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Lim Say Cheong

EVP head of investment banking at Al Hilal Bank

Lim Say Cheong, EVP head of investment banking at Al Hilal Bank

Lim Say Cheong, EVP head of investment banking at Al Hilal Bank, discusses how the CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance enriched his knowledge and in depth understanding of the principles of Islamic finance, providing him with greater confidence in fulfilling his role.

What does your role involve?
My current position within the organisation is EVP, head of investment banking group. My role encompasses managing the asset management, corporate finance and research functions for my institution. The asset management division is further divided into investment management and principal investments.

The investment management unit is responsible for investment product development targeting both our retail and corporate clients. The principal investments undertake investing activities on behalf of the bank across various asset classes such as quoted equities, sukuk, real estate, private equities and commodities. The primary focus of the corporate finance division is helping entities raise funds from the capital markets.

Why did you decide to enrol in the CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance?
My involvement with Islamic finance started in 2003. Over the years, I have accumulated substantial knowledge and understanding of the various aspects and concepts. Nevertheless, I wanted to further enhance and augment my understanding.

'I wanted to enhance my understanding of Islamic finance' 

To achieve this objective I started researching the Islamic finance and Islamic banking courses offered by various providers. The CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance appealed to me the most and I decided to pursue the course.

Why did you choose CIMA for your Islamic finance course?
I opted for CIMA due to its global reputation and also the convenience of studying for the qualification, as it does not require classroom attendance.

What attracted you to working in the Islamic finance sector?
The Islamic banking and finance sector makes a compelling story: it has emerged as one of the fastest growing industries in the world. I wanted to learn and to participate in this fast growing area.

'The Islamic banking and finance sector is one of the fastest growing industries in the world'

I was also attracted by the opportunity to further my career as the shortage of professionals in this sector has resulted in an imbalance of demand and supply. This offers an excellent opportunity for professionals with experience in the Islamic finance space.

What challenges did you face before studying Islamic finance, and how has the diploma helped to overcome them?
Prior to studying CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance, I had difficulties understanding Islamic contracts, and the various Shari’ah standards and policies. I also did not have much knowledge about principles and contracts underlying Islamic structured products, or accounting for Islamic financial Institutions.

The knowledge which I have acquired provides me with a deeper understanding in many areas of Islamic finance. These include accounting, reporting and analysis of the financial operations based on AAOIFI standards, Islamic contracts, Islamic products and Islamic capital markets.

Why is it important to your employers that you have this qualification?
My employer is an Islamic institution. It has therefore placed strong emphasis on hiring employees with the right credentials. Besides experience, a professional qualification is an important prerequisite.

What most impressed you about the certificate?
Firstly, the content of CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance is well structured and easy to understand. Secondly, I am most impressed with the excellent online support (CIMA are highly responsive to queries), and finally, the examination format caused minimal disruption to my work.

'The CIMA Diploma in Islamic Finance is well structured and easy to understand'

Did you find it easy to study?
Yes, it was convenient to pursue the course as it does not require classroom attendance. Therefore, a candidate pursuing this qualification can study anywhere and at their own pace. This was one of the points that attracted me to the CIMA Diploma in Islamic finance.

How long did the course take you to complete?
It took me approximately one and a half years to complete all four certificates.

What are the greatest benefits of having an Islamic finance qualification?
In my opinion, the greatest benefit is the body of knowledge acquired in the course of studying for the qualification. An Islamic finance qualification provides the right credentials for anyone aspiring to work in the Islamic banking and finance industry.