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Islamic finance goes mainstream

Do you know what Mudaraba, Murabaha and Musharaka are? If you do, you could be in luck. By several accounts, bankers trained in Islamic finance will hot property in Asia in 2007.

"We expect the Islamic financing wave to lap up against Hong Kong sometime next year," says Stephan McAlinden, a managing partner at Eban. "Hong Kong is the seat for senior executives in the region."

Malaysia is already afloat in the Islamic financing sea. Citibank's Malaysian operations are, for example, reportedly hiring bankers with Islamic experience at a rapid rate.

And the Malaysian government recently invested several billion dollars in an Islamic finance training centre.

"There is a shortage of people with expertise in Islamic financing and demand for such courses is growing fast," says a spokeswoman at the Securities Commission in Kuala Lumpur, which also offers courses, along with ten private educational establishments throughout the country.

Malaysia's experience suggests those most in demand are likely to be au fait with both non-Islamic and Islamic products.

"Since these Islamic structures have to be approved by the religious authorities, it can save a lot of the time if the banker on the transaction understands both Western and Islamic financing concepts," says TY Ng, a spokesman at CIMB Islamic, Malaysia's leading investment bank.

Now may be the time to start swotting up.

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