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BIBF- creating talent in financial services industry

Intro: Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance is a training institution of repute in Bahrain shaping a rich talent pool for the banking and financial services industry. A report:

Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) has made significant contributions to the economy of the country by training, mentoring and skill updating of the banking sector professionals, says Solveig Nicklos, director. “Today, Bahrain has over 45,000 skilled BFSI professionals and we have played a pivotal role in Bahrainization of the sector and improving the skill sets in the country. You can see this from the constantly increasing talent in this sector,” says she.
BIBF came into being in 1981. It has grown from training 450 applicants a year primarily within the banking industry to 20,000 participants from all sectors of the economy today. Some 200,000 candidates have passed through its portals since its inception. While it is the top provider of quality education across and the major business disciplines, its prime focus continues to be on creating an efficient workforce for the banking sector. It has played a crucial role in making Bahrain a regional hub for banking and finance. It gives training in the areas of accounting and finance, academic, executive development, banking, leadership and management, insurance, Islamic finance and information technology. It also serves as a partner to numerous world-class institutions, delivering thought leadership, research and advisory, assessment and training in these areas.

“Basically we are not a degree granting institute. But, we do partner with leading universities in the UK and the US to offer degrees”, says Nicklos, adding, “Through these partnerships, we provide an opportunity for Bahrainis to study for internationally recognized degrees in Bahrain”.
BIBF’s has partnerships with Bangor University, London, University of London and DePaul University, Chicago. It offers around 80 certificate courses and around 20 degrees including ACI Dealing Certificate, Chartered Financial Analyst, Professional Risk Manager, International Certificate in Compliance. Besides, it also provides tailor-made training solutions based on organizational requirements emerging from time to time.

According to Deen Jayah, head of Center for Banking, Accounting & Finance, IT, Islamic Finance, Research & Advisory, BIBF, it is BIBF’s excellence that has helped Bahrainis to hold around 50% of jobs in the BFSI sector in the country. The talent that is available locally in the banking sector is the direct result of BIBF’s efforts, he adds.
“We have specialized courses in core areas of banking, including treasury, capital markets, credit, compliance, corporate governance, retail banking and corporate banking,” says he, adding Islamic banking is an important area that BIBF focuses on. “We want to have total focus on Islamic banking as demand for professionals trained in Islamic banking in increasing. We have a history of Islamic finance in Bahrain. We have compartmentalized it into important areas in order to focus and specialize,” he said. BIBF is also partnering with a number of agencies, including CISI London to create a pathway in Islamic finance, he adds.

Jayah says there is lack of consistency in Islamic finance and that is a hindrance in the growth of the sector. “Opportunity is immense but dearth of qualified personnel will create stagnation,” says he.
“One of our noteworthy efforts has been the launch of simulation-based dealing room training in the region. It allows students to gain insight into how to launch a fund, how to manage a fund and how to manage insurance. Similar programs are also planned on Islamic finance and insurance and this will be one of the most unique training programs in the world,” reveals Jayah.
BIBF has identified key gaps in the banking and finance sector in the country. It now looks to focus on cards industry, regulatory training, payments, digitization and analytics, according to Jayah.
Credit card servicing is one area which BIBF has identified where there is lack of talent pool. It is now in the process of setting up an academy exclusively for credit cards. Says Nicklos: “The credit card academy we are going to set up will help to create a new generation employees in credit card servicing. They need a lot of finesse and there is a lack of understanding of technicalities among this section. We will fill this gap through our focused education and training. ”
She points out that Bahrain Economic Development Board and the Central Bank of Bahrain see a huge potential for back office functions in the country as Bahrainis have the advantage of dual linguistic capabilities, the country has better infrastructure, connectivity and lower cost. “We at BIBF want to take this forward,” she adds.
BIBF sees an opportunity in providing professional services certifications in areas including portfolio management, marketing, corporate banking, retail banking etc. It has now set up an assessment centre for evaluating new employees. Many financial institutions consult BIBF in recruiting and training staff. Besides, it has found clients outside Bahrain as well – in Asia, Africa, Europe, USA and the Middle East.

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