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Finance's female face
[December 29, 2005]

Finance's female face

(Malaysian Business Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)TAN SRI DR ZETI AKHTAR AZIZ

Governor, Bank Negara Malaysia

Probably the most prominent banker in Malaysia is Bank Negara Malaysia Governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, 57, who has won international acclaim for her role in steering Malaysia through the 1997-1998 financial crisis and spurring the consolidation and strengthening of the country's financial sector. Whether taking on foreign fund managers or dealing with the country's leaders, Zeti plays her role with remarkable ease and a clear head.

Of an illustrious lineage, Zeti is the only child of Royal Professor Ungku Aziz Abdul Aziz, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya and founding father of Tabung Haji, and journalist and social activist Sharifah Azah Mohamed Alsagoff. She is also the great granddaughter of the late Datuk Jaafar Mohamed, Johor's first chief minister, and grandniece of Umno founder Datuk Onn Jaafar.

A respected economist himself, Zeti's father encouraged her to study mathematics right up to university level. No doubt her mathematical training helped develop a keen mind and a good feel for numbers. She took advanced and pure maths up to her first year of studies at the University of Malaya, where she obtained her degree in economics. Later, she received a master's and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in the United States, specialising in monetary and international economics. For her dissertation, she undertook pioneering research into capital flows and their implications for monetary policy.

In 1978, Zeti was attached to the South East Asian Research and Training Centre as a research economist, publishing work on monetary and financial economics, capital flows and macroeconomic management.

She later joined the economics department in Bank Negara in 1985, and two years later, was appointed secretary to the board of the bank. Climbing up the rank and file, she moved on to chief representative of the bank's London Representative Office, to chief economist, to assistant governor, to deputy governor, then acting governor.

By the time she became the central bank's seventh, and first female, governor in May 2000, she had already proved her mettle. By stepping up to the plate as acting governor in September 1998, Zeti led the central bank to successfully introduce and implement Malaysia's most controversial policy initiative - the capital controls.

`I was in charge of managing the ringgit at that time. It was the most challenging experience I have ever encountered,' Zeti told Malaysian Business in an earlier interview.

The risky move paid off, earning Zeti grudging respect and unreserved admiration from all over. Her move to rationalise the banking sector and the development of Islamic finance has given Malaysia its strong footing and competitive edge.

A mother of two boys, Zeti says being a woman makes no difference in her job. International bankers, she says, treat her like they would any central banker, whether male or female.


Group managing director and chief executive officer,

Hong Leong Bank Bhd

Yvonne Chia, 52, holds the distinction of being the first woman to head a Malaysian commercial bank. She has also earned the confidence and respect of two of Malaysia's most prominent and distinguished tycoons - Tan Sri Rashid Hussain and Tan Sri Quek Leng Chan - who have entrusted their businesses to her care.

Early in her career, Chia, an economics graduate from the University of Malaya, already had to battle the male-dominated culture of her time. As an economics officer at Bank of America in the mid-1970s, she had been eyeing the business department, which was very much a boys-only club then. She pleaded for a chance to sit for the entrance exam, took it and aced it.

By the time she left the bank 18 years later, she was vice president and country head of marketing. She was also the first woman in Asia to be bestowed with the Chief Executive Officer Eagle Pin for consistent and excellent performance.

In March 1994, Chia joined RHB Bank Bhd, then known as DCB Bank, as general manager and went on to become chief executive officer/managing director, comfortably filling the shoes left by her predecessor, Datuk Ismail Zakaria.

While understandably proud of her accomplishments, Chia, a mother of three, said, `To me, I've never looked at it from a standpoint of whether it's a man or woman (on the job). I look at it from a perspective that they see me as the right candidate for the job.'

Whatever reservations anyone might have had, they were soon dispelled. Chia helped steer the bank through the financial crisis, and prior to RHB's acquisition of Sime Bank in 1999, was assigned by Bank Negara to run two banks concurrently.

After RHB's merger with Utama Bank in 2002, Chia stepped down. A year later, she reemerged at Hong Leong Bank Bhd as its group managing director and chief executive officer. She has since set about initiatives to help the institution meet the changing needs of its customers. Some of her latest efforts include a first-of-its-kind sms-credit card payment system, a state-of-the-art dealing room and a rebranded treasury division, and the full-fledged Hong Leong Islamic Bank.

