Jan. 29, 2015

Dr. Amat Taap Manshor


Dr. Amat Taap Manshor

CEO, Finance Accreditation Agency (FAA)

"Every stakeholder dealing with us will benefit somehow, for example the regulators."


With a 20-year proven track record of developing human resource initiatives, Dr. Amat Taap Manshor has a strong passion for creating unique learning and accreditation innovations and solutions for the FSI. His efforts have raised the standards of talent with products and instruments designed to ensure the quality of outcome-based learning programs. In his leadership role at the FAA he has shown an exceptional ability to identify and develop human capital needs and develop strategies to meet them. Under his stewardship, FAA successfully engineered the world’s first comprehensive set of learning standards for the finance industry. The introduction of this body of knowledge marked an important milestone that finally gave the industry a foundation upon which to build learning initiatives that meet industry needs.

What were the reasons behind the establishment of the FAA?

There were several strategic intentions behind the formation of the FAA, but we have three main justifications. Firstly, we want to raise the quality of talent within the industry. This is the most important motivation because, by establishing a quality structure, we can assure the quality of learning programs and certifications and raise standards in the long run. Secondly, we are looking to achieve a level of standardization because there are so many qualifications and training and education programs in the market all over the world. There need to be certain minimum standards that all the stakeholders can agree upon in order for us to move forward. Thirdly, we wanted to support the development, growth, and sustainability of the industry. The industry is growing, particularly Islamic finance, which has seen double-digit growth over the last 10-15 years. We are looking into sustaining the industry by having a continuous supply of quality people into the industry.

What are the main benefits of FAA accreditation?

Every stakeholder dealing with us will benefit somehow, for example the regulators. By having FAA accreditation, they can feel assured that the people practicing in the industry are professional, qualified, and certified. As far as the industry is concerned, FAA accreditation will raise the level of human capital development because we will be able to tell them whether or not their program meets international standards for best practices. In the long run, this will help to raise the quality of the people and encourage professionalism within the industry. For the professionals themselves, our accreditation and standards will allow them to develop further in their careers by helping them to increase their employability, or become more mobile, since being recognized here means being able to practice in another part of the world. For the training providers, their benefit is getting direct input from the industry players, because our assessors are industry players who are practiced and know what the industry wants. By providing that input, the providers can incorporate it into the structure, design, and development of their program. At the end of the day, all the stakeholders will benefit from our initiative.

“Every stakeholder dealing with us will benefit somehow, for example the regulators."

How are you working to increase your recognition internationally and attract submissions from outside of Malaysia?

That is part of our long-term plan. In order to promote this kind of initiative, you need to get strong buy-in from local and international players. There are many ways to do this and what we have done so far is to work closely with different organizations from around the world. We are working with professional associations and standards boards, for example the Islamic Standard Board (IFSB) in Kuala Lumpur and General Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutions (GCIBFI) based in Bahrain. We are also working with international quality assurance agencies, for example the Asian Pacific Quality Network (APQN). Also, we are working closely with regulators and central banks in different parts of the world and we accredit some top qualifications such as CFA and CISI. That is the way in which we are creating awareness in the market about the importance of our initiatives in raising the quality of talent. In the long run we will work hard on our promotion, engagement, and corporate relationship.

Are you looking to form further partnerships?

We are looking into a few important markets in Central Asia, for example Kazakhstan will be one of our targets. In addition we are looking into North Africa and have specifically developed some of our standards in French. We are also looking into some countries in Africa such as Tanzania, and of course we are working closely with our neighboring countries like Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Recently we also had a few discussions with several institutions in Hong Kong and we would like to make Hong Kong our base for a larger market in China.

How is the FAA working to increase the competitiveness of Islamic Finance?

One way that we would like to increase the competitiveness of the Islamic finance industry is by providing a high level of professional service that is on a par with or even better than that of conventional banking, which has been established for hundreds of years. They have a very complicated system with a high level of service. So we need to meet this by raising the standard of service and developing more unique and creative products, which is another issue for Islamic financing. Leadership is also very important in this industry and we are pleased to be in Malaysia because we can lead this initiative. We would like to promote Islamic Finance further into other parts of the world, especially to those countries that have interest in developing such a model for their financial services industry. I believe Malaysia can play this leadership role and indirectly the FAA will be able to assist when it comes to producing quality talent.

What do you think is the overall role of Islamic finance in the development of Malaysia?

Islamic finance is already very important, and it will increasingly become a major component of our economy. This will contribute to Malaysia's vision of becoming a developed country by 2020. This will give a lot of opportunities to the workforce and create a lot of business, which we can export and develop in other parts of the world. For example, some of our multinational banks, such as Maybank and CIMB, already have operations in many other countries, offering Islamic finance services in Indonesia, Brunei, and even London and Hong Kong. That is how we link the overall development of Islamic finance to the development of Malaysia. Furthermore, Malaysia will play a role as the hub of Islamic finance, promoting this business model to other parts of the world, not exclusively the Muslim world. For example, Malaysia is the second largest investor in London, which is very interested in exploring Islamic finance as a financial instrument to further develop the city. Islamic finance is not about religion but rather about a different business model that can bring benefits and allow further development. And Malaysia is happy to share this.

How do you think standardization in accreditation can be achieved?

This is one of our long-term goals. What we have already produced is a learning standard that was developed by the industry and which needs to be incorporated into the university curriculum. Secondly, we are working to strengthen the industry's role, for example when it comes to students undertaking work experience in their final year. Thirdly, we would like more people from the industry to work and teach at the university level. Through these three things we are hoping to achieve some level of coordination and collaboration between the universities and industries. The FAA comes in to help facilitate this bridge, which is why we also invite industry players and professors to our assessment and development meetings. In this way, professors can understand the aspirations, intentions, and needs of the industry and at the same time it allows the industry to understand the role of the universities, which are trying to produce holistic graduates. This is our vision and we have started doing it. In 2015 we will start working closely with universities and the regulators. We will invite all the business schools in the country, and Bank Negara and the Securities Commission will also come to work with them and provide them with the latest updates so these can be incorporated into the universities' curriculum.

How does the enhancement of human capital play into Malaysia Vision 2020?

In order for Malaysia to become a fully developed country in line with Vision 2020, the government had to identify a few critical pillars; the one closest to us is human capital. You need to have innovative and creative people because most of the developed countries in the world have created a lot of things through innovation and creativity. Development is highly dependent on talent and we need talent in the country in order to support long-term growth. This is very much in line with what we are currently doing; producing quality talent. It is about high quality rather than quantity of talent, which is why we are trying to build the bridge between industry and the universities and also trying to enhance professional training of our certification. Learning should not stop after people have graduated; once in the industry, people should still go through continuous education and learning in order to be able to innovate and come up with creative ideas and solutions. That is why practitioners are required to have a Continuous Professional Education (CPE) program, which assures the continuing relevance to the needs of industry. By having that we are quite positive that we will be able to achieve Vision 2020, even though it is in only five to six years' time. The government is working hard, as are we at the FAA, to achieve this.

Where do you see FAA in the medium term?

We already have our five-year road map and now we are in the process of developing our second phase for 2017 and beyond. One thing that is very clear in our minds is that we would like to be the central point of reference when it comes to the development of quality talent and show the direct impact of this initiative to the bottom line of the industry, which in this case is profit. In the next two to three years we will be able to provide advisory services to the government and professional bodies in the industry. When they talk about quality talent, we will be the central point of reference because we have all the necessary methodologies, standards, processes, and resources in place.

© The Business Year - January 2015