Dato’ Ahmad Zaini Othman left a comfortable position in one of the country’s reputable banks to join Malaysia Building Society Berhad (MBSB) as its President and Chief Executive Officer in 2009. It was certainly an important decision to embark on, as MBSB was a financial institution unlike any other. An institution that is rich with history, since its inception in 1950, has contributed immensely to the nation and has weathered many crises as well. However, the financial turmoil in 1998 had financially dented the company. Consequently, MBSB had not been able to markedly improve its financial position and continued to lag behind other Financial Institutions. Dato Ahmad Zaini recalled his first week in office, confronting a work culture that has much to be desired for and noticed the low morale amongst its employees. He knew then that a strategic turnaround was imperative to revive an important asset to the country and provide the required returns to its loyal shareholders especially the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).
In analyzing the company, Dato Ahmad Zaini had looked for the low hanging fruits that would provide the company with immediate revenue. He realized that the company had not fully explored its business potentials in the Personal Financing-i market. To add to this, it was also apparent that the government servants were not enjoying competitive rates despite being the main customer segment. Hence, Dato Ahmad Zaini decided to reposition MBSB as a provider of choice through the offering of affordable personal financing. This proposition then became the key driver to the successful turnaround of MBSB. It was also part of a comprehensive transformation plan put forward by Dato Ahmad Zaini, “Taking MBSB To The Next Level” that was embraced by the employees at all levels.
Under the transformation program, Dato’ Ahmad Zaini had implemented strategic business and operational initiatives to improve and enhance three key areas – retail business, operations and the corporate legacy non-performing accounts. The action plan includes reorganizing the company’s chart, establishing a Transformation Management Office and himself personally heading the Corporate Recovery Division. Dato’ Ahmad Zaini believes that in order to ensure the success of the transformation program, it is essential for employees to have positive mindsets and to create a corporate culture that promotes good core values. On this, Dato’ Ahmad Zaini had moved its people where necessary, retained and developed its best talent and employed new and experienced key personnel from the industry.
In 2010, MBSB continued its transformation program by diversifying its businesses to include new financial products for the corporate segment. He was thoughtful on crafting this ambitious strategy due to the stigma that MBSB had as a result of the substantial corporate non-performing loans in the late 1990s. As such, the plan had included the forming of an in-house Project Management and Monitoring Department comprising of technical experts to assist in evaluating corporate financing proposals. Such support remains the only one in the financial industry and later became ISO 9001:2008 certified. With this, MBSB had expanded its loan base to include new corporate facilities such as SME Cash Express, Project Financing and Contract Financing.
The remarkable transformation program had run for over five years producing immense results on many fronts. MBSB has achieved several milestones which include record profits for the subsequent five years, a market capitalization exceeding RM6.47 billion as at August 2014 from just RM365 million in 2008, the reduction of company’s overall NPL from 23% (2008) to 3.4% (2013) and various industry recognitions comprising amongst all, Forbes Asia, The Banker UK,The Edge Billion Ringgit Club and its awards series.
Dato Ahmad Zaini attributed his success to the disciplined and fast-paced work culture that he was trained under during his initial years in merchant banking. He was a graduate in Finance from the University of Southern Illinois and subsequently received his MBA in Finance from University of St. Louis. Upon graduation, Dato’ Ahmad Zaini began his career in Bumiputra Merchant where he gained extensive experience in property financing, loan acquisitions, documentation and recovery. His stints in the bank include leading a new set- up division and managing high-risk projects. Dato’ Ahmad Zaini’s exposure in these fields has moved him to carry out new unfamiliar tasks and to devote his time and efforts to achieve excellence. While known for his strong analytical thinking and attention for details amongst colleagues and staff, Dato’ Ahmad Zaini believes that passion is also important in order to achieve results. He noted,” All of us need to work hard, sincere and be truthful in our work. If we have all these traits, nothing is impossible.”