In getting to where she is today, Chia has earned a reputation for being a tough boss, something she's unapologetic about. `You have to be hard sometimes to be kind, and you have to make some long-term decisions, which in the short term may not seem right,' she once said. `I believe that at certain times and in certain roles, we have to make some tough decisions. The important thing is one must be seen to be fair and objective. In the banking community, it's always been that the woman is strong and aggressive and tough, but very fair.'

By her tenacity and achievements, Chia has shown the way forward for women in Malaysia. As she once said, `I want to be counted, to influence. I'm not satisfied with just being a follower.'


Group CEO, Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd

Bridget Lai @ Bridget Anne Lai Hung Yee is one who made it to the top by working her way up the ladder rung by rung. Of Sabah origin and Sino- Kadazan descent, the mother of two teenaged children began her banking career three decades ago as a teller in Standard Chartered Bank (StanChart), soon after leaving school. She was sponsored by the bank to undergo a long-distance study programme with the University of Hull, where she received her Master of Business Administration. By 1999, she became the first Malaysian and first woman to head StanChart's consumer banking division.

This was a significant milestone, no doubt, and one that didn't come easy. `This is because I had to work very hard to prove that a Malaysian could do the job,' Lai was once quoted as saying. `It was not so much that I was a woman but more in terms of the fact that I had to convince my own Malaysian colleagues about my capabilities to lead them.'

Known for her boundless energy and enthusiasm, Lai is credited with StanChart's successful customer migration to automated banking services in 1998. She commissioned the bank's first complete, automated banking lobby in 1998, and set about educating customers on automation via news systems, television advertising and service ambassadors. By 2004, about 70-80% of transactions were done on the automated teller machines. `We had to do quite a lot of marketing to convince customers of the benefits.'

Having seen her own career develop through the years, Lai is always keen to inspire others to push themselves further. The introduction of automated banking opened opportunities for that. `We released staff from mundane tellering jobs, and they were retrained,' she said. `We needed to get them excited about their own career development and their future.'

In 2001, StanChart was the first bank in Malaysia to introduce the concept of personal wealth-management, with its Total Money Management Solution that helps customers manage their finances and wealth according to their life stage and needs. It was also the first bank to open dedicated priority banking centres.

Subsequently, Lai was promoted to become the Singapore-based group head of sales, marketing and distribution, for the bank's entire global network. It was during that time when she was said to have caught the eye of Singapore's state-owned investment company Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd. Temasek reportedly courted her for more than half a year to helm Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd, with a view to grooming her to take charge of its Asian investments.

So earlier this year, Lai joined Alliance and was appointed group chief executive officer in September. Thus far, she's keeping mum about her plans and strategies for the group. No doubt industry observers are keen to see how she will take the bank to its next level of growth.

Sources say that several general manager-level executives from StanChart are making the move to join Alliance Bank, as reported in an earlier issue of Malaysian Business. `They are moving not because of the organisation but the person at the helm. It speaks volumes of their confidence in her,' says a banker with a foreign bank in Malaysia.

Lai's advice for other women? `Do not try to be a man in a man's world, but hone your own skills.'


Founder and chairman, KAF Group

Not content with her privileged background and comfortable position as Director of Administration at the National Rice Board, Datuk Khatijah Ahmad forged out on her own to start a foreign-exchange trading business in 1973 with two staff. Shortly after, she started a discount house, the third in the country, and in the mid-1980s, purchased a stock brokerage.

Today, the KAF Group (the abbreviation for `Khatijah and Family') is a leading financial group with interests in stockbroking, futures broking, fund management, money broking and discount house activities.

Khatijah, 65, is known as a commanding figure in the industry, her brains and boldness earning her respect and awe among her male counterparts. Her charisma and success saw her listed as one of the 21 most influential women in Asia by Asiaweek magazine in 1995.

The recipient of The Leading Women Entrepreneurs of the World, 1997, Khatijah proved her mettle soon after when the financial crisis hit. Sensing opportunity in crisis, she started offering debt restructuring services, a move that enabled her to boost profits even during bad times.

`You can make money all the way down and all the way up, as long as you know which part of the cycle you're in, and what you are doing,' she said in an earlier interview.

