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Charlie Puddicombe ACMA, CGMA

Internal Audit Operations Manager, Legal & General Group

Legal & General Group PlcCharlie Puddicombe ACMA, CGMA works as an internal audit operations manager at Legal & General Group, and is currently studying the CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance.

In these interviews, he explains the attractions of working in the Islamic finance sector, particularly its growing importance as an alternative financial model, and how the CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance has assisted in his career development.

Charlie Puddicombe, Legal & General

What is your role?
I am an internal audit operations manager, reporting to the group chief internal auditor directly and responsible for relationship management of distribution division, unit trusts, general insurance and self invested pensions businesses. I deliver 20 complex audit assignments and reviews of significant change programmes per annum, starting from first principles, to provide assurance to group board and audit committee level.

Legal & General Group is one of the UK's leading financial services companies. As a FTSE 50 insurance company Legal & General provide risk, savings and investment management products, with more than seven million customers and more than 9,000 employees worldwide. While the group’s primary focus today is on the UK, we continue to expand internationally in attractive new markets, including through our existing operations in Egypt and a new partnership in the Gulf states.

What attracted you to working in the Islamic finance sector? 
Legal & General has ambitious plans to expand on the international stage. To this end, Legal & General Gulf and Legal Gulf Takaful have been authorised by the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) to sell a mixture of unit linked savings plans and pure protection products. Legal & General Gulf is the parent company, and Gulf Takaful a 100% subsidiary. Both companies have their head offices in Bahrain.

Ahli United Bank, our partner in the Gulf, is the third largest bank in Bahrain with one of the most extensive networks in the Gulf Co-operation Council, offering a multinational presence in this area.

Products released at launch included regular savings, flexible savings, and wedding, education, retirement and family protection plans. All of the products are Shari’ah compliant and have been approved by the company’s Shari’ah board prior to receiving regulatory approval.

I have been selected by the group chief internal auditor to manage, plan, schedule and oversee or lead initial audits of these ventures.

Why did you decide to enrol in the CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance?
I considered courses provided by others, but felt that CIMA had a greater international profile. I am also aware of the strong reputation that CIMA has for high quality exams and professionalism.

'CIMA has a strong reputation for high quality exams and professionalism'

The expansion of Legal & General into new markets will mean that our international businesses will become increasingly important, as we export core skills and values into those new markets. Coupled with my own experience of overseas work, the CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance will enable me to demonstrate the necessary skills in Islamic finance, and ensure that Legal & General's values are maintained in our Gulf operations.

What challenges did you face before studying Islamic finance? 
I felt challenged by the need to understand the technical basis of takaful insurance. This understanding is important to win the confidence of our joint venture partners and also to enable a thorough audit and assessment of the company structure and product suite.

How will the diploma help in overcoming these? 
CIMA's Diploma in Islamic finance provided me with full explanations of the technical basis and structures required to support takaful operations, particularly through the second textbook, which is dedicated to takaful insurances. Ultimately, my understanding will lead to the assurance of relevant joint venture partners on our suitability and competence to perform audits, and the validity and pertinence of group internal audit (GIA) assessment.

How will the diploma assist you in your career and daily work?
GIA is viewed as a centre of excellence within the L&G Group. The CIMA diploma in Islamic finance will assist in developing my career at Legal & General, whether within GIA or existing international operations within the GCC or Egypt.

In addition, our joint venture partner Ahli United Bank will recognise Legal & General expertise within insurance, including takaful products supported by the CIMA diploma in Islamic finance.

I used the CIMA diploma in Islamic finance during an audit of our Egyptian joint venture in May and June 2010, and on a visit to Bahrain in 2011. 'I used the Diploma in Islamic finance when auditing our Egyptian joint venture'

The greatest benefit of having an Islamic finance qualification is the in depth knowledge and understanding of Islamic products and the associated financial landscape and the recognition by peers of relevant expertise.

Why is it important to your employers that you have this qualification?
Legal & General has the opportunity to expand joint venture operations from Bahrain across other territories in the Gulf Co-operation Council within the existing partnership with Ahli United Bank. There is an expectation of growth in Legal & General Gulf and Takaful companies, through increased diversity of products and volume of policies in force. My own expertise will support this expansion and growth.

Legal & General has not only paid for textbooks and examinations, but also encouraged me to visit overseas offices and increased my profile and responsibilities in the international division.

How are you finding studying the diploma?
The course is self-study, which is extremely convenient, and I also appreciated the ability to take the examinations whenever I was ready and available.

The quality of authoring of the textbooks was impressive, both in terms of the clarity of explanations and the detail of the written materials. The opportunity to take mock examinations was also helpful as part of a complete course.

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