DATO IZHAM YUSOFF’s steely demeanor belies a man who has a soft spot for the people of Kedah.
A son of Kedah, the group managing director of Bina Darulaman Berhad (BDB) was born in Serdang to teacher parents and has a sense of responsibility to the state that he has called home for his entire 49 years of life. His stewardship of BDB, Kedah’s premier infrastructure and property company since 2014 puts him in a prime position to fulfill his obligation to contribute to the state by creating townships and enclaves that have helped boost Kedah’s economic activities through job creation and provision of contemporary housing options. These efforts have also prompted those outside Kedah to consider making the nation’s rice bowl their home.
A product of boarding school which shaped his independence and discipline, the former head prefect credits his father for grooming his interest in real estate. “My father would buy small tracks of land knowing they would appreciate in time,” Dato Izham said in an interview after being shortlisted for the Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Award (APEA) in the Property Development Industry Category.
Dato Izham’s enterprising spirit and a knack for enhancing the organisations he is associated with makes him a worthy recipient of this honour. As managing director and CEO of Percetakan Nasional Malaysia Bhd (PNMB), he transformed the government printer into a full-fledged commercial printer and instrumental in securing multi million ringgit security document printing from Home Affairs Ministry.
His leadership of Ninebio Sdn Bhd (executive director); KUB Malaysia Bhd (managing director and CEO) and Amanah Raya Bhd (ARB) as managing director and CEO, were also platforms for this rising corporate star to show his mettle in corporate planning and finance. Dato Izham also served as special assistant to the Managing Director at EON Berhad, financial controller at Citibank Berhad and manager corporate strategy at Maxis Communications Berhad.
His global experience – obtaining his degree and masters in accounting and international business from the United States, followed by stints in Citibank Miami as assistant manager business planning & analysis; and financial analyst in Procter & Gamble Singapore – were instrumental in helping him raise the bar for the Malaysian firms he later lead.
BDB is one example. Under his leadership BDB has seen its net profit rise 61.4% to RM23.27 million in 2016 from RM14.41 million in 2015. BDB’s revenue grew 45.4% from RM105.84 million in 2015 to RM153.92 million last year – the highest in the Group’s 22 year history. BDB’s total assets have also surpassed RM1 billion, making it the darling of investors by declaring the highest dividend payout ratio of 40 per cent of its net revenue for 2016. BDB under Dato Izham’s leadership also issued its maiden Sukuk of RM100 million in June to finance its projects, an illustration of a confident and far-sighted company.
Despite this success, Dato Izham prefers to downplay his achievements. “Honour those who came before you. “I am just polishing a jewel. My predecessors at BDB laid the foundation for the success we enjoy now. Without that foundation, my job will be a lot more difficult,” Dato Izham said.
Dato Izham’s successors in his previous companies will agree. His three years at Ninebio saw the enhancement of the company’s strategic direction and corporate governance. He transformed ARB into the service oriented corporation we are familiar with today, increasing the public trustee’s assets by RM1.5 billion.
BDB meanwhile, is poised for even greater success with the recent extension of Dato Izham’s tenure. His strategy to make property development BDB’s main driver had paid off, with a marketing philosophy of providing a lifestyle that is accessible to all through BDB’s Life Series.
A firm believer in a healthy, active and balanced lifestyle, he wants BDB’s developments to reflect a wholesome way of life, hence his requirement that the BDB family also embrace this lifestyle.
The BDB Triple Challenge – an obstacle course of cross countries, trekking, rafting and extreme sports against the backdrop of Kedah’s natural beauty, while geared towards promoting the state’s tourism potential is also meant for BDB staff.
“By making it part of our corporate activity, they too will be encouraged to be active and healthy,” explained Dato Izham, revealing that he made his staff climb a mountain. “Many thought they couldn’t do it, but they endured and climbed the 4,287 steps up Gunung Raya in Langkawi! “This increased their confidence and made them better at work. You realise the only person preventing you from achieving your goals is you!”
This account best encapsulates the essence of Dato Izham’s rebranding of BDB by giving it a new identity with the streamlining of all its subsidiaries with the BDB name, a new corporate logo and tagline: Spirit of Achievement – the driving force behind every entrepreneur and innovator, which he hopes will spur BDB to greater heights.
The ardent diver who has published books on his expeditions may be a perfectionist but is also a realist, advising us not to fear failure. “Failures are inevitable and part of growing pains. It should make one wiser and should never be repeated. “Have a clear plan, set realistic goals and don’t be afraid to seek help. I cannot tolerate people working in silos. They are stuck in their old ways and are not open to new things. This attitude stalls progress!” he stressed. BDB’s low staff turnover is evidence that his motivational tactics work!
Dato Izham is also uncompromising on principles like integrity and hard work – values that gave him a seat on the Board of crucial institutions such as Bursa Malaysia Berhad where he chaired the Industry Technology and IT Review committees, and was a member of the Exchange’s Audit; Risk Management; and Appeals committees. He is currently a member of Tabung Haji’s Investment Panel. “You can be from various industries but the basics are the same – discipline, diligence and integrity. Experience will also help you draw from previous lessons to face current challenges,” he said.
Dato Izham regards the present soft property market as his biggest challenge but he has harnessed his Spirit of Achievement to navigate BDB through choppy waters, launching two new townships in Kedah last month; as well as BDB’s first foray outside Kedah – Puncak Harmoni in Kuala Kangsar, Perak.
Dato Izham’s passion for affordable housing is also evident from the company’s commitment to develop 80% of its 888.27ha total land bank for affordable housing. He also persuaded financial institutions to be more flexible with loan packages, approvals and interest rates to allow more people to own homes. “That is our responsibility as developers, to give people reasonable housing options!”
Another first for BDB is a water theme park later this year to add to an impressive portfolio that includes hotel and a golf resort. The water theme park was earmarked for development for years and Dato Izham is on his way to realize that ambition within a short stint. The water theme park is part of Dato Izham’s efforts to transform the housing estates into integrated townships, thereby, improving the market value of BDB properties.
Understandably Dato Izham is sought after by schools and institutes of higher learning to give motivational talks to the next generation of entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. He was recently appointed on two-year term as Adjunct Professor by Universiti Utara Malaysia which would allow him to share his wide ranging corporate experience with the academia and students at the higher learning institution. “Be decisive as time is money. Master English as it is vital for business communication,” he advises.
Parting words for those who wish to emulate his success? “Hone your Spirit of Achievement. People who are passionate and think out of the box achieve remarkable things.”