With globalisation and continuing consolidation in the financial industry, Khatijah has long been a proponent of the survival of the fittest. After all, she has not only survived thus far, but thrived. `Let the market decide,' she once said. `As the market evolves and if we can continue to evolve, adapt and reinvent, we should be allowed to remain.'

KAF Discounts Bhd is the country's top provider of fixed income and money market services. It is currently said to be in merger talks with the only other standalone discount house, Abrar Discount Bhd, in a bid to transform itself into a full-fledged investment bank, under Bank Negara's rationalisation strategy. Previously, KAF Discount's proposed deal to acquire a stake in Affin Merchant Bank Bhd was aborted in 2003.

KAF Seagroatt & Campbell is the first local stockbroking firm to have a foreign associate (Indosuez WI Carr Securities). The niche stockbroker serves small fund management companies and is confident of holding its own against foreign brokerages. It called off merger talks with mid-size Mohaiyani Securities, also helmed by another prominent woman stockbroker, in 2001.

Khatijah is also a director of Sime Darby Bhd and Sime Engineering Bhd. Her husband Datuk Ahmad Kadis is chairman and managing director of KAF Seagroatt & Campbell Bhd. She is also chairman of the Malaysian Institute of Bond Dealers and sits on the Board of Trustees of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research.

In earlier musings about making it in a man's world, Khatijah once said, `If I had been a man, I may have been five times more successful ... There are deals cut at certain levels that I definitely miss. So we have to be innovative. We have to find ways to have a competitive advantage.'

There are other deals, too, that she's missed out on because she was unwilling to compromise on her principles. `A business must have life beyond just the bottom line, the profit,' she said. `I suppose at the end of the day, I want to be remembered for running a reputable business.'


Executive chairman,

TA Enterprise Bhd

At a recent press briefing of the TA group's latest property project, Idaman Residence, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Datin Alicia Tiah kept the line of questioning focused by telling journalists, `No stockbroking today. I'm only going to answer questions on property.'

After all, most media coverage of late on the group has been on its venture into property development. With several projects in prime locations set to take off, the group's property division is expected to contribute 50% of its revenue for the next financial year.

Tiah, also known as Tan Kuay Fong, is understandably enthusiastic about TA's diversification. `Stockbroking is very cyclical,' she says. `Wecannot depend on one income stream.'

But while she may seem to take a backseat on the stockbroking front, Tiah is still very much hands-on in the day-to-day matters of TA Securities Holdings Bhd. `Her heart may be leaning towards property, but she's still very involved in stockbroking,' says a source.

An accountant by training, Tiah has been in the stockbroking line for some two-and-a-half decades. In 1988, Tiah and her husband, Datuk Tony Tiah Thee Kian, acquired Othman & Ng Securities. This was renamed TA Securities, representing the initials of the formidable husband-and-wife team, who have proved themselves a lethal combination of business acumen and technical know-how.

Together, they built TA into one of the largest retail brokers in the country. `They complement each other,' says the source, adding that (Alicia) Tiah has a fantastic eye for detail. `She's good with numbers, quick in grasping issues and very decisive.'

As Tiah herself said in an earlier media interview, `I always work very hard. I like to get things done and don't like to delay or have things hanging in the air.'

When her husband stepped down as executive chairman in May 2002, Tan assumed his seat with ease. By then, the TA group had TA Securities, Botly Securities, Borneo Securities and Kota Bharu Securities in its stable, qualifying it for a Universal Broker (UB) licence.

Not surprisingly, TA's vast success in the retail market lies in its strong team of remisers, with whom Tiah is credited with building a strong relationship. Many have been old-timers and their children. `She's got good intuition with people,' says the source. `She can read people well, in assessing the character of remisers, especially when they recommend deals and clientele.'

While she's on top of things on the stockbroking side, Tiah is expected to focus more on growing the group's property business. There is no doubt she'll take both tasks in her stride. `From my experience in stockbroking, I've learnt how to handle people,' she says. `After all, business is all about people and relationships.'

The couple has five children.


Chief executive officer, RHB Securities Bhd

The Queen of Derivatives, Dr Zaha Rina Zahari, 40, is a master at mergers, with a knack for balancing her diverse interests and responsibilities.

Most notably, she was instrumental in the development of the local futures industry, actively promoting the Malaysian capital market and its products to domestic and international institutions.

