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AFTER an eventful 16 months at the helm of Malaysia’s second-largest lender, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd group chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Abdul Rahman Ahmad shows no signs of slowing down.
He knows he cannot afford to, as there’s still plenty to be done.
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He’s also been putting in the hours reading up on all things banking in order to make up for his lack of experience in the banking sphere.
“I don’t think I’m qualified to be a banker yet. I still think of myself as a non-banker trying to perform a role in banking,” he tells StarBizWeek in an exclusive virtual interview.
The 52-year-old former CEO of Permodalan Nasional Bhd is no stranger to Malaysia’s corporate scene.
But this is his first ever role within the banking sector. And his biggest litmus test for now?
The banking group’s Forward23+ strategy in which it aims to be “the leading focused Asean bank”.
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The strategy, which started from financial year ended Dec 31, 2020 (FY20) and will run until FY24 is a recalibration of the lender’s earlier Forward23 strategy which did not take into account Covid-19 disruptions.
Notably, CIMB, which counts Malaysia’s strategic investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd as its single largest shareholder, reported results that pleased the market in the first half of its FY21 after a dismal FY20, no thanks to Covid-19.
Its stock rose as a result of its recent financial performance.
But the second half of FY21 is expected to yield a weaker showing due to the resurgence of Covid-19 cases. Provisions, which have to be set aside for doubtful debts, are expected to remain elevated.
“CIMB is still very much a work-in-progress,” Abdul Rahman says matter-of-factly. “Progress has been positive, but this is only the first year in a four-year journey that we have to go through.”
Since coming onboard last May, Abdul Rahman has achieved some of the main things he set out to do in the beginning, chief among which was to cut cost by RM500mil in FY20.
To be sure, CIMB’s cost, as measured by the cost-to-income (CIR) ratio, has almost always been a thorn in its flesh, averaging historically between 53% and 55%, higher than its closest banking peers like Malayan Banking Bhd and Public Bank Bhd which generally chalk CIRs of below 50%.
The plan now is to cut another RM300mil to RM500mil in the next couple of years.