Educating Qatar’s future financial sector
Dr. Abdulazziz Al Horr, who was appointed as the CEO of the Qatar Finance and Business Academy (QFBA) last year, speaks with The Edge about the need to educate future generations in order to be able to manage and grow the wealth of Qatar, and how the programmes they have designed can help in this regard.
Could you tell us why the QFBA was formed?
QFBA is the education arm for Qatar Financial Centre Authority (QFCA). Qatar is now promoting itself as a financial hub to attract international banks, insurance companies, asset managers, and wealth managers to come and operate in this country. For the international organisations and companies to come into Qatar, they have certain necessities. They require a proper training and education institute, it is one of the most important factors that international banks and financial organisations consider when they come to operate in any area.
Therefore QFCA in 2009, shortly after establishing themselves in 2005, decided to form the QFBA. But i want to make it clear that QFBA was not set up just to serve banks and companies that report or belong to QFCA. We cater for the entire financial industry, starting from banks to capital management companies; we cover all of these areas.
What did you do before you joined the QFBA?
I started my career in human development as an education professor at Qatar University, I then took a director position at the Arab Education and Leadership Center, I was also a director at Al Jazeera Media Training Center, and then got offered the opportunity of leading Qatar Finance and Business Academy as its CEO. As you see, most of my life has been dedicated to education and training. For the past 17 years, I have been involved in education in terms of research, teaching and training for higher level education and public education, specialising in three main sectors – media, finance and business.
“Qatar deserves nothing but the best. It is our duty as Qataris on an individual level and the duties of the organisations to develop our human capital.”
How did you get involved in education?
My discipline is in education. I got my PhD and my master’s degree in education, I taught at Qatar University, and later became a certified professional trainer specialised in areas of strategic planning and leadership. So far I have written for more than 25 publications tackling subjects related to education, leadership, strategic planning, creativity and other areas.
Did you know you wanted to follow a career path of education early on in life?
Yes indeed, my goals were very clear in my mind, even when I was pursuing my higher education, I recall, for a newspaper interview, I was asked about what career I chose to specialise in, and my answer was at that time; to specialise in education and development for a promising future is what I wanted to do and this is how I envisioned my future. I still have the piece from that interview. So yes, it was very clear, in fact it was crystal clear in my mind that this was the path I wanted to go with.
You mentioned that you operate under the auspices of the QFCA, can you tell us more about that?
Sure, as I mentioned, you cannot have a financial centre without a proper training and development arm. You cannot have a distinguished financial sector without a focus on education and training. Training is not restricted to starters, but even for professionals.
The certifications we offer with our programmes cover the A’s to Z’s of the industry. Establishing QFBA under QFCA was one of our unique selling points, besides the advantage of the economic boom, and the investment in the infrastructure happening in the country, QFBA is an added value for international firms to come and operate from Qatar.
You also work with organisations to develop courses based on their specific needs, could you talk about that?
Some organisations have their own mechanisms of conducting the needs assessment. They give us what they want and we design our service accordingly.
Other organisations ask for help to identify and survey the needs of their employees. This is when we help them come up with a comprehensive training and development plan. So we cover both needs.
However, there are also firms and banks that are small or medium sized. They don’t have many employees or the volume to go for a custom tailor-made programme, this is when our open calendar and public offerings programmes come into the picture.
Do you also work with individuals to develop plans based on their needs or is it only with organisations?
As I mentioned before, we open our doors for all, individuals are mainly interested in certifications. Individuals usually do not invest in isolated courses; they pay and invest in themselves more when it comes to acquiring a globally recognised certification.
Nevertheless professionals are in some cases uncertain which certificate suits their needs, or is the right one for them to develop in their field. In other cases, they are unaware of what is required from them; we help them by understanding how they envision themselves in the future and understanding where they stand, and then we assign the certification that would help them get there.
The programmes you offer seem to be quite short and intensive, why is that so?
