaders, who contributed in making what a legacy IBA is today.
Today, IBA is not only recognized for its rigorous and comprehensive degree programs, it’s also known for its state-of-the-art physical and technical infrastructure. IBA has affiliations and partnerships with 15 institutions world over, which include Babson College in Boston, Indian School of Business in Hyderabad, India’s S. P. Jain Institute and North Western University of the United States. IBA has achieved the widely known South Asia Quality Assurance System in 2011, one of the highest standards of excellence. IBA is and has remained an island of excellence in spite of all the challenges an educational institution in Karachi faces.
PAGE: WHO ARE MAJOR SUPPORTING PARTNERS IN TERMS OF SHARIAH ADVICE AND FUNDING?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: In terms of Shariah advice, CEIF partners with national as well as international Shariah scholars. The relationship with AAOIFI also serves the cause. IBA also partners with international research and Shariah organizations including IRTI, ISRA and AAOIFI. On local front, IBA partners with Meezan Bank for attaining appropriate Shariah and practical guidance. With regard to funding, State Bank of Pakistan and DFID UK are major supporting partners of CEIF.
PAGE: WHAT SPECIALIZED PROGRAMS/COURSES ARE BEING OFFERED BY CEIF?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: In line with its aim to provide demand driven training, CEIF offers Seminars, Executive Learning Programs, and Discussion Forums, and Distinguished Leadership Dialogues for discussions between various stakeholders including Academicians, Shariah Scholars, Industry Professionals, Regulators and Policy Makers to provide the industry with trained human resource at all levels.
IBA CEIF has also developed a unique Master’s program (MS in Islamic Banking & Finance) for fresh students, experienced industry practitioners and Shariah scholars. The program is successfully running and is focused to meet the growing needs of the Islamic finance industry by providing theoretical and applied knowledge of Islamic finance, Islamic jurisprudence, banking and economics.
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. Currently, IBA CEIF is in the process of developing a PhD program in Islamic Finance.
PAGE: WHAT MILESTONES HAVE BEEN ACHIEVED IN THE BRIEFEST HISTORY OF IBA CEIF?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: CEIF was established on 1stOctober, 2015 at IBA City Campus. Within the shortest span of only two years, the Centre has achieved several milestones. It has successfully conducted 43 courses under its Executive Learning Programs, with numerous Seminars, Distinguished Leadership Dialogues and hosting Discussion Forums on various disciplines relating to Islamic Banking & Finance. For this purpose, we invite local and international renowned industry experts and Shariah scholars to provide extensive knowledge to Industry Human Resource. CEIF has entered into collaborations with Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), International Shariah Research Academy (ISRA), Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (INCEIF), Islamic University Maldives, Islamic Banking and Finance Institute Malaysia (IBFIM), International Council of Islamic Finance Educators (ICIFE), Sindh Judicial Academy, and Pak Qatar Takaful to cooperate in enhancing the objective of research, training and development in the field of Islamic Finance.
CEIF has successfully launched its MS program in Islamic Banking and Finance with the collaboration of Institute of Business Administration (IBA), the second batch of which has been recently inducted. As a part of our Practitioner Qualification Series, we have introduced a 6-month certificate course for in-depth study of AAOIFI Shariah Standards in collaboration with Dubai Islamic Bank Pakistan Limited (DIBPL). The course has been extremely successful, and its third batch is currently rolling.
CEIF has successfully organized its flagship conference World Islamic Finance Forum (WIFF) in 2016, which received an overwhelming response from national as well as international stakeholders. Currently, CEIF is in preparation for the second round of the conference, named as WIFF 2018, which will take place on 19th & 20th March 2018 in Karachi, Pakistan.
For greater public awareness, CEIF has launched its YouTube channel to reach wider audience and educate them with the fundamental concepts of Islamic Finance. Apart from informative videos, a series named CEIF TALKS is also available on our YouTube channel, which includes brief interview sessions by Islamic Finance Industry Professionals, Shariah Scholars and local and international Academic Experts on educational topics related to Islamic Finance.
PAGE: HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE OF LAST INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ORGANIZED BY CEIF?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: CEIF organized World Islamic Finance Forum (WIFF) 2016, a two-day academic cum industry conference at Karachi, Pakistan on September 05-06. The Conference was aimed at bringing together Practitioners, Academicians, Regulators, Legal and Shariah Advisers for developing a comprehensive strategy to spread the footprint of Islamic Finance across the globe in light of various challenges. Key personalities from global Islamic Finance arena were invited to jointly design the roadmap for future taking into consideration macroeconomic goals, business needs, social objectives, capacity building requirements, standardization issues, legal and Shariah implications. Prominent Shariah scholars, renowned academicians, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Securities Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), Islamic Research and Training Institute (IRTI), Thomson Reuters, World Bank, Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM), Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), Ernst & Young, Deloitte & Touche in addition to key local and global Islamic financial institutions participated in this mega event.
Overall 13 global and 15 local institutions were represented in the panel discussions throughout the two-day conference. Islamic Finance leaders from Malaysia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey, USA and China provided valuable insight into future trends in Islamic Finance industry.
PAGE: WHAT IS THE MAIN THEME FOR 2018 CONFERENCE?
AHMED ALI SIDDIQUI: WIFF 2018 aims to deliberate on the future outlook for the global Islamic Finance industry in light of rapidly changing market dynamics, driven by technological developments and growing need for innovative products to cater to upcoming sectors. Against this backdrop, the role envisaged for various stakeholders, especially the regulator, to expand the outreach will be discussed by Islamic Finance visionaries at the conference. The international conference will bring together Shariah scholars, renowned academicians, leading Islamic bankers, regulators as well as prominent personalities from global Islamic financial and infrastructure institutions to deliberate on game changers for the industry. The theme of the conference is “Expanding Islamic Finance Footprint: Innovation, Fintech and Regulation.”