Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Young Corporate Malaysians 29th CEO Series of Talk - Rejina Rahim

Today is the 29th Young Corporate Malaysians CEO Series of Talk. We have Nor Rejina Abdul Rahim, Managing Director of Nomura Asset Management Malaysia. The talk is still at our usual place, but the name of the hotel has been changed from Nikko Hotel to InterContinental Hotel. Below is the live blogging.

Rejina graduated with LLB (Hons) from University of Kent at Canterbury, UK in 1995. She started by being Legal Office at Pengkelan Securities, Malaysia. She did her Barrister at Law, Lincoln's Inn, UK in 1997.

She became Compliance Manager at Commerce-BT (now known as CIMB-Principal). From there, she became Head of Legal & Product Development, and then Head of Legal & Risk Management, as well as later on as Head of Institutional Marketing & Business Development. In 2006, she became the Managing Director of Nomura Asset Management Malaysia Sdn Bhd. 

Rejina made a disclaimer that what she said tonight would be her personal opinion and not the opinion of Nomura or Nomura Asset Management Malaysia.
Life is an adventure and change is the only constant. In the Last 15 years, we saw Y2K, Asian Financial Crisis, Global Financial Crisis 
etc. Today, even the developed countries are not as stable as we thought. Lehman Brothers, which had a history of more than 150 years, went down during the crisis.

In the globalized world, what happens in the other side of the world does affect us. Good news is that news coming out from US is getting better. US housing prices are improving. Investment spending on equipment and software are up sharply. 2010, it was a very bad year for Europe. Things are still very shaky over there. Although investors are still very cautious, things are not that bad. The leverage level of Europe is not that high. There seems to be outflows from emerging markets to developed market in the last two weeks. 

However, things may not be so bad in Malaysia. Despite Malaysia is coming from a higher base, the Economic Transformation Programmes would create excitement. We have been getting news of expansion of production from oil & gas sector.

Journey to 2020 would not be easy for average Malaysians. We would have more traffic jams before MRT is ready, and housing prices would go up before MRT is ready. 

Rejina shared about her holidays in Malaysia, and said that it is very beautiful. If foreigners can make Malaysia their 2nd home, we should love it more. 

Malaysia, as the Islamic financial hub, we should take advantage of the unrest in Middle East, to grab the market share.

Despite what is said about broadband prices in Malaysia, we still can easily get free wifi at mamak here. 

Just as Rome was not built in a day, we should not expect things to change within very short time.

2010 was a great year for Malaysia, and we do have strong fundamentals in Malaysia. Growing 6% a year is not going to be easy, but with the talents in the younger generation, we should be able to value add and grow Malaysia at that rate. 

The path to developed nation status is not going to be easy. Our valuations are not as cheap as our neighbours. Global investors are looking at our neighbours first, before looking at us.

We are going up in a world, where competition is getting tougher.

Back in 1980-1990, a double storey house in Subang was RM80,000. Today, RM80,000 would get you a low cost flat in Bangi. Back in 1996, Rejina got a starting pay of RM1,500. Today, fresh graduates earn an average of RM2,000 and the extra RM500 would just get you a room (and not a house).

Lessons learned from the global financial crisis can be useful for us. Greed is not good. Lets get back to basic. Be nice to neighbours. Grow your own herbs. Think before you buy a nice handbag on credit cards.

Make your street a nicer world and your world would be a better place. Some might called her an idealist and it might take a lot more hard work to get things work. Even though we have the technologies like Facebook, Twitter, face-to-face communications tend to get the messages across better. We don't always have to rush. She always finds it easier to speak face-to-face.

Back to the Future mentioned 2010 as the future, but now it is in the past. Today's world has changed a lot, and it is a world of changing everything. Like when we reach the peak of Mount Kinabalu, we can take a photo there and tweet it to the world. Everything is so instant. There is also some "down" for things that are done too instantly. We got irritated when others don't reply within a few hours.

Markets around the world are now watching nervously what is happening around the Middle East. Are we having information overload? Before, one person can't make real change in the world. But today, each of us can make real change in the world.

Management and Human Resources can track what your track record even better. She would google her future employees. Taking charge of one's life may not matter to your CEO or your boss, but you should want to make the impacts on people. 

People are inspired because they are passionate of what they are doing. 

Rejina called herself as Late Bloomer. She was lucky that her parents were not from the traditional mould. She got an early stint at Malay Mail. Back then, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin offered her to stay on, and told her that she doesn't need to go to university to be successful in journalist.

She got married in 1996. The managing partner of a law firm questioned her of her recent marriage and asked whether it made sense to hire her, since she would get pregnant soon.

She left legal practice and joined as Complaince Manager and from there, moved on to other roles. She did get pregnant soon after she joined the firm, and her productivity went up and not down.

