Could you provide a brief journey of how you arrived where you are today?
I started my career in 1989 as a management trainee at Commercial Union. In 1994, I joined the American Malaysian Insurance (AMI) as broking Manager and later, I was made CEO of Commerce Takaful in April 2006.
What does your role involve?
In summary, my role involves planning, leading, organizing and control or what I like to call PLOC. Also includes appearances at national conferences to create awareness for CIMB Aviva Takaful locally as well as internationally and help raise the standard of Takaful operators.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
The strength of an organization lies with its people. I am a firm believer of this mantra. Having built a formidable team at CIMB Aviva Takaful I was able to achieve the company’s agenda. Our team consists of a diverse group of people with multiple backgrounds. There are those who were from various Takaful operators and we even have people previously from the conventional insurer. Basically, the formation of our Takaful team is guided by the principle of competency and character and their understanding of the Takaful aspect has helped build a solid Takaful business. Last year alone we had recorded an increase of 50% of profit to the shareholders. Not a bad profit for a two-year old company.
Which of your products/services deliver the best results?
Just two years into its operations, CIMB Aviva Takaful has managed to create products that stand out from the rest of its competitors, namely our Motor Takaful and Takaful Global Giant (TGG).
Our Motor Takaful contributed about 80% of overall business and is currently ranked third in Malaysia. The other product that had delivered outstanding result is TGG, our maiden tranche product closing RM185 million in fund size. That is 23% higher than our initial target.
What are the strengths of your business?
Our Takaful team. As I have mentioned earlier, I am a firm believer that the strength of an organization lies with its people. The business cannot achieve what it aims for without its people. It is the people who make up a team and it is the team that makes up a company.
What are the factors contributing to the success of your company?
Other than the people as a contributing factor, having an environment that is ready is another contributing factor to the success of our company. Only when the industry is ready will the people be able to move.
The regulators have played a huge role in getting the environment ready by creating a healthy and growing industry and in offering incentives, motivation and directions.
What are the obstacles faced in running your business today?
Currently, the industry is facing an increasing lack of supply of available skilled people. The high demand for well-trained Takaful talent has caused an “artificial demand” because there is just not enough pool of skilled talent. So much so that today talent pinching is a norm and people are being offered higher positions that do not match their capabilities.
At the same time also, we are losing our talent to other region such as the Middle East operators who are actively promoting the Takaful business.
Where do you see the Islamic finance industry in, say, the next five years?
You can expect a megatrend to take shape in the next five years. There is strong continuous support from the Malaysian government towards the Takaful industry. As such, the Takaful business has full potential to become an engine of growth for the economy.
What most of us may or may not know is that Malaysia is the originator of Islamic finance. In fact, Malaysia is the biggest Takaful operator in the world and currently is the leader for other Takaful operators all over the world. You can also expect to see Malaysia becoming the hub of Islamic finance and Takaful.
Name one thing you would like to see change in the world of Islamic finance?
I would like to see more coordination among the players in setting up a standard reference for Takaful.
Currently, there are various references being adopted by different countries as there are divergences of Shariah views, hence a divergence of standard references. This has become a hindrance for growth.
I would like to suggest that all Shariah scholars converge and arrive at a consensus on common applicable practices pertaining to the standard reference for all Takaful issues throughout Islamic finance.
CIMB Aviva Malaysia is the life insurance and Takaful joint venture between the CIMB Group and Aviva, the world’s fifth largest insurance group.