Sunday 25 Feb 2024
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This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly on June 20, 2022 - June 26, 2022

THE Grab Holdings Ltd-led digital bank in Malaysia is expected to form a five-member board led by Datuk Zaiton Mohd Hassan — the former chairman of Bank Pembangunan Malaysia Bhd (BPMB) — as chairman, according to several sources.

“They’ve nominated the names and are awaiting final approvals from the central bank. It’s going through the process,” one of the sources tells The Edge.

Veteran investment banker Datuk Maimoonah Hussain, who was formerly group managing director of Affin Hwang Capital before retiring in November 2019, is one of the proposed directors, the sources say.

It is understood that the remaining three directors come from non-banking backgrounds. Grab declined to comment when contacted.

On April 29, Bank Negara Malaysia awarded one of five digital bank licences to a consortium led by GXS Bank Pte Ltd — a 60:40 joint venture between Grab and Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (Singtel) — and Kuok Brothers Sdn Bhd.

On the same day, the group announced that it had appointed Lai Pei Si, a financial services industry veteran, as the digital bank’s CEO-designate. Lai was previously the managing director and country head of consumer, private and business banking at Standard Chartered in Malaysia.

“From what we gather, of the five digital banks, the Grab-led one seems to be the most advanced in setting things up, in the sense that they already have a team lined up [to lead the bank],” an industry source remarks.

Zaiton, currently a senior independent director at Sime Darby Plantation Bhd, has over 40 years of banking and finance experience, including 12 years at Malayan Banking Bhd where she held various senior positions. She was brought in to BPMB in February 2019 to help raise the bank’s corporate governance standards.

As for Maimoonah, as the former head of Affin Hwang Capital, she oversaw the Affin banking group’s investment banking, securities and asset management businesses.

Meanwhile, the other four digital banks are also moving to pick the best talent, and it is understood that they are courting some prominent names in the banking industry.

The recipients of the other conventional digital banking licences are a consortium of Boost Holdings Sdn Bhd (a subsidiary of Axiata Group Bhd) and RHB Bank Bhd; and a consortium led by Sea Ltd (owner of the Shopee e-commerce platform) and YTL Digital Capital Sdn Bhd.

Those that received Islamic licences were a consortium of Aeon Financial Service Co Ltd, Aeon Credit Service (M) Bhd and fintech MoneyLion Inc; and a consortium of KAF Investment Bank Sdn Bhd, MoneyMatch (a remittance player), Carsome (an integrated car e-commerce platform) and Jirnexu (owner of the RinggitPlus website).

Three female CEOs?

According to market talk, at least three of the five digital banks will be led by female CEOs.

Apart from Lai from the Grab-led group, there is also Rafiza Ghazali, whom the KAF consortium picked to be CEO-designate for its digital Islamic bank.

KAF had last month announced the appointment of Rafiza, who is formerly the CEO of Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd.

The third is widely expected to come from the Boost-RHB digital bank. The group has yet to appoint a CEO, but there is strong market speculation that Fozia Amanulla — deputy CEO of Boost Credit and former CEO of Alliance Islamic Bank — will be its choice.

Meanwhile, there have been rumours that Raja Teh Maimunah Raja Abdul Aziz of the AmBank Group will be joining the Aeon