In the mid-1990s, she was actively involved in the merger of the Malaysian Futures Clearing Corporation (MFCC) and the Malaysian Derivatives Clearing House (MDCH) into COMMEX Malaysia (Commodities and Monetary Exchange of Malaysia).

Then in 2001, she joined the Kuala Lumpur Options and Financial Futures Exchange (KLOFFE) as chief operating officer, and subsequently chief executive officer. She contributed her expertise towards the merger of COMMEX and KLOFFE, which led to the creation of Malaysia Derivatives Exchange (MDEX), now known as Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Bhd.

She held the position of head of group business development at Bursa Malaysia Bhd until 2004, following which she left to take up her current portfolio as chief executive officer of RHB Securities Sdn Bhd.

Besides overseeing the securities business and increasing its market share, Zaha Rina will work closely with other subsidiaries within the RHB group to expand the business and enhance its profile and competitiveness.

`She has extensive experience in the securities and futures industry and is highly regarded for her knowledge of the industry,' said RHB group executive chairman Datuk Seri Sulaiman Abdul Rahman Taib, upon her appointment. `We are extremely confident that RHB Securities and the business will grow and expand under her leadership skills.'

The classy ambassador for L'Oreal cosmetics is just as likely to grace the covers of Le Prestige and Marie Claire as of business journals such as Investors Digest, proving that brains and beauty can be a potent combination.

At age 17, she left to further her studies in Britain. She got married to hubby Ainuddin Tun Hamid Omar and had two children while working on her accounting and finance degree. She went on to obtain a Master of Business Administration and had another child. With three young children, she still managed to take up a Doctorate in Corporate Finance, specialising in capital market research and pricing of warrants, in 1988, another example of how effortlessly she seems to merge her professional and personal worlds.

Besides taking up golf, which helps her socialise in the corporate world, she enjoys scuba diving, swimming and reading, and is an active member of the Malaysian Society of Marine Sciences.

She believes in self-improvement and having an edge over men in terms of education and skills. Part of the reason why she's where she is today, she said, is because her PhD gives her the edge over a male contender for the same post.

`We have a whole Ministry dedicated to women, family and community development. However, it is up to you to take charge of balancing your own work and life, even as we make the journey together,' she has been quoted as saying. `A woman who wants to make it to the top must work hard, be disciplined and believe in herself.'


Executive chairman, K&N Kenanga Holdings Bhd

At age 77, Tengku Noor Zakiah Tengku Ismail is as elegant and classy as ever, standing tall as the pioneer and grande dame of the local stockbroking industry.

Brought up within the Kelantan Royal Court, Tengku Noor had an idyllic childhood, riding horses and tending to livestock. Even at a young age, she displayed a shrewd business instinct, selling strands of jasmine flowers from her father's garden and accompanying her father on his rounds in the rubber estates. Later on, in 1950, she capitalised on her natural flair for fashion and design by setting up a successful boutique, a venture that lasted 10 years.

A significant milestone in her life occurred sometime in the 1960s, when a stockbroker friend helped her apply for shares from the listing of Esso and Shell on the joint stock exchange of Malaysia and Singapore.

`After securing the shares, I jokingly asked him, "Do you think I could do what you do?" He said, "Of course!"' Tengku Noor shared in an earlier media interview. From then on, she started seriously considering a move into stockbroking. `At that point, I was a client. But I wanted to be on the other side of the counter and sell shares.'

Soon after, she found out that Hallam & Co, one of the oldest broking outfits in Malaysia, was on the market. Gathering a consortium of six partners, she consulted Bank Negara Malaysia and made an application for purchase in 1963. Six months later, the application was approved and Tengku Noor got her stockbroking licence - becoming the country's very first licensed female stockbroker.

After learning the tricks of the trade for several years, she decided to venture out on her own and co-founded K&N Kenanga Sdn Bhd on Sept 6, 1973. At that time, she had a tiny office, about 20 staff, seven remisiers and RM2 million in paid-up capital. Today, the enlarged K&N Kenanga group has a total paid-up of some RM600 million.

As a pioneer, Tengku Noor is credited with being instrumental in the development of the stockbroking industry, especially when Bursa Malaysia (then Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange) was still in its infancy. She founded the Malaysian Stockbrokers Association, serving for 11 years as president before stepping down in 1997. She remains the Honorary Life Advisor of the association, now renamed Association of Stockbroking Companies Malaysia.

