LEADING THE CHARGE TO NEW FRONTIERS

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Appointed as Chairman of Bank Rakyat in December 2018, Datuk Noripah Kamso shares with Top 10 of Malaysia on her inspiration and focus in transforming and leading the co-operative bank to a new chapter which positions the organisation as a sustainable bank in Islamic financial services and beyond.

“I love my job. Even in some circumstances when I did not enjoy the work, I would reinvent myself in order to love it. And whenever I face resistance, I take that as a challenge to overcome it. Therefore, I always see the glasses as half full rather than half empty,” says Datuk Noripah Kamso.

“To be a Sustainable Bank by 2025 is an identity that I believe has never been championed by other banks. We integrate sustainability in everything that we do.”

Indeed, there were many challenges that Datuk Noripah had to overcome ever since she took the helm as Chairman of Bank Rakyat in December 2018. Among the challenges that she had faced were strong resistance to changes introduced within the organisation – changes that were necessary to improve the bank’s image and profile, and to future-proof the bank especially in this digital era.

But Datuk Noripah is no stranger to change and to the banking industry. Armed with thirty-three years of experience in commercial and investment banking including futures broking, Datuk Noripah was the former chief executive of CIMB-Principal Asset Management Sdn Bhd and CIMB-Principal Islamic Asset Management Sdn Bhd. She had also assumed an academician role by lecturing at Drake University in Iowa, United States, and pioneered to establish and build an Islamic finance unit at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, an independent centre at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

“I have covered the full range of banking services throughout my career. But during the last ten years in Islamic asset management, I gained global experience, exposure and leadership,” says the dynamic and visionary Chairman.

With global experience and exposure under her belt, the Chairman of Bank Rakyat is spearheading BR25, a five-year transformation plan to drive a cooperative bank to be digitally-ready as a sustainable bank in Islamic financial services and beyond.

“We had a five-year business plan before, but it was to put our house in order, so to speak. However, BR25 is different as it has a ‘defined destination’. BR25 is our aspirational evolution to transform Bank Rakyat as a globally-recognised catalyst for national development through a range of financial services rooted in Islamic values, community spirit and sustainability. Our ‘defined destination’ is to be a digitally-savvy sustainable bank by 2025,” explains Datuk Noripah.

“BR25 is supported by five strategic pillars, namely, to improve economic and social development of our customers and members; to deliver great customer experience leveraging on digitalisation and analytics; to collaborate with partners to innovate and accelerate common goals; to get the buy-in of the vision and Aspirational Evolution by the employees; and to be a sustainable Islamic financial service and beyond,” explains Datuk Noripah.

“It’s no longer fintech but techfin that is bringing technology to finance.”

This ambitious turnaround initiative requires Datuk Noripah as Chairman of Bank Rakyat to provide vision and direction for the organisation, to manage the bank’s stakeholders from the Ministry of Entrepreneur Development, Bank Negara Malaysia, the co-operatives to shareholders, and, most importantly, to articulate that vision with clarity in strategic direction and aspiration to the employees.

The Chairman shares, “This new mission of ours to be a globally-recognised catalyst for national development through Islamic financial services required us to implement changes. Some of the changes implemented include revamping our Board of Directors which now comprises professionals and no longer politicians and boosting our brand profile and identity.”

“One of the first steps in rebuilding the bank’s identity is collaborating with United Nations under its Sustainable Development Goal, by integrating sustainability in the bank’s business strategies and activities. We launched a ‘zero-plastic thrash’ campaign which removes all mineral water plastic bottles and installed water dispensers in the office and branches. All staff including the Board of Directors are encouraged to drink water from glasses or tumblers,” says Datuk Noripah.

“To be a Sustainable Bank by 2025 is an identity that I believe has never been championed by other banks. We integrate sustainability in everything that we do,” says the visionary Chairman.

“We have recruited a new Head of Sustainability, who will be responsible for drawing up sustainability policies and procedures in the bank and partnering with NGOs on several projects. In addition, we organise sustainability talks on a monthly basis. We invite international speakers to talk about the impact of sustainability in various areas such as arts, revenue growth, technology, women and empowerment, and so on,” shares Datuk Noripah.

Apart from driving sustainability programmes that have positive impact on our planet, Bank Rakyat is working on a deliberate strategy from the succession planning perspective as well whereby the bank hopes to source the next Managing Director from their talent pool in five years’ time.

Leading change is not always easy, but Datuk Noripah continuously reinvents herself to stay ahead and remain relevant in the industry. In recognition for her advocacy, professionalism and influence in creating alternative possibilities for Islamic financial services globally, Datuk Noripah was honoured as The Most Influential Woman in Islamic Business and Finance at the WOMANi Awards 2019.

“I felt accomplished when I received the award. I was given the award as a Chairman of Bank Rakyat, plus to reward the leadership that I had demonstrated when I developed new options of financial instruments for international investors. Apart from being a co-founder of a global asset management company, I had reinvented myself as an academician and I have written a book called Investing in Islamic Funds: A Practitioner’s Perspective,” says the multi-talented Datuk Noripah with a smile.

Reinventing oneself seems to be the philosophy that Datuk Noripah strongly believes in. “When we launched BR25, our employees were very supportive in taking steps towards making those changes in order to stay relevant in the industry. They saw this as a survival plan because digitalization is confronting them,” she says.

“It’s no longer fintech but techfin that is bringing technology to finance. That’s the millennial lifestyle, and that is why part of our BR25 plan is to ensure that 60% of our staff are tech-savvy and 30% of our workforce are millennials. However, with globalization, everything is global, diversified, virtual, complex and uncertain. Therefore, our employees have to continuously reinvent themselves particularly in this Industrial Revolution 4.0,” asserts Datuk Noripah.

“That said, the millennials should learn to differentiate themselves from the machines. Start embracing values such as integrity, credibility, respect and passion for their work. They should also read books, magazines and articles to increase the level of knowledge and expertise. Be in touch with the news – the real news, not WhatsApp and Facebook – or else, they will be left behind. And they must have a mentor to guide them in making the right decisions in life,” Datuk Noripah advises.

In spite of her long career in the banking industry, Datuk Noripah is still hungry for new knowledge and experiences. With her desire to continuously reinvent herself, she feels inspired to lead Bank Rakyat to remain relevant as the bank of the future.

“Taking this role for the sake of purely nation building will be an understatement. I want to do nation-building and beyond. I don’t make changes for the sake of making changes. I make changes, so that people are happy with the changes. And that inspires me to lead the bank forward,” says the Chairman emphatically.

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