Ganesh Prabhu, who recently completed the CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance, is the financial controller at law firm Clifford Chance. In the video and interview below, he describes how the how CIMA Islamic finance qualification has been crucial to his career success.
Read the full interview
Describe your role and the company you work for.
I am the head of finance at the Singapore office of Clifford Chance. Clifford Chance is one of the world's leading law firms, with 33 offices in 23 countries and some 3,200 legal advisers. The Singapore office provides legal advice to regional and international clients working across south and south east Asia, including Singapore, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Before joining Clifford Chance in June 2011, I was the Middle East finance director at a top ten UK law firm based in Dubai, UAE.
Why did you decide to enrol in the CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance?
All the leading law firms have a strong Islamic finance practice and I work closely with a number of lawyers who undertake a number of Islamic finance and related legal advice. Furthermore, the growth of Islamic finance globally, and more particularly in the Middle East, which I have seen firsthand since I moved there nine years ago, made me very interested in this subject.
Why did you choose CIMA over courses provided by other education providers?
There are other IF tuition providers – there are regional ones for instance in Bahrain or Indonesia – however they do not have the global recognition that CIMA has. I felt there was more value in doing this course via CIMA.
'The growth of Islamic finance made me very interested'
What challenges did you face in your work before you studied Islamic finance?
Part of my job is working closely with lawyers and their clients and producing revenue / cost models etc. To do this effectively it’s very useful to understand a number of concepts underlying the actual transaction.
With the increasing growth and importance of the Islamic finance market, more clients and more deals were being served with an IF component. I felt uncomfortable when having to work with concepts that I wasn't familiar about.
How has the diploma helped overcome these?
The course helped a great deal in demystifying hitherto unheard and unfamiliar terms like musharakah, murabaha, etc. This helped me gain the confidence and clarity to deal with these concepts effectively.
Explain the importance of you having this qualification from your employer’s point of view.
The partners, associates and clients are quite comfortable talking to me about IF related issues, as they know I understand and appreciate these topics. The CIMA qualification enhances your credibility amongst your clients, colleagues and peers.
What most impressed you about the CIMA certificate in Islamic finance?
Firstly, the backing of the CIMA brand increased the value of the qualification. Secondly, the course content built up the concepts from ground level up to a decently sophisticated level, and lastly the online examination facility was extremely flexible to the student's needs.
'The CIMA brand increased the qualification’s value'
What are the greatest benefits of having an Islamic finance qualification?
The diploma in Islamic finance opens doors to a whole new set of businesses, plus it gives an added advantage over peers who don't possess the qualification.
Did you find the course delivery convenient? How long did it take you to complete?
Yes, absolutely convenient. Although I registered in 2009, I couldn’t focus on it until July 2010. Yet once I did so, it took me less than three months to study it, sit the exams and complete the course.
How do you use this knowledge in your role?
While liaising with internal clients, I use the knowledge gained in Islamic finance concepts to demonstrate knowledge in this area and help with financial questions relating to IF. With external clients, apart from the above, I also use this knowledge as a conversation opener or as a networking tool.
'I use [IF] knowledge as a conversation opener or networking tool'
For instance, some of my networks in LinkedIn are people I whom I had no interaction with before the course (ranging from the head of IF banking in top investment banks around the world, to regulators and IF magazine editors). As a result of the qualification they became my contacts.
Furthermore, following Kazakhstan's recent chairmanship of the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conferences), I was recently invited by the deputy prime minister's aide to attend an IF conference hosted by the Kazakh government and Ernst & Young in Astana. I made this contact via LinkedIn because of my IF qualification.