Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I was a consultant to Bahrain-based Financial Technologies Middle East for the setting up of the Bahrain Financial Exchange, announced in January 2009. Prior to this, I was with RBS Group in Singapore from August 2007 to May 2008. I have more than 19 years experience in the financial, commodities and securities industry, as well as the development of the Malaysian capital market, which includes managing a futures broking company and being the CEO of RHB Securities, from 2004 to 2006, which is one of the larger stock broking firms in Malaysia.
From 1993 to 1996, I had board appointments at the Commodity and Monetary Exchange of Malaysia (COMMEX), and later was the COO of the Kuala Lumpur Options and Financial Futures Exchange (KLOFFE) in 2001. I was then appointed as COO of the Malaysian Derivatives Exchange (MDEX), through the merger of COMMEX and KLOFFE. I later became the head of exchanges, managing the operations of KLSE, MESDAQ, MDEX and Labuan International Financial Exchanges (LFX), prior to the demutualization of the KLSE (now known as Bursa Malaysia Securities).
I was appointed to the MAA Group Board on the 1st November 2007. Currently I am also a director of Malaysian Assurance Alliance, MAA Takaful and MAA International Assurance and I hold directorships in several private limited companies.
What does your role involve?
As an independent non-executive director, I do not have any personal interests in any business arrangements involving the company. In this role, I participate in formulating strategy and direction for the company. I am also here to provide a balance to the shareholders — an independent non-executive director must have independent thinking and independent views. It is very important for independent non-executive directors to air their affirmative and objective views, and take independent decisions.
My focus must also be in taking care of the interests of all stakeholders rather than the interests of a particular group. And with a public-listed company, you are, by and large, looking after the interests of the public.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
I think my greatest achievement has to be in coming up with the Dow Jones-RHB Islamic Malaysia Index when I was at RHB. Another high point would also have to be co-authoring the Islamic Finance Encyclopedia with Professor Bala Shanmugan and Nafis Alam.
Being part of the hard-working team that was instrumental in the merger of COMMEX and KLOFFE, which ultimately led to the creation of the Malaysian Derivatives Exchange (MDEX) was also an achievement that is dear to my heart.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
On a lighter note, I’d have to say my restaurant!
What are the strengths of your business?
Its global network, which includes issuers, investors and regulators; for example the World Federation of Exchanges.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Credibility, integrity and deliverability. I believe these traits to be very important. Only by keeping the integrity in the things you do and honoring your promise to deliver can you truly earn credibility to your reputation..
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
In today’s world, the greatest asset for an organization is its human resource. On the flip side, people, in themselves, can also represent the biggest challenge, whether they are the investors, issuers or even the regulators. Everyone believes that their way is the best way. In overcoming any differences, we have to focus on identifying common goals and finding ways to compromise to achieve the collective objective.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry in, say, the next five years or so?
I believe the growth potential of the Islamic finance industry is incredibly great and that with time, it will only strengthen its position as a globally accepted alternative financial system.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance.
I’d like to see the industry have greater focus on microfinance instead of just emphasizing on the super big deals. There are big business opportunities to be seized in this segment.