Banks come up short on Shari’ah expertise

Time to brush up on your knowledge of Islamic finance: Emirates headhunters say a hiring spree is on the cards.

“Even though Islamic finance has been around for years, it’s only now really attracting the attention of the major players,” says James Mackenzie, managing director of Mackenzie Executive Search in Dubai. “There are quite a few banks that are setting up operations for the first time.”

US bank Merrill Lynch recently established such an operation and local bank National Bank of Dubai is also getting in on the act, says Mackenzie. The Abu Dhabi government is opening a new Islamic bank, Al Hilal Bank, and Bloomberg recently reported that Dubai Islamic Bank expects to manage a massive US$8bn in Islamic bond sales in 2007.

“Hiring tends to be across the board, right from managing director level down to junior foot soldier,” Mackenzie adds.

One headhunter who did not want to be named says that pay for Islamic finance professionals is now on a par with other areas of specialised finance, like structured products or derivatives trading.

“Generally speaking, there is a shortage of experienced talent,” she says. “An MD at a major bank could get a base salary of US$250k, with up to three times that in bonus.”

Mackenzie says that firms tend to hire from the region, with professionals largely coming from Bahrain, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, though some experts relocate from London.

“With the newly created Dubai International Finance Centre, we’re seeing a lot of firms opting to base their Islamic finance operations in the city,” he says. “We’re expecting a lot of growth over the next few years.”

eFinancial Careers Gulf, 15 March 2007

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