Today, she may no longer be dealing, but she still tracks the market closely. She also conducts her own style of private asset management for certain parties, such as families with handicapped children.

Tengku Noor is also very involved in women's work. She helped set up the Women's Institute in Kuala Lumpur during the British Administration and the first Women's Institute in Kota Bharu. She was also president of the Women's International Club.


Executive director,

MIDF-Sisma Securities Sdn Bhd

Datin Mariam Prudence Yusof, 51, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Malaya in 1974. She started her career in the field of personnel with multinationals such as Motorola, Intel, Shell and Nestle. In 1984, she obtained a certificate in investment analysis. That same year, she became a dealer's representative with HA Securities Sdn Bhd, and from 1990 to 1997 was a director for PB Securities.

Today, she is executive director, dealings, of MIDF-Sisma Securities Sdn Bhd, which is actively involved in, among others, the brokerage of halal stocks on Bursa Malaysia. Her family's business interests include the Sisma group, which covers automotive, development, manufacturing, quarry and petrochemical activities. Their automotive arm, Sisma Auto Sdn Bhd, is the sole distributor and importer of Jaguar cars.

She is a shareholder and director of CI Holdings Bhd, director of GSL Water Sdn Bhd which is involved in the operations, maintenance and production of water, and chairman of House of WooHing Sdn Bhd. Together with her late husband, Datuk Syed Ibrahim Syed Mohamed, they have four children.

In 2002, Mariam became chairwoman of the Association of Stockbroking Companies Malaysia (ASCM) and remains a committee member today. `Good investing is about doing your homework,' she once said. `You don't have to be smart or lucky or be educated in stock analysis. The trick to making money is not to just chase money ... you must create wealth.'

Maimoonah Hussain,

Director of investment and Islamic banking,

Affin Bank Bhd

Maimoonah was formerly managing director, syndication, at Standard Chartered Bank, before assuming her current position.

Lutfiah Ismail,


Alliance Bank Malaysia Bhd

Lutfiah, 52, is a lawyer by training, having served as a legal officer in Majlis Perbandaran Seremban before commencing private practice. Her vast experience in the financial sector includes stints at Bank Negara Malaysia, AmMerchant Bhd and Arab-Malaysian Finance Bhd (now AmFinance Bhd). She is also an independent director of Kuala Lumpur City Corporation Bhd.

She was appointed to the board of Alliance Bank in 2001 following the consolidation of the Alliance banking group. She was an indirect substantial shareholder of the bank until the sale of its stake to Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd earlier this year.

Lee Siew Lee,

Country manager,

American Express (M) Sdn Bhd

Singaporean Lee was appointed country manager of American Express Malaysia in mid-2002 and is credited with securing more funds for the card operations in the country. Prior to that, she was head of personal financial services for American Express Singapore. She had earlier overseen the insurance business in Malaysia in the early 1990s and was a key member of the Singapore/Malaysia/Indonesia regional leadership team that focused on the company's growth.

Datin Maznah Mahbob,

Chief investment officer,

AmInvestment Management Sdn Bhd

A graduate of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (UK), Maznah has been in the fund management industry since 1987. Prior to her present appointment, she was in the corporate finance department of AmMerchant Bank Bhd for three years.

Pushpa Rajadurai,

Executive director,

AmMerchant Bank Bhd

Pushpa, 46, was AmMerchant Bank's head of corporate finance, handling equity and equity-linked portfolio under the investment banking operations, until her appointment as executive director from Jan 1, 2005.

She joined AmMerchant in 1989 and has more than 18 years of experience in corporate finance and financial consultancy-related work. She is currently chairperson for the Corporate Financial Committee of the Association of Merchant Banks in Malaysia.

A fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants and member of the Malaysian Institute of Accountants, she was attached to Coopers and Lybrand (now PricewaterhouseCoopers) prior to joining AmMerchant.

Shalina Azman,

Deputy group managing director Arab Malaysian Corporation Bhd

The daughter of prominent banker Tan Sri Azman Hashim, Shalina, 38, started her career as a business development officer with RCE Capital Bhd, formerly Rediffusion Bhd, in 1990.

