KEEPING up with the times in a fast-paced setting is never easy, especially in the finance sector.
This applies to both financial education and industrial institutions.
With that in mind, having a regulator that ensures high-quality standards are met does give the sector and country a boost.
Currently operating in its fifth year, the Finance Accreditation Agency (FAA) does just that.
Its chief executive officer Khairul Nizam Md Som, who has over 20 years of experience in the financial sector, says the agency acts as a bridge between academia and industry.
He says that the agency takes its role seriously when providing accreditation and quality assurance services to learning programmes relating to finance, and supports human capital development for the financial services industry.
“We evaluate training and learning programmes offered by universities, financial institutions, and industry training providers to make sure the content is of high quality, before giving accreditation,” he says.
He notes that the agency has come up with strict guidelines of international standards for institutions and individuals to assist its work in the sector.
All the guidelines and standards developed and the way accreditations are carried are benchmarked against international best practices, particularly those adopted by accreditation bodies internationally, he says.
“The guidelines not only help us in carrying out accreditations, but help the industry in its work to design, develop, deliver and assess training programmes properly,” he explains.
Besides accreditating university programmes and financial institutions, Khairul Nizam says the agency also provides accreditation to individual professionals in the financial services industry.
“We work alongside institutions or industry bodies to come up with competency profiles for job functions within the institution or industry.
“The individual will be assessed based on that profile which is in accordance to guidelines and standards relating to competencies and qualifications and recognition of learning,” he explains.
This helps the industry map out a strategy for human capital development and learning pathways that should be offered to professionals in the industry, he adds.
A company is only as good as its talent. If there are multiple companies with great talent, it is certain that they will flourish.
To ensure capable talents are churned out, the FAA has been working with universities to make sure the contents of their curriculum are reflective of what’s happening in the industry.
The agency also works with the Higher Education Ministry and Malaysian Qualification Agency, in advancing overall national strategy for higher education.
Khairul Nizam points out that evolution in the finance industry is rapid, saying that this itself is a strong reason why the industry should be involved in curriculum in universities.
“We make sure students in finance have technical knowledge that will serve them well when they come into the workforce, but also non-technical skills that are required by finance graduates,” he says.
Higher learning institutions will have to fulfil the agency’s “learning criteria” which include components related to design, development, delivery and assessment of training programmes, he adds, noting that all the components would make a good financial programme.
The FAA is an independent quality assurance and accreditation body supported by Bank Negara Malaysia and Securities Commission Malaysia, and is executed by a committee of technical experts, industry professionals and leading academics from the international financial services industry.
It is responsible for raising the standards and quality of professional learning and development in the financial services industry and aims to create highly skilled and internationally mobile professionals for the global financial services industry.
The agency is part of a number of international networks on accreditations and quality assurance including the International Education Association for Higher Education, Asean Quality Assurance Network, Asia-Pacific Quality Assurance Network, Council for Higher Education Accreditation, to name a few.
Khairul Nizam says the agency plays active roles in all the agencies, including contributing its thoughts on quality assurance and accreditation, and also to showcase Malaysia’s leading position interns of quality assurance and accreditation relating to finance
“We also contribute in creating guidelines that these agencies develop for their members, and we do incorporate international standards for our local sector,” he says.
Khairul Nizam says the agency’s main challenge is keeping up with the industry’s development speed.
“When we work with partners, we need to make sure the current practices in the industry are embedded in the educational curriculum,” he says.
One of the ways to address the challenge is by getting a lot of input from leading practitioners in the industry to know what is going on, he adds.
He says the agency will not rest on its laurels and will continue to do a lot of work to reach out to new markets, and will ensure all guidelines, standards, and accreditation processes are updated.
“One of our main goals is to make sure the volume of our accreditation activities grow in Malaysia as well as internationally,” he says.
The FAA is now crafting a new five-year strategic plan that will guide it in its operations from 2018 onwards.
Khairul Nizam says: “We will continue with operational excellence for the local industry as well as beyond Malaysia, to continue with its purpose to empower organisations and individuals in the financial services industry with consistent and high-quality learning and development through the use of proprietary tools and learning standards.”
Meanwhile, the agency launched its Islamic Finance Professional Qualifications Structure (IFPQS) in Abu Dhabi last month. It aims to transform learning within the Islamic financial services industry which is growing rapidly.
According to Khairul Nizam, IFPQS plays a role in supporting the growth of Islamic finance by providing the knowledge reference required by Islamic finance professionals.
The new structure, designed and developed by Takaful and Islamic capital markets, also serves as a reference structure that provides the mechanism to streamline and classify learning levels for Islamic finance professionals’ learning programmes.
“This structure provides guidance for professionals in evaluating the suitability of professional learning programmes based on their identified needs that address the lack of industry-wide standards for training programmes in the industry,” he says.
Khairul Nizam adds that it will benefit regulators, Islamic finance institutions, academia, and programme designers, as well as developers, to emphasise effective assessment of Islamic finance professional programmes.