Matt Cowan is the Regional Director - Middle East for the London headquartered Chartered Institute for Securities & Investments, a global not for profit qualifications and membership body for financial services professionals. Based in Dubai for the last four years, he works very closely with the Middle East’s banking and financial services providers, together with Regulators in designing and delivering qualifications programs, in addition to promoting the highest levels of professionalism and ethical conduct amongst Middle Eastern practitioners, ultimately for the benefit of consumers.
Matt has spent over 20 years operating in the retail financial services sector working for a number of blue chip financial services providers in addition to operating his own boutique financial services distribution company. His key strengths are relationship management and client servicing.
The CISI’s mission is to help members attain, maintain and develop their knowledge and skills and to promote the highest standards of ethics and integrity in the securities and investment industry. The CISI is a global organisation. Head quartered in London, with representative offices in financial centres such as Dubai, Dublin, Singapore, Mumbai and Colombo. We work in close cooperation with regulators, firms and other professional bodies across the Middle East and internationally.
With its 40,000 worldwide membership, the CISI is the professional body which sets examinations and offers qualifications for those working, or looking to establish a career in, the wealth management and capital markets industry.
LEADERS Middle East caught up with Mr. Cowan for an insight into CISI’s operations.
How is having a degree or certification important to developing a knowledge-based economy?
The world is moving at a rapid pace with technological and business advancements having changed the way we do business. It is therefore essential for professionals to possess a qualified degree or a recognised certification from an organisation such as the CISI to keep up with the pace and to constantly upskill themselves. Professional qualifications and CPD courses are essentially about upgrading knowledge and skills to remain competent in a fast paced working environment.
It is important to note that nations with a knowledge-based economy have solid education structures in place which is a key factor in developing a strong knowledge-based society. This in turn results in social and economic growth in the long run.
We believe that the development of a knowledge-based economy depends on three key factors – first and foremost creation of knowledge; secondly, offering this knowledge through relevant qualifications and certificates; and finally, keeping up to date with the latest trends to continue to build on the acquired knowledge. We are already witnessing countries such as China and India effectively applying this model and benefiting immensely from the fundamentals of a knowledge-based economy.
How far has Dubai succeeded in developing a knowledge-based economy? What is needed for this goal?
Aligned with UAE’s vision for 2021, developing a knowledge-based economy is clearly one of the strategic objectives of the Dubai Government. Dubai has done a fantastic job in diversifying its economy and putting an increased emphasis on shifting towards becoming a knowledge economy.
The emirate has built a solid education structure with a strong regulatory framework to ensure educational institutions in the city are delivering quality education. Dubai is also hosting the World Expo in five years’ time which will significantly benefit many parts of the local market.
How important it is for student to achieve an “outstanding” degrees in today’s business world?
The market is increasingly becoming competitive and therefore it is an absolute must to possess a qualification that would make a professional stand out in a crowded workforce. From a financial industry perspective, CPD for instance is now becoming a common requirement for qualified members of professional bodies. With CPD becoming far more engrained in financial services, advisers and firms are busy considering how best to dovetail training and competence requirements.
This underpins the fact that in today’s dynamic world, knowledge gained through qualifications becomes outdated relatively quickly, and if professionals are to remain up to date with the latest industry developments they must continue to build on their knowledge.
Why have certifications become important for professionals today in the UAE?
With the UAE marketplace becoming ever more competitive, professional certifications have become a pre-requisite. If financial advisers are to continue to meet the future challenges and demands of the investment market it is necessary that they are armed with the latest techniques and know-how to survive in UAE’s dynamic financial industry.
Does the fact that Dubai and the UAE are preparing for massive projects ahead (Expo 2020, etc.) contribute to that importance?
We anticipate the World Expo 2020 in Dubai to have a positive knock-on effect on the economic activity in the UAE and across the wider region. Billions of dollars have been allocated to projects associated with this mega event. This positive activity will in turn translate into thousands of new employment opportunities with the tourism, hospitality and construction industries leading the demand for job creation. ICT firms, engineering and transportation businesses will also likely see a host of employment opportunities. This means professionals with relevant experience and qualifications will be in high demand across different industries.
Are executives in the UAE aware of the importance of regulations, standardization and compliance in the work place in your opinion? And why?
The UAE economy has witnessed robust growth in recent times. The market fundamentals are very solid compared to 2008-2009. The government has introduced a number of regulatory measures to ensure that there is no repeat of the financial crisis witnessed in 2008-2009. The Securities and Commodities Authority of the UAE (SCA) recently issued a new regulation to give private joint stock companies with a performance history of two full financial years to list on the DFM and Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX), without the need to convert to a public joint stock company and undertake the IPO process. Another important regulation is the new UAE Competition Law which governs anti-competitive behaviour and monopoly practices. Organisations such as the CISI are playing a key role in training professionals with the right set of skills and ensuring that they are kept abreast with the latest regulatory developments.
What are CISI’s immediate and mid-term plans for the UAE and the region?
CISI’s immediate objective is to consolidate our position in the regional capital markets by offering our world class accreditations to financial professionals in the region. UAE being the financial hub of the Middle East will remain on the top of the list for us. However we are also working with a number of regional capital market authorities to offer certifications and courses. We recently collaborated with the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance (BIBF) to launch a dedicated Islamic Financial Qualifications Pathway which will equip regional financial practitioners with the latest know-how and formal certification to cater to the evolving needs of this dynamic industry. We have also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Kuwait Capital Markets Authority (CMA) to provide finance professionals in the country with globally recognised qualifications through accredited training partners. The agreement will look to establish a Kuwaiti local regulations exam to complement the existing international technical qualifications offered by the CISI, thereby making the qualifications more relevant to financial professionals working in Kuwait.