SINGAPORE : Singapore is well-positioned to be the conduit for the global Islamic finance industry, given its comprehensive banking infrastructure, according to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA).

But it said that a lack of specialist knowledge is hindering the industry’s growth in the country.

CIMA noted that more skilled Islamic banking professionals are needed in order to draw more wealth from the global Islamic banking industry that is said to be worth as much as US$493 billion.

The surge in oil prices is fuelling growth in Islamic finance.

And according to some numbers, the sector is expanding by up to 20 per cent annually worldwide.

But industry watchers said the number of skilled professionals has been lagging.

Charles Tilley, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, said, “Shari’ah law is a very complex law. Islamic finance therefore sets a different set of risks, and the way you mitigate risks, than you would do with traditional banking.

“As a consequence of that, you need the skills to be able to do that, and banks need to manage their risks effectively, and provide exactly the right product for their clients, and to do that, you need to have effectively-skilled people.”

To meet the growing demand for skills in this area, CIMA has launched a new programme with the International Institute of Islamic Finance to train banking and finance professionals.

The CIMA Certificate in Islamic Finance is the first such qualification offered by an international accounting body.

Officially launched in December last year, Singapore is the third market outside the UK to offer the self-study course.

It aims to help Islamic banking professionals understand the various Shari’ah compliance standards and products available worldwide.

Industry watchers said this would help increase the number of Islamic finance specialists in Singapore, and in turn draw more wealth inwards.

Mohd Daud Bakar, President and CEO, International Institute of Islamic Finance, said, “Investors and the issuers are looking for someone who can structure a product that suit their risk profile. And that product should also be compliant and commercially viable.

“In order to make this viable, you have to bring (in) people who have the skills to structure a product commercially and compliant to Shari’ah principles.”

It is estimated that there are currently US$1.3 trillion worth of Islamic finance assets globally. – CNA/ms