Making the Islamic finance move

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While investment banks are looking sickly and spewing out staff on a weekly basis, sprightly Islamic finance houses are popping up all over the place. It doesn't take a genius to see that now might be a good time to add a few Islamic tools to your kit.

There are now five Islamic banks in Britain, and infinitely more in the Middle East.

Jobs aren't exactly coming out of the woodwork, but recruiters say there's hiring now and there may be more in future.

"We've placed a sizeable number of senior people in London over the past year and I think there will probably be more hires as those banks look to expand their business, and as new Islamic banks arrive," says Bill Allum, managing director of search firm Napier Scott.

"Demand is still strong, and the price for Islamic finance experience is holding up, especially for experienced originators and executors in this field," confirms Harry Pilkington at search firm Armstrong International.

Jobs in Islamic finance cover the entire gamut of investment banking functions, but with an Islamic filter. Banks like the European Finance House, for example, do everything from corporate finance to fund management.

Do you need to be Islamically inclined or an Arab to get in? A quick perusal of banks' websites suggests not. The management teams of the European Islamic Investment Bank and the Bank of London and the Middle East look distinctly British and have investment banking backgrounds.

It will, however, help if you know something about the principles of Sharia banking. Durham University runs an Islamic finance summer school. The Securities Institute runs an Islamic Finance Qualification. Cass Business School offers an MBA Islamic Finance Programme. And Cima has launched a global Islamic finance qualification.

Mark Watts, head of asset management at the European Finance House, says Islamic banking represents a "phenomenal growth opportunity" but that the sector faces a "chronic skills shortage". He adds: "If you have a rich experience of conventional finance, then making the transition into the Islamic space is a real possibility. But I would strongly advise you to obtain an Islamic finance qualification before you start."