Better banking in Dubai
As a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers in Dubai, Salmaan Jaffery advises banks on how to operate more effectively. But since moving to the Middle East in 2008, he’s found that working with banks in the region is a completely different undertaking than assessing financial institutions in the United States.
While Jaffery primarily does consulting with conventional banks, he also assesses Islamic banks, which follow a set of strict principles that prohibit them from accepting interest on loans and investing in businesses involved with alcohol or gambling. “It’s not the case that all banks here are ‘Islamic,'” Jaffery says. “It’s a choice, and people choose to bank in a certain way.”
A native of Pakistan who grew up in the United States and the Middle East, Jaffery recommends that Islamic banks focus on ways to operate more effectively, rather than on ideology. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re an Islamic bank or not,” he says. “If you don’t serve your customers, you’re in trouble.”
Recently, Jaffery has focused on helping his banking clients follow established anti-money-laundering practices. While banks in the Middle East are aware of the concern, they often don’t have well-developed procedures in place to track such activity using the sophisticated tools available in the United States, says Jaffery, who previously worked at Citibank and American Express in New York.
“Even though this is the Middle East, this whole region is a gateway between Africa, Asia, and North America,” he says. “A lot of money comes through these banks. And banks like JP Morgan, Bank of America, and Citibank, which have relationships with these banks, are saying, ‘If there’s any weakness in compliance or any shadiness, we’re not going to deal with you.'”
Outside his consulting work, Jaffery just completed his first year as president of the Cornell Club of the United Arab Emirates, which attracted alumni from several Cornell schools to six networking events held last year in Dubai. He also leads the Johnson Alumni Club of the Middle East.
“It’s one of my strongest links back to the U.S.,” says Jaffery, whose father, Zaheer, MEng ’68 (Civil), is also a Cornell graduate. “Maintaining that connection is very important to me.”