Tadawul Academy delivers risk and sustainable finance L&D CISI success

With MENA capital market regulators increasingly focussed on raising the level of finance professionals’ competence, International Accounting Bulletin’s Editor-in-Chief, Zoya Malik, speaks to Tadawul Academy’s Director and Chief Trainer, Dr. Karim Mansour, about the academy’s partnership with CISI, to deliver investment training certifications across risk, wealth and sustainable finance.

Zoya Malik (ZM): Can you give us a brief history on Tadawul Academy and the training the academy offers?

Dr. Karim Mansour (KM): Tadawul Academy was established in 2014. We just celebrated our ninth anniversary. We’ve taught close to 7000 students now, most of them through our eLearning platform Most of our students are from the Middle East (particularly the GCC), but we’ve started to attract students from the UK and Africa. Thanks to our commitment to high pass rates, we are now the highest-rated academy in the world for CISI qualifications. You can see what our students are saying here:

Dr. Karim Mansour, Director and Chief Trainer, Tadawul Academy

ZM: What professional certifications do you provide?

KM: We provide purely CISI qualifications. We cover Wealth Management, Risk and Compliance, Regulatory papers, and Corporate Finance. Some of these qualifications are also offered by CISI in Arabic, so we offer those too.

ZM: What is the regulatory backdrop for CISI certifications in the UAE and MENA and what sort of uptake are you seeing?

KM: Shortly after the Global Financial Crisis, the UAE capital markets regulator (the SCA) signed a partnership with the CISI to deliver their qualifications in the UAE as part of a certification regime aimed at raising the level of competence in the country. This includes Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, KSA, Lebanon and Palestine, and Jordan followed shortly after. These qualifications are now required and taken around the GCC and Levant.

ZM: How much of this training will allow professionals to stay competitive in regional and international markets?

KM: CISI qualifications are recognised around the world, so taking the training and passing the exams allows professionals to prove they are fit and qualified to practice their profession both regionally and internationally.

How H&T’s attestation process works with Chainlink for stablecoins to ensure not too many are minted. Credit: Harris & Trotter”

ZM: Can you tell us about some of the key modules offered and their importance for finance practitioners in the region?

KM: 1. Compliance and risk modules 

With the global push by regulators to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, these qualifications are continuously evolving and growing in importance. They are the most commonly required qualifications by regulators in the region who have partnered with the CISI.

2. Green sustainable and responsible finance  

The CISI is a proud signatory of the Sustainable Finance Education Charter, which aims to integrate green and sustainable finance principles into the education and training programmes of finance professionals worldwide. The CISI with their Chartered Body Alliance partners have developed a new pathway for those working in financial services to support the transition to a low carbon world, address climate-related risk, and explore sustainable, green finance opportunities. This pathway now offers two new qualifications: Green and Sustainable Finance Certificate and Climate Risk Certificate.

3. Islamic finance for portfolio growth 

The CISI Islamic finance professional qualifications have been specifically developed to provide financial services professionals with specialist knowledge and expertise to foster strong careers in all areas of Islamic finance including Islamic Economics, Islamic Business Ethics, Shari’ah and Islamic Commercial Jurisprudence, Sukuk Market, Islamic Insurance – Takaful and Islamic Corporate Governance. The Islamic Finance study pathway has been developed in conjunction with the Bahrain Institute on Banking and Finance (BIBF) and l’Ecole Supérieure des Affaires (ESA) and is supported by the Central Bank of Lebanon. It consists of two qualifications: Fundamentals of Islamic Banking and Finance and the Islamic Finance Qualification.

ZM: How well is Tadawul Academy placed to compete with other local and international providers of CISI training?

KM: In 2016, just two years after establishment, we took the decision to start offering these qualifications online on a state-of-the-art cloud platform with a dedicated mobile app. This has proven to be the most strategically prudent decision, as it helped position us regionally and internationally as a major provider of CISI qualifications. When the pandemic hit in 2020, our corporate clients moved from physical to online training, and by then we had already established ourselves as a leading provider of online learning, so we were able to capture a big market share from our competitors. As a privately-owned company, we can’t provide exact costs, but we can say that offering quality learning doesn’t come cheap. The old adage “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be truer, so we’ve strived to continuously ensure that our content is clear, relevant and most importantly, enables our students to pass with flying colours.

