To have what it takes in the world of finance
At a difficult time in global and regional finance, it is increasingly evident that continuous learning and skills can be a make-or-break factor for national economies, institutional investors, market leaders and individuals alike.
Globally, finance is evolving at an exponential pace, with innovations like fintech and decentralized finance reshaping access, efficiency, interoperability and transparency, ultimately driving economic growth and contributing to a more robust and sustainable future for all.
In this context, continuous learning and skills have never been more critical for aspiring and established investment professionals. Collectively, qualified and ethical investment professionals contribute to more robust institutions and a healthier financial system, which should operate for the ultimate benefit of society.
Closer to home, human capital has been identified as a vital key in unlocking the significant potential across capital markets in the Middle East and North Africa.
For example, the recent CFA Institute report “Middle East Capital Markets: Challenges and Opportunities” pointed to four key growth opportunities for the UAE’s capital markets: increasing company listings across sectors, improving liquidity, attracting institutional investors and launching new financial products. All four are directly linked to skills, with implications across the industry.
At the institutional level, fintech is here to stay. Talent —even more than technology — is integral to the expanding possibilities and appetite for fintech. After all, even the best piece of tech is dependent on those who understand finance well enough to identify opportunities and create innovations that expand the inclusion of access. Those who do not will lag and risk becoming obsolete.
At the market level, in recent years, we have seen how companies around the UAE are becoming increasingly aware of sustainability goals and adjusting their priorities to prepare for the future. Companies like Aramex and those listed and not listed on the regional Sustainability Index are pursuing sustainability-linked loans: they may be first movers in this region but are also indicative of much more development in this area.
At opposite ends of the industry spectrum, regulators and students are directly impacted by skill levels and continuing education. For students, the likelihood of finding a job and maintaining a positive career trajectory is directly correlated to skills and training.
Regulators who seek to deepen market infrastructure and liquidity, as well as retain confidence and stability, know that skills and continuing professional development are the enablers that will help them to meet their goals.
We also know that a skill gap exists in investment management. Today, most investment professionals are interested in learning about artificial intelligence, machine learning and sustainability to equip them with the knowledge they need to make sound investment decisions. As an industry, how will we respond to this need?
If we want to deepen, broaden and mature our local markets, upskilling people in finance is a must. Moreover, as standards, such as the Global Investment Performance Standards, become embedded in practice in the UAE, competitiveness will grow, positively impacting confidence, liquidity and the health of our capital markets.
The history of initial public offerings in the UAE exemplifies the transformative power of skills. In the 1990s and early 2000s, IPOs were handled almost exclusively by talent imported for the short term from New York, London and other world capitals. In recent years, local and regional IPOs have been handled almost wholly by local talent. A strong pool of skills with breadth and depth makes the country more attractive for investors, drawing capital, spurring confidence and ensuring an internationally competitive and regionally dynamic future.
As volatility across markets makes headlines, as investment professionals, we need to stay focused on developing appropriate skills locally because that has a much deeper and long-lasting impact on the industry, the individuals who work in it and our communities.
• William Tohmé, CFA, is a member of CFA Society Emirates.