We offer courses that run up to six months, two months, two weeks, five days, that all depends on the course or certificate of the clients. Yes, for some clients we offer very condensed intensive programmes because they run on tight schedules, and others cannot be released from their job duties for a long time. For this reason, we sometimes intensify our programmes, and in other cases we schedule afternoon programmes for those who cannot leave their job even for short durations.
I also want to highlight the fact that we even offer weekend programmes, especially for certifications because most of those who are coming for certification run on a busy schedule. They would like to acquire these certificates and we are very flexible, utilising every way possible to encourage people to learn and develop.
You mentioned business professionals, but whom else are these programmes targeted at?
We have programmes for university students, we have programmes for fresh graduates, programmes for middle career stars, we even offer advanced programmes and certifications for high-level executives who still like to pursue a specific development in a specific course in their specialisation.
You talked about how important providing people with the technical skills is with all the investment coming in, do you see that as a priority more for Qataris, or the country in general?
Both generally, and for Qataris specifically, because to leverage on the wealth we have in Qatar, to protect the wealth, and even develop this wealth. You need talent; you need people, not robots. Foreigners help us, but they cannot do the job forever, it is our mission as Qataris and as young skilled talent to build this nation.
However, without a proper set of skills, correct knowledge, and a healthy frame of mind, we cannot achieve what we want. Therefore, it is extremely important for the country as a whole, and for Qataris mainly to categorically upgrade themselves neither to be standard nor to be very good, but to excel.
Our country, the wealth that we have, with the important roles that we are playing in the financial arena, in the political arena, in the media arena, and in research and development, I believe Qatar deserves nothing but the best. Therefore, it is our duty as Qataris on an individual level and the duties of the organisations on the corporate level to develop our human capital. And I can never stress on this point enough.
“Sometimes we even offer weekend programmes, we are very flexible, utilising every way possible to encourage people to learn and develop.”
Can you talk about some of the courses you offer? And how you developed more programmes?
Actually we cater for the whole financial industry. When we talk about the financial industry banking takes a big chunk of it, whether it is conventional banking or Islamic banking. For conventional banking we cover executive programmes in all areas starting from the front office reaching to back office.
As for the Islamic banking sector we also offer a wide range of courses and we are doing it in association and partnership with the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS).
For capital markets, one of our programmes is the CISI certifications. We are working closely with the Qatar Financial Markets Authority (QFMA) too, and we are the exclusive delivery partner for all their certification programmes. As you will notice, it is a wide range of offerings for the financial
industry, never to forget the executive education and the management and leadership programmes.
Which programmes have you found to be the most popular?
The banking stream is the most popular and with the rising awareness of the importance of Islamic banking, Islamic banking courses are taking a big share of it. To my surprise, challenging certifications like CFA and CMA are also becoming very popular in the Qatari market.
Can you tell us about the Prometric test centre?
QFBA has partnered with Prometric to become the exclusive test centre and adminstrator for Prometric electronic exams. We will launch our test centre in April. It includes globally certified electronic tests for those studying on their own or studying with any training delivery organisation or partner. Prometric is a trusted test development and delivery provider to more than 400 organisations worldwide.
Does the QFBA have any other mandates?
Under the name Taddreb, we have been mandated by the financial market development committee (FMDC) to develop the competency framework for the whole financial industry, in partnership with the important industry experts, and the regulators.
This project will last for 17 months, and we kicked off the project last January. Phase one will end in mid-April 2013, this framework will help upgrade the whole industry, to make people more aware of what they need to know and what they need to learn. It will also help corporations who need to design career paths for their employees to know from where to start and where to end their development journey.
It is very important for companies operating in and from Qatar to have a fixed benchmark or standards against the specific requirements for certain positions while recruiting professionals for it.
This comprehensive framework will support individuals in the financial services sector, particularly in regard to legislative principles, rules and guidance. Singapore, Hongkong, the UK, and most of the developed financial hubs have such a competency framework.