Holding a degree in business administration, majoring in finance and economics, and a Master of Business Administration, Shalina joined Arab- Malaysian Corporation in 1995 as a senior manager, corporate planning. She rejoined RCE Capital in 2000 and became its managing director for two years, before assuming her current position, while remaining a non- executive director of RCE Capital. She also sits on the boards of AMMB Holdings Bhd and MCM Technologies Bhd.

Noripah Kamso,

Chief executive officer,

CIMB Principal Asset-Management Bhd

With more than 20 years of experience in corporate credit and lending, Noripah, 48, became chief executive officer of Commerce Trust Bhd and Commerce Asset Fund Managers Sdn Bhd in September 2004. These two companies merged on June 1, 2005, to become CIMB Principal Asset- Management.

After obtaining her Diploma from Institut Teknologi Mara (now UiTM), Noripah went on to obtain an MBA from Marshall University in the United States, in 1980. She became vice president of Bumiputra-Commerce Bank Bhd before joining CIMB Bhd in 1993.

Formerly president of the Malaysian Futures Brokers Association, she has authored a book entitled Credit Decision Making: The Qualitative Credit Approach.

Datuk Zarinah Anwar,

Deputy chief executive, Securities Commission of Malaysia

Zarinah, 52, oversees the market supervision, enforcement and corporate resources divisions of the Securities Commission. Prior to her appointment in December 2001, she was deputy chairman of Shell Malaysia, where she served for 22 years. Starting her career in the legal and judicial service, she worked as a magistrate in Johor Bahru, senior assistant registrar at the Penang High Court, solicitor in the public trustee's department and assistant parliamentary draftsman in the Attorney General's Chambers.

She also serves on the boards of the Institute of Integrity Malaysia and the Capital Market Development Fund and is a member of the Malaysian Venture Capital Consultative Council.

Mabel Gan,

Head, cross markets trading and treasury,


Gan is treasurer for the CIMB group, heading the team in the markets. She was co-head of Debt Markets and Derivatives, leading and managing the fixed income, derivatives, structured products and money market teams. A Fellow of the Chartered Association of Certified Accountants, Gan also sits on the committee of Persatuan Pasaran Kewangan Malaysia (also known as Financial Market Association - Malaysia) and its Market Development and Technical Sub-Committee.

Norazah Mohd Noor,

Head, group operations management,


Holding a diploma in banking studies from Institut Teknologi Mara, Norazah heads the group operations management, encompassing debt market and derivatives, equity, futures, private banking, CIMB Islamic, CIMB (L) Ltd and PT CIMB Niaga Securities. She is also deputy chief executive officer of CIMB Discount House Bhd since 2002.

Darawati Hussain,

Head, private equity,


Starting her career at CIMB in 1991, Darawati, 36, spent five years in the corporate finance division, specialising in acquisition and restructuring and refinancimg activities. A chartered financial analyst, she left in 1996 to pursue her MBA from the London Business School. She then joined Delaware International Advisers Ltd, a US fund management group, as an equities portfolio manager for large cap European equities.

Returning to Malaysia in 2001, Darawati ran her own independent research business before rejoining CIMB in late-2001 to implement the bank's private-equity programme.

Angeline Ong Su Ming,

Head of structured products, Citibank Malaysia Bhd

Ong joined Citibank Malaysia in 2003 as a senior transactor and has been responsible for developing risk management solutions for both corporate clients and financial institutions. Prior to this, she was vice president, structured products, debt markets and derivatives at Commerce International Merchant Bankers Bhd.

A CFA charter holder, Ong has a master's in financial engineering and quantitative analysis from ISMA Centre, University of Reading, United Kingdom, and a degree in accounting and financial analysis from University of Warwick, UK.

Datin Dr Umikalsum Mohd Noh,

Deputy chairperson,

EON Capital Bhd

Umikalsum, 58, has been deputy chairperson of EON Capital Bhd since end- 2002, and chairs various subsidiaries in the group. Her illustrious career includes stints at the Ministry of Finance, where she was assistant director of budget, and later deputy secretary. In between, she was seconded to the Malaysian Highway Authority as director of finance.

While working on her PhD in economics at the University of Malaya, she was attached to the Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations, Australian National University. She was head of the business development division, and subsequently managing director of Kinta Kellas Plc (now Opus International Group Plc). She was also a member of the board of the Inland Revenue Board.

