Malaysian

8 Things About Our New Finance Minister And What He's Bringing To The Table

Our newest Prime Minister, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced his cabinet line-up yesterday.

Looking through the list, you may notice some familiar names if you’ve been staying updated with Malaysia’s political scene for a while now.

However, one name that many are wondering about now is our new Minister of Finance’s: Tengku Dato’ Sri Zafrul Aziz.

He’s never been involved in politics prior to this, so we took a look at his professional history (and a bit of his personal one) to get an idea of what we can expect from him following his appointment.

1. He had a rather humble upbringing.

For primary and secondary school (up to Form 3), he attended government schools, and he did his Form 4 and 5 at Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK).

In a 2009 interview, he described his parents as being “very stingy” and “always about saving up”. They would give him only small amounts of pocket money, and it influenced the groups he hung out with.

He went to England to do his A-Levels on a scholarship, and in university, thanks to his upbringing, he mainly hung out with other scholarship holders.

While he was abroad, any money that he needed from his parents he would have to justify, which at the time he resented, but later appreciated when he was older.

Editor’s Note: The heading of this section was edited on 11/3/20.

2. He studied finance and economics in the UK, and got his MBA in China.

In 1996, he graduated from University of Bristol with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Economics and Accounting, and went on to further his studies with a Master’s degree in Finance and Investment from University of Exeter.

From 2017 to 2019, he was completing his Master of Business Administration at Tsinghua PBCSF (People’s Bank of China School of Finance), which is a world-class financial education institution and a leading centre of financial research.

3. At only 46, he has 24 years of experience in the financial services sector, specialising in investment banking.

Zafrul started out as a corporate finance executive in AmInvestment Bank in 1996.

Later, he would take on the role of Group Managing Director at Avenue Capital Resources Bhd, a position that he held from 2002 to 2005.

After that, he joined Citigroup as its Director and Head of Investment Banking.

When 2008 rolled around, he was appointed Group Director at Kenanga Holdings and held the position until he moved on to become CEO at Maybank Investment Bank in June 2010, up until December 2013.

2014 was when he joined CIMB as a chairman in Principal Asset Management before climbing the ranks to become CEO at CIMB Investment Bank. His promotions then came rapidly, and he was elevated to group CEO in the following year.

Image Credit: Above Creative Events Sdn Bhd

In 2016, he was further elevated to the status of CEO of CIMB Bank, the group’s largest operating entity. This was when he embarked upon a transformation plan called T18, or Target 2018, to focus on recalibrating CIMB’s business and completing their ASEAN footprint.

After it was announced that he would be Finance Minister yesterday, he resigned from all his board positions at CIMB.

4. He holds a Fellow Chartered Banker with the Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers.

Chartered Banker is the most prestigious and internationally recognised professional qualification in banking across the globe, and is essentially the gold standard for professionals working in the banking sector.

“Holders of the title are recognised as highly qualified professionals with a detailed knowledge of the modern banking sector and its ethical and professional requirements,” explains the Chartered Banker website.

5. He had an entrepreneurial stint.

Zafrul ran Tune Money Sdn Bhd for 2 years (2006-2008) as its CEO, and was also its main investor. At the time, Tune Money was known as a loyalty programme for AirAsia customers.

Later, it rebranded to TPaay Asia Sdn Bhd and then evolved to BigPay. In 2015, Tune Money was wholly acquired by AirAsia Bhd.

6. Sports has been a part of his life since young, and he’s also a triathlete.

He used to play hockey in school and would run on a recreational basis.

When he was in his first year at the University of Bristol, his main mode of transport was his bicycle—until it was abruptly stolen.

Later in his life, he toyed with the idea of competing in a triathlon, and eventually went for it, with his first being Xterra Malaysia.

Image Credit: Astro Awani

He went on to complete several others, but remarked in an interview with Cycling Plus Malaysia that he would need to work on his swimming technique if he wanted to compete more often.

7. He’s more active than most of us on LinkedIn.

Since 2017, Zafrul has posted several articles a year on LinkedIn about topics ranging from his personal life, his CIMB career, corporate strategies, climate change from a business perspective, and even the digital revolution.

Before his resignation, he would also write posts a few times a month whether it was about CIMB’s developments or sharing his insights on the threats and opportunities the ASEAN banking sector faced.

8. Apparently, he was also a judge on The Firm.

The Firm was Malaysia’s first corporate reality show, but it was shortlived, running for only 2 seasons.

The way the show worked was two teams of entrepreneurs would compete against one another in a series of tasks dealing with different disciplines in business.

Zafrul was a main judge on the show, and the winners of each season walked away with a contract with Tune Money Sdn Bhd, the company that he was heading back then.

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In light of his appointment, here’s what Zafrul has to look forward to.

According to Bloomberg, Zafrul will be tasked with implementing an RM20 billion stimulus package to counter the economic damage caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

This will be a challenge, considering growth in Malaysia was slowing down even before the virus, with the source reporting that it had weakened to a decade low in 2019.

Everyone’s eyes will be on him for sure, and some Malaysians are already suspicious of him thanks to his ties to CIMB (of which Nazir Razak, Najib’s brother, was CEO before he stepped down due to 1MDB investigations and passed the position to Zafrul).

Featured Image Credit: McKinsey & Company

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