YCM CEO Series 29: Rejina Rahim, Managing Director of Nomura Asset Management
Writing credites: Chen Chow Yeoh
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.
Education and Early Career
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.
Malaysia: Journey to 2020
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.
A Late Bloomer
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.
Questions & Answers Session
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.
Thoughts on Singapore
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.
Thoughts on Education
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.
Understanding Youth and Embracing Facebook & Twitter
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.
YCM CEO Series 28: Ahmad Izham Omar, Executive Director of 8TV
Writing credits: Chen Chow Yeoh
Live blogging for the 28th CEO Series of Talk for Young Corporate Malaysians – Ahmad Izham Omar, Executive Director of 8TV.
You can follow Ahmad Izham Omar at http://www.twitter.com/ahmadizhamomar and Young Corporate Malaysians at http://www.twitter.com/ycms . The hash tag for tonight is #ycm. There would be live tweeting there as well.
8TV broke even in a record of 18 months. Izham became the COO of 8TV, before being CEO of 8TV. Recently, he was promoted as Executive Director of 8TV. He is also the CEO for Radio Network.
Izham’s main theme is “Making a Difference”. He now works in TV, Radio, New Media and Music. He would be sharing a story about his journey.
Back in 1998, when he was 28 years old. He was in charge of a company, called Positive Tone. He wanted to grow the artists in his company, and EMI heard of his problem of funding, so EMI wanted to own the company 100%. It is a company that is part of Izham. The EMI people are very professional and have done extensive studies on Positive Tone.
The EMI people talked about Net Present Value, due diligence, cash flow of Positive Tone and EMI, and it really overwhelmed Izham. They told Izham that they loved him, because he was different.
Music/content comes first and then comes marketing/communications. Without great music, nothing else moves. Usually if lack of sales, it is due to bad product, and not due to bad promotion.
Back in 1995, he was hanging out with a 31-year-old guy, Tony Fernandes outside Dynasty Hotel. Tony Fernandes shared with him that “if you have one million dollars, but if you have bad music, it won’t sell.” So, product/service comes first, then comes marketing/communications.
The first P of Marketing Mix is Product. So, that is the most important thing.
The typical record industry infrastructure back in early 1990s are divided into Malay songs, Chinese songs, International/English songs. The TV, Radio, Press, Retailers, Record Companies all do the same, where they have different divisions/departments for it. The Mostpit said that the infrastructure is wrong.
In the 1970s/1980s, people start to gradually move into urban area, and move beyond their parents’ generation. They are the urban group, who tend to be more racial blind. The urban people tend to have aspirational values. They tend to aspire to move up the value.
Then they produce OAG, which is different from the typical records. They were laughed by the infrastructure back then. Izham brought the album to MCA (which is now Universal), BMG etc. However, people can’t see the value of this music.
Izham brought the song to a music shop, where the owner told Izham that he didn’t know where to put the cassette. It is neither Malay songs, nor Chinese songs, nor English/International songs. People can’t appreciate this different form of music.
So, at that time, Izham decided to go straight into the urban market. He decided to go straight to the indie market. This was the time he worked the hardest. He had to make flyers, distribute flyers outside the mall. He even went into toilets to stick flyer of buying OAG.
There was a time when Izham did not have money, so he even had to go back to his mother to ask for money. He finally found a distributor, who was a pirate, and it became into triple platinum. It even outsold Sharifah Aini and KRU.
However, in the end he had to turn down the distributorship, as it was a pirate.
He shared on his newsletter back in 2002. The database grew to 20,000 in a year, and then 70,000 after 3 years. He replied to all emails that he got. Izham shared that most marketers missed the main ingredient of it. Marketers today rely on others to win over their customers. Marketers often felt surprised that Izham won over his customer one by one. Izham shared that often those marketers would filter the information that is supposed to reach the top management, so all those information has been “scanned and filtered”.
Izham shared that his biggest success of music industry is to transform the infrastructure of music industry. He managed to urbanize the market.
People often said Positive Tone is an innovator. Izham said that it is not original, but copied from other companies, like Motown, which has artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross etc. They made Black music for White People.
Do look for clues from around the world. Learn from around the world, but not just fight within Malaysia.
Izham eventually sold Positive Tone entirely to EMI. He became EMI staff and took charge of artists like Sharifah Aini.
One day, he received a call from Abdul Rahman Ahmad, which he didn’t know who he was. He found that he was CEO/Group Managing Director of MRCB. He brought along Sharifah Aini and KRU CDs when he went to meet Abdul Rahman Ahmad at Crown Princess Hotel. He was not intimidated by him, as Izham had more hair.