ZM: How important are your certifications for accounting professionals and CFOs to bolster their knowledge and credentials in their growing need for reporting?

KM: Lots of students come from non-investment backgrounds, particularly accounting. These certificates attract accountants for two reasons:

1. Accountants need to cost the income and costs associated with the financial institutions they work for, so it’s imperative for them to know how the securities and investment products offered by their companies work, so they can properly record them in the books.

2. Accountants are always looking to expand their career choices, so they look for qualifications that can help them upgrade their skills and open new career paths for themselves. Since they are already conversant in finance, they have an advantage over others who are just coming into the sector.

ZM: Which modules will support them best in new and developing regulatory areas of governance?

KM: Each country has its own regulations and CISI offers different regulatory papers for different countries around the world. These papers help accountants understand their regulatory environment and what’s expected from them when it comes to ethics, sustainability, governance, shareholder rights, etc. Other papers such as those in Risk and Compliance provide a solid background on how to implement preventative and detective controls to safeguard their organisation. The Investment qualifications clarify how products work and accountants can use them to better understand the products their organisations offer.

ZM: What are you seeing within the ESG space and within sustainable finance that professionals should add to their L&D journeys?

KM: ESG integration into all aspects of investment and business decisions is gaining traction. This means professionals need to be adept at understanding how ESG metrics and considerations can be holistically integrated into business strategies, investment processes, and risk management. The market for green, social, and sustainability bonds is expanding, presenting both opportunities and challenges for professionals to understand their structuring, issuance, and reporting requirements. Given the urgency of the climate crisis, there's a significant push towards understanding climate risks and opportunities. Various jurisdictions are introducing or enhancing regulations related to ESG disclosure and sustainability reporting. Professionals must keep abreast of these regulatory changes and understand how they impact both investors and companies.

ZM: How do you think COP 28 in Dubai will impact L&D delivery in relation to sustainable finance?

KM: The hosting of COP 28 in Dubai, a nexus of global finance and commerce, offers a unique intersection of traditional and modern financial paradigms. This event will underscore the importance of sustainable finance, given the urgent need for global alignment on climate goals. At the same time, with Dubai's stature as an Islamic finance hub, there's an opportunity to spotlight the synergies between Islamic finance principles and sustainability objectives.

Significance of CISI qualifications:

Relevance in the Global Arena: With the world's attention on COP 28, professionals equipped with sustainable finance and Islamic finance training will find themselves better positioned to participate in global dialogues, contribute to policy-making, and drive innovative financial solutions.

Driving Convergence: Islamic finance, with its inherent principles of ethical investment and risk-sharing, has natural overlaps with sustainable finance. Training courses can help professionals navigate this convergence, enabling the creation of financial products that are both Shariah-compliant and aligned with global sustainability goals.

Enhanced Portfolio Resilience: As global investors increasingly recognise the risks associated with climate change and socio-economic inequalities, there's a shift towards more resilient and diversified portfolios. Knowledge in sustainable and Islamic finance can guide professionals in constructing portfolios that are not only profitable but also resistant to emerging global challenges.

Competitive Edge: As discussions during COP 28 will likely spur increased demand for sustainable and Shariah-compliant financial products, professionals with the right qualifications will be at a competitive advantage. They'll be better equipped to design, market, and manage these products, meeting the needs of a growing segment of investors.

Empowering Sustainable Development: Training and qualifications in these areas don't just benefit professionals and investors; they play a part in achieving larger global goals. Knowledgeable professionals can channel investments more effectively towards projects that have tangible environmental and social impacts.

The anticipated focus of COP 28 on sustainable and Islamic finance reaffirms the importance of continuous learning in these fields. 

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Dr. Mansour founded Tadawul Academy in 2014. He is Nasdaq’s official trainer in investments and securities and delivers Wealth Management and Investment Management training in the Middle East and Africa in both English and Arabic. Mansour is the author of “Banker Middle East 100” - a publication that provides analysis of the banking and financial sectors in the Middle East.

Main image: Dr. Karim Mansour, Director and Chief Trainer, Tadawul Academy.