08 Apr 2020 12:01:13 AM

PNB's youngest President and Group Chief Executive, Jalil Rasheed on why he returned to Malaysia

Photo credit: PNB
Jalil Rasheed, a TalentCorp Returning Expert Programme returnee.

As the adage goes, the journey to success is paved with hard work, dedication and discipline. No one knows this better than Jalil Rasheed, the President and Group Chief Executive (PGCE) of Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) and most recently, Chairman of Sapura Energy Berhad.

Having worked his way through almost every rank in an investment company, Jalil started his career 17 years ago as a management trainee before steadily rising to the position of a CEO and founder of a new arm within the same organisation. 

“A lot of the roles that I took on happened because I put my hand up and volunteered for them,” Jalil shares.

With the first five years of his career spent at Aberdeen Standard Investments in London and various other countries, Jalil then returned to Malaysia to expand Aberdeen’s business network in Malaysia. He then spent another four years as Head of Equity, before eventually taking up the mantle of CEO in 2010. Three years later at 31 years old, Jalil assumed his second CEO position at Invesco Ltd, an American-based company operating in Singapore, where he stayed for six and a half years.

Jalil earned another feather in his cap last year with his appointment as President and Group Chief Executive of PNB. To date, he is the youngest CEO to helm the national fund management company. 

Reflecting on his decade spent working abroad, Jalil muses, “Working with an international firm, you’re always on your toes because you can be easily replaced. The bar was always very high because you’re dealing with a pool of international people.” 

Jalil goes on to emphasise that this does not reflect negatively on Malaysian talent in any way. Rather, he believes that our country's talent base is more than capable of competing globally – a view which he explains is rooted in his interactions with his fellow countrymen abroad, many of whom were C-suite leaders of international firms. 
 
“One of Malaysia’s best exports is human capital. Over the years we have produced very resilient workers, and I attribute that to the way the country is structured; it makes everyone more resourceful in seeking opportunities and taking risks to create a life that they want.”
“The wage inequality in Malaysia is very wide, and I think we need to pay people more. If a Malaysian is doing the same job as somebody in, say Singapore, why should the Malaysian be paid lower? People generally leave the country because of wages. That’s where Malaysia needs to improve on.”

“There are a lot of capable Malaysian talents abroad. Maybe not everyone would want to make the move back at this moment. But I think one way is to tap into the diaspora through an advisory role, or take them on in a board member role. That means they still keep their current positions, but are also able to contribute to the development of Malaysia,” Jalil surmises. 
 
Photo credit: PNB.
Jalil Rasheed speaking to TalentCorp on his decision to take up the role at PNB in Malaysia.

For Jalil, the opportunity to give back to his country was a major factor in his decision to return to Malaysia. 

“It all started when I got a call from Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Aziz [the Group Chairman of PNB] to meet in Singapore,” he recalls. “I said I would be interested in returning at some point in my life, but I never thought that it would be so soon. There are very few roles that I would be very keen to come back to Malaysia for, and this was one of them.”

As a family man, Jalil also had to make several personal considerations before finalising his decision to return.
 
“It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to take on something significant that is very impactful and potentially could move the needle a lot as well.”
“That’s when I had to make a decision on whether I wanted to be status quo in Singapore where it was familiar, my family was settled, kids were in school, or if I wanted to take the risk and change all of that by moving.”

Jalil shares that the Returning Expert Programme (REP) overseen by Talent Corporation Malaysia Berhad (TalentCorp) was instrumental in ensuring a smooth transition back to Malaysia for his entire family.
 
“With the transition of roles and the conversion from Singapore to Malaysia, the benefits of the REP have helped in cushioning the differences in returns.”
Now, six months after their move back, Jalil and his family have settled in and are happy to be home. Looking ahead, Jalil also sees bright things in store for his work at PNB. 

“At PNB, I want to bring a much more open culture, which would cover both hardware and software. Open not just in the way we work, but the environment we work in, which will happen when we move to our new office. It gives us two years to mentally prepare to embrace the new way of working, with a digital focus to be paperless, and a new way of communicating. You don't necessarily need to be at your desk, you could do your work anywhere. In terms of software, we want it to be more participative, no more working in silos, better mobility of staff, and just a culture where there is no power distance between the staff and the senior management.”
 
Photo credit: PNB.
“At PNB, I want to bring a much more open culture, which would cover both hardware and software.” – Jalil Rasheed.

Besides integrating larger-scale processes within PNB’s operations, Jalil has plans to introduce more changes which he hopes will contribute to the overall development of the organisation’s culture.

“I’m a big fan of us playing our role as heritage keepers, so I do want to keep the ‘batik’ tradition alive. I encourage more people to dress down, wear ‘batik’ if you can, and just be comfortable. The most important thing is to get your job done, and it doesn't really matter how many hours you spend in the office or what you wear. That’s where our performance benchmarking is changing, measuring staff from how they’ve done the job rather than how long they took to do that job.”

In his current role, Jalil is passionate about creating an impact on the organisation he helms and the employees he works with. He also has this advice to share with Malaysians currently abroad who are considering a similar move back to Malaysia, or who wish to participate in and contribute to nation-building:

“Malaysians abroad should keep themselves updated with what is happening in Malaysia. Make an effort to connect with more Malaysians, and make an effort to contribute as much as they can. This doesn’t necessarily mean moving back full time, but do offer your expertise through advisory roles and inform the embassies that you are happy to help.”
 
“Malaysians must come back willingly, and what we can do is ease that transition through creating a segue into the Malaysian market to return home.”

ABOUT THIS INITIATIVE

Many Malaysians have returned from abroad under TalentCorp's Returning Expert Programme (REP). To learn more about the REP, visit our website at www.rep.talentcorp.com.my.