Abdul Rahman said to return to PNB, team up with Raja Arshad again

TheEdge Mon, Apr 08, 2024 03:30pm - 1 month View Original

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on April 1, 2024 - April 7, 2024

FORMER Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) president and CEO Datuk Abdul Rahman Ahmad is expected to make a comeback at the country’s largest unit trust fund manager after being coaxed to return by chairman Raja Tan Sri Arshad Raja Tun Uda.

It is understood that while Abdul Rahman was hesitant to go back to PNB, which he helmed from 2016 to 2019, Raja Arshad managed to persuade him, and he is now set to return to helm the unit trust outfit in June.

Abdul Rahman is currently the group CEO of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd.

“They [Raja Arshad and Abdul Rahman] worked very well together in setting up Ekuinas (Ekuiti Nasional Bhd), working together from scratch, setting things up from its inception in 2009. While Abdul Rahman left in 2016 for PNB, Raja Arshad only left [Ekuinas] last year and was appointed chairman of PNB in June. Raja Arshad has been instrumental in some key appointments to GLCs and GLICs (government-linked companies and government-linked investment companies) lately,” says a source.

CIMB Group declined to comment when contacted.

Raja Arshad was the first chairman of private equity (PE) fund management company Ekuinas, which was established by the government in 2009 to promote bumiputera economic participation in the PE sector, while Abdul Rahman was its first CEO.

“Several names have been proposed to fill the top post at PNB, both internal and external candidates. Nonetheless, Abdul Rahman was seen as the top candidate for the post. But it was a question of him wanting it … he is doing well at CIMB, his KPIs are all met. It has taken a lot to wrest him away from the bank. The key factor in persuading Abdul Rahman could be Raja Arshad,” says another source when asked if it was true that Raja Arshad played such a role.

Raja Arshad, a respected corporate personality, was previously executive chairman of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Malaysia. During the 1997/98 Asian financial crisis, he was appointed chairman of Danamodal Nasional Bhd, one of three special purpose vehicles set up by the government to manage the crisis.

PNB is the country’s largest fund manager with RM342.1 billion in assets under management as at Nov 30, 2022, according to its website. Its strategic investments include Malayan Banking Bhd, auto and heavy machinery player Sime Darby Bhd, Sime Darby Plantation Bhd, Sime Darby Property Bhd, property developer S P Setia Bhd, oil and gas companies Velesto Energy Bhd and Sapura Energy Bhd, and pharmaceutical company Duopharma Biotech Bhd.

Its core investments include banking groups CIMB Group Holding Bhd and BIMB Holdings Bhd, Petronas Gas Bhd, telcos Maxis Bhd, Telekom Malaysia Bhd and Axiata Group Bhd, national utility company Tenaga Nasional Bhd and construction giant IJM Corp Bhd.

“Abdul Rahman should hit the ground running … he is familiar with all the companies, I’m sure,” says another source.

It is not clear if one of Abdul Rahman’s tasks will include streamlining PNB’s vast investment portfolio.

Who will take over from Abdul Rahman?

Abdul Rahman was appointed to helm CIMB on June 10, 2020, under a three-year contract. Last year, his contract was extended by two years. 

The vacuum left by Abdul Rahman’s departure from CIMB could likely be filled by Effendy Shahul Hamid, who is currently CEO of group consumer and digital banking at the country’s second largest lender by assets — a role he has held since January 2023. Any appointment would nevertheless be subject to Bank Negara Malaysia’s approval. 

Several sources say that when Effendy was appointed CEO of group consumer and digital banking, it was an indication that he would be the next CEO of the banking group.

Over the past year, there have been a slew of changes in GLICs and the banking sector in particular.

In January, Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn was chosen to helm the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) after the departure of its CEO Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan, who was appointed finance minister II following a cabinet reshuffle that took place in December last year. Before joining EPF, Ahmad Zulqarnain was previously deputy managing director at Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund.

In the banking industry, Datuk Wan Kamaruzaman Wan Ahmad, a former CEO of Kumpulan Wang Persaraan (Diperbadankan), was appointed chairman of MBSB Bank Bhd, following the merger between Malaysia Building Society Bhd (MBSB) and Malaysian Industrial Development Finance Bhd (MIDF), on Jan 24. Prior to his appointment, MBSB roped in Rafe Mohamed Haneef, a former CEO of group transaction banking at CIMB Group, to be CEO of MBSB in July last year.

Meanwhile, AMMB Holdings Bhd appointed Ling Fou-Tsong @ Jamie Ling as its group CEO to succeed Datuk Sulaiman Mohd Tahir in November last year. Sulaiman had been with the banking group for more than seven years, having been appointed to the role in November 2015. 


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