She started Nomura Asset Management Berhad in December 2006. When she went over to Japan, she couldn't speak Japanese, but she had a point to prove and do well.

Do not expect people to react the way you want. If you do, 9 out of 10, you would be disappointed.

She trusted her maid, Wati greatly and she would trust her just as much as she trust her colleagues. As a women, the expectation of her role is higher. Even though she has spoken around the globe, she would still go through the homework of her children, whether directly or over internet.

She has learned a lot over her 38 years. She learned that her kids can teach her a thing or two. She learned that her husband can still surprise her even after getting married for a long time. She learned that making mistakes are ok, as long as one learned from it.

Innovation and lessons can come from anywhere. Steve Jobs didn't even have a college degree. He has a passion to learn. He took a calligraphy course. That same course helped him design the typography in Mac.


She shared that sometimes we won't know that we screwed up until it happened.

Compliance usually takes in those from legal or accounting background. For her, she is always going out to learn what others are doing, and learning up on it. Be inquisitive and tries to find out what is available in the firm. She said that most people are always quite surprised that managers and bosses are quite to it.

Nomura Asset Management Malaysia managed equity global and fixed income out of Kuala Lumpur.

She hoped that she should be running a lot faster in the next 10 years. She aimed to run half marathon in less than 2 hours.

Nomura as a group has exposure to Islamic Banking/Finance since 1980s. 

She felt that if one wanted something badly, then one would make the time to do it. She joked that if one wanted to sleep, one can sleep after one is dead.

She knows the industry pretty well, so she is still in it. If she does not have any financial obligation at all, she might end up being physical education trainer. She loved her job pretty much too. She met all sorts of people around the world.

There is a lot more interest in Malaysia lately, compared to previously. Eventually, for a global investor, and if they wanted to benchmark with MSCI, Malaysia would make up for a very small part of exposure. So, some investors could decide that they would be investing it in other countries, like Indonesia and Thailand.

We talked a lot about Malaysia here, but we don't promote the country internationally. Not many public listed companies in Malaysia do not even have investor relations department. We need to have more companies going around internationally to promote the companies and country.

She enjoyed running. She used to do yoga. She is looking to do pole dancing. Any kind of exercise is good.

We need to know what we are looking for, and we shouldn't just be looking for a big pay cheque. Malaysia hasn't come to the level of Singapore and Hong Kong, where they can get bonuses of 3 years. She definitely sees that pay is increasing in Malaysia, especially in asset management companies.

She says that everything goes back to perception. We can say cup is half full or half empty. It is better that we take the challenge.

One advice she could give is don't get emotional. We should gauge who we are speaking to, and different people would give different responses. Body language is important. It is very important to be listening. Today, it is very easy to read and glaze over things, but we should focus on listening.

Need to be strong numerically and also would need to have good writing skills, to do well in Asset Management firms. Usually people would start from research. And she adds on, having a good look, would help the firm in doing marketing. She would suggest that people have some form of finance learnings. She knew of people with both legal and accounting degrees.

CFA used to be something difficult to attain. Very few people in the industry had it. But today, with lots of courses, it is much easier. Having CFA would be good to show the prospective employers of your interest. One of the best fund managers that she had worked with, do not have CFA.

Her personal take is that Singapore needs to survive no matter what, whereas we are blessed with natural resources and do not think ahead as well. 20 years ago, Singapore has already gotten their MRT sorted out, and we are still in the planning stage today. We need to think ahead, be passionate and be hungry. If we think that life is easy and we don't need to work as hard, then we can't go as fast.

Her children used to go to government school. She is a member of Parent Action Group for Education (PAGE). She used to go to Sekolah Kebangsaan and she didn't think that she is more stupid compared to those who go to boarding school. What things that she does not like is that our education policy keeps on flip-flop. She took her children out of national school. Both her children are learning Mandarin. She is hoping that one of them would start learning Hindi. 

She doesn't care much about how others looked at her. Back then, she would need an interpreter, but today, meeting notes are in English.

A lot of companies do not allow Facebook/Twitter, but what they do not realize is that youths today can multi-task. She does not make any deal if her staff is on Facebook/Twitter during office hour. One thing she would know is that they would be a happy staff. She is very amazed at how the 6-degree of separation is a lot less. We can do words of mouth much better.

Just like if one opens a restaurant, a blogger can help promote the good things or bad things of the restaurant. She still did her business traditionally. If all the regulators in the world would allow more cross-border selling, then it would be a lot better. Of course, would need self regulation and people need to do it more responsibly.

The world is your oyster. Opportunities do come around from around the world. There are people who are working in Malaysia, and yet they write iPhone apps that bring them USD20,000 a month. There are a lot of success stories from here too. The internet is a very powerful tool.

1 comment:

lan said...

great write up Chen Chow