Datuk Zuraidah Atan,

Non-executive director,

HSBC Bank Malaysia Bhd

The first woman chief executive officer of a merchant bank, Zuraidah helmed Affin Merchant Bank for four years until September 2003. In the process, she turned the loss-making financial institution into a profitable one, creating a niche as a financial consultant to state governments and their agencies. Subsequently, she made history again in October 2004 as the first woman appointed to the board of HSBC.

A lawyer by training, she is also a member of the Association of Bumiputra Business and Professional Women, Malaysia, and serves as an adviser to the National Cancer Society of Malaysia.

Tunku Afwida Tunku A Malek,

CEO/executive director,

Malaysian International Merchant Bankers Bhd

Tunku Afwida, 40, graduated from City University, United Kingdom and joined Touche Ross & Co, London, where she qualified as a chartered accountant. In 1993, she returned to Malaysia and joined Rashid Hussain Asset Management as fund manager/analyst. She was later headhunted by UOB Asset Management, Singapore, to fill the role of equity analyst/manager, covering Malaysia, the Indian sub-continent and selected European markets.

She was executive director and chief investment officer of Commerce Asset Fund Managers Sdn Bhd before assuming her current position. She is also a director of Cagamas Bhd and was chairperson of the Malaysian Association of Asset Managers.

Tan Siok Choo,


OCBC Bank (Malaysia) Bhd

Tan, 49, is a lawyer by training, a former journalist and daughter of former Minister of Finance and MCA president, the late Tun Tan Siew Sin. Prior to her directorship at OCBC, she was head of corporate finance with Southern Bank Bhd, senior research analyst with Rashid Hussain Securities and senior investment analyst with Morgan Grenfell Asia & Partners' Securities. In September 1998, she was appointed Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. She also sits on the board of United Malacca Bhd, where she is a substantial stockholder.

Pearl Wong @ Pearlie Chan Siew Cheng,

Chief executive officer and founder, SBB Asset Management Bhd

An economics graduate from the University of Nottingham, England, Wong started her career as an auditor with Kassim Chan. In 1977, she joined Bumiputra Merchant Bankers as a fund manager and Rashid Hussain Asset Management as general manager of investment in 1989. In 1990, she joined the Southern Bank group to set up SBB Asset Management and is responsible for its daily running. Throughout her 25 years in fund management, she has handled institutional money consisting of pension, unit trust, statutory and charitable foundation funds.

Tengku Zaitun Tengku Mahadi,

Executive director,

Southern Bank Bhd

An economics graduate from the University of Malaya, Tengku Zaitun, 56, has more than 30 years of experience in bank operations and credit with Southern Bank. She was previously executive vice president, responsible for the bank's branch distribution group. She became a director in August 2004.

Datuk Maznah Abdul Jalil,


Uni.Asia General Insurance Bhd and Uni.Asia Life Assurance Bhd

Besides Uni.Asia, Maznah, 51, sits on the boards of various companies under the DRB-Hicom umbrella, such as EON Capital Bhd, Malaysian International Merchant Bankers Bhd and Labuan Reinsurance (L) Ltd.

Prior to joining the group, she was with a local merchant bank from 1979 to 1992 with exposure in various corporate advisory assignments. In 1992, she joined Master-Carriage (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd as director, corporate affairs. Later in 1997, she was appointed vice president of Hicom Holdings Bhd, and subsequently, as executive director of DRB-Hicom in 1998 and is known as the right-hand person to stalwart Tan Sri Dr Mohd Saleh Sulong. She has since stepped down from the board but remains senior group director for corporate finance and advisory.

She is also a member of the boards of Universiti Teknologi Mara and the Malaysian AIDS Foundation.

Amrat Kaur,

Chief operating officer,

K & N Kenanga Holdings Bhd

Amrat is also executive director (operations) of K & N Kenanga Bhd and sits on the boards of various subsidiaries in the group.

A trained accountant, she was with Azman Wong Salleh and Ernst & Young. Her background in audit enabled her to set up the internal control and reporting systems for the group.

She is a member of the Malaysian Association of Certified Public Accountants, Malaysian Institute of Accountants and Malaysian Institute of Management. She was a committee member of the Association of Stockbroking Companies Malaysia, vice president of the Futures Brokers Association, and director of Malaysian Derivatives Clearing House Bhd.

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