First thing Abdul Rahmad Ahmad said to Izham is “Dude, are you interested to start a new free TV Station”. Izham’s reaction “Are you mad? Are you nut?” Abdul Rahman Ahmad said that he wanted Izham because he didn’t know anything in the field, so won’t make the same mistake as others in the industry. The mission is to start a new, cool, free terrestrial TV for the urban young adults.
Abdul Rahman Ahmad told him to do the same thing as he did for Positive Tone, but on TV. Izham stayed cool when in front of Abdul Rahman Ahmad.
Immediately after that, he called out his friends in TV Industry. Everyone said that he won’t succeed. There won’t be money in it. He remembered his moshpit’s days, and he asked those people who are crazy of TV, and they were excited. He took the offer.
He created a free TV, never like this before. At that time, Astro’s penetration was 25%. So, he showed MTV for the first time to the remaining people who were not on Astro. He used the content strategy, and show the best shows from around the world. He got Grammy Awards, Oscars, F1, Euro 2004. He went to Hollywood a week before to get the shows, and created innovative local content, like Quickie, So you think you can dance etc.
Izham went on the street to get the publicity. In the Star youth 2 Cool Pool 2005, 8TV won 40% of the votes, and AXN was the 2nd channel at about 18%.
Izham let the young people run the show, and he stayed aside to let them make the difference. 8TV was the no.1 station for the target music, and broke even in 18 months.
Abdul Rahman suggested to start a couple of radio stations. Izham went to see his friends at Hitz, Era, Red etc. They all told him that there was no money. The moshpit told him to go ahead. Infrastructure said no and people said yes, so he decided to go ahead. He launched Hot FM in 2006 and became no.1 radio station for age below 35. Fly FM became the no. 2 English radio channel. In 2009, he started OneFM.
He wanted to keep on making music, so he started Monkey Bone. Then, Abdul Rahman Ahmad asked him to go and do digital. He was asked to take charge of Alt Media.
Today’s audience has many options. People now watch things in all sort of media. Malaysia is no.3 in the world for the number of people spending over 20 hours a week on streamed/downloaded contents. Malaysia is the world no.1 for online advertising click-throughs. Malaysia are digital media junkies. He didn’t need research data to tell.
He shared on his family trip, where his brother-in-law was going online next to swimming pool. Even older people are online, and of course the youngs. He introduced Catch-Up TV, where people watch online exclusive contents, online contests and make it mobile portable. He believed in an amazing, engaging, interactive future for media.
Recently, they launched TonTon in 2010, where it is world-class, intelligent and all about video. The Catch-Up TV has 1.8 million registered users. No. 1 show on TV has 4 million viewers, but the show online has 64 million video views online, and we don’t even have 64 million population. He shared on people watching it during lunch time. People can chat on it, and have nice interface. There are 30,000 hours of archive video.
All those old TV programs are now on TonTon for free, and by January 2011, everyone can create their own channel. Tonton sat on intelligent media platform, and it would recommend content you like and it would serves advertising relevant to you. It would focus on showing the right advertising to the right people at the right time.
You can never imagine what wondrous things await you until you start moving.
He shared on the most important thing to making a difference is having a solid team. When he interviewed people, he looked at whether people have done something crazy. He would be observing on whether you would die for the mission.
George Bernard Shaw said “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”
When you have the right amount of unreasonable people around you, you can do the impossible.
He shared on his lessons learnt in making a difference.
a) Do it from the heart – The type of things that you would be excited to do when waking up at 5am.
b) There is always a new way to do something.
c) Product/Service Comes First – Google hardly do any ads.
d) Roll up your sleeves and jump into the moshpit. – hang out with the crowd
e) Look for clues from around the world
f) Leading the market is better than being a slave to it – The best way to predict the future is to make it. Give them what they don’t know they want.
(Henry Ford said that people would want a faster horse, but he created car.)
g) Win your consumer one by one.
h) Have a team that will die for the mission. Surround yourself with a team that is smarter than you.
i) A little naivety goes a long way. – Izham was naive, so he was lucky. He was young and foolish and thought that he could control the world, he went and do it. He would throw people into the deep end of the pool, and see whether they can swim.
j) Have the balls to try it. If not going to try it, it would never get done.
Elvis said that he would play the black man blues. He shared on how people really go out and do it.
You can’t hit a home run unless you step up to the plate.
Izham shared on William Hung, and William Hung didn’t know he can’t be a star. He went on to do it anyway, and he sold more than 1 Million and he went on to become a platinum in Singapore.
Izham shared that for those who are age between 0 to 12, 80% of influence would be by parents and 20% by media. But by age of 13, mentality would have get stuck already. So, if people are racist by age of 13, then it would be the influence from age 0 to 12.
In his media, there would be children watch it as well, so they would get influenced. For Malaysian movies, often we don’t lead them to some positive conclusion, but usually internationally, there would be such a lead into positive message.
Izham shared on his future would be on content. When he was in music, it was content. For TV, it was partially content, but not all contents are owned by him. He is looking into going into making content. He believed that he could make an internationally-known content maker company.
Izham’s main goal in life is to make the Pak Guard at TV3 to love the things that he do. If that succeeded, he would have influenced the mass. He wanted the whole of Malaysia to like it. He remembered his first day at work, when the guard was listening to the song of – Anak Ayam, a Too Phat’s song.
Izham shared that people have to open the eyes, and then the luck would swim by you. If people close the eyes, then you would not see the opportunities, even if opportunites come by you.
The higher you go up, the tougher it is for luck to reach you. So, make sure you build up your foundation – education and experience. The more you build you luck, the closer it would get by you.
Some people who have good education and luck went by them, yet they don’t sense it.
Izham that he had a degree and master. He did Bachelor of Music, Music Production & Engineering at Berklee College of Music in 1988-1991, and then MBA at Suffolk University in 1992-1994. He did Executive Education at Harvard Business School.
Izham always went down to the street, to know what really happened at the ground. All the management team would wear 8TV’s vest at least once in a quarter to go down with the troop to learn what’s happening at the ground. And also go to Tweetdeck to listen to what people are saying, although those tend to be peole who have a lot to say. What needed to hear are those who might go out and tell.
Izham really enjoyed the hardship. He enjoyed the experience of having 40 cents to go to the toll. He learned from the failures. There was once, when he turned back when Jaclyn Victor won the Malaysian Idol, the crowd is 1Malaysia. He was very touched with it, and that was the highlight of his life! Usually, in entertainment area in Malaysia, people tend to be one race. In that occasion, he felt like in stadium watching badminton, where all races cheer for Malaysia.
There would always be people buying piracy, so for Tonton would provide it for free and have nice interface, so people would use it. And there is a platform for advertisers.
In TonTon, it would show relevant ads, example when the show has rice being shown, there could be advertisement of rice by a hypermarket, or when the artist wears a jacket, there could be an advertisement to buy that particular jacket. There is a lot of potential for it.
For those piracy, Izham shared that only 6% of people would be using stuff like bittorrent, but the mass would still not be exposed to it.
Izham would lead by example and do things that are beneficial for the community and the target market. He would only take advertisements that are credible.
As of now, Tonton is only available for Malaysians, due to the bandwidth issue, but hopefully by end of the year, it would be available for the rest of the world.
Work life balance can be achieved over time. Izham started work in 1994, and he got married in 1996. He cannot rest until he got things solved. He would solve the problems, whether it is portal or transmitter. He tried to control himself now.
When he first started, his wife didn’t get to see him much. Now, Izham went to work late and came home early, so he would spend time to have breakfast at home. He can now rely on his talented and capable staff to make things done. He would have time to think through.
Now, he is CEO for 3 companies, but he is more relaxed than he was a manager at Positive Tone. He shared that many bosses tend not to let go. He shared that he tries to make him redundant. He shared that he only go for 1 meeting at 8TV every fortnight and responded to some emails for Shouts Award. Swee Kim handled the things and perhaps checked with him when necessary.
Principal of business, you must suffer for four years. Izham learned a lesson, one has to either becoming a millionaire or bankrupt, then one hasn’t tried hard enough.
One very important thing is to hire the right people.
Both Media Prima and Astro have both invested a lot more into local content. Internet is giving them a lot of competition and it kept them always on the toes. It is not just the channels.
Izham shared that one has to make money to do good stuff. Izham has to roll the profits that he makes. Izham used to tell Too Phat to make profit, so that can make better albums. To increase everyone’s talent and creativity, then one has to make profit. ONe has to weigh between social good and profit, and balance it. The problem is that people with no ethics take care of companies. The main problem is that people doing CSR due to tax credits. Eventually, the stock market would look at the financial number. So, it has to be a balance. And what matters is goes with your heart.
Izham wants to see them selling Malaysian contents to the world. Izham is only 20% of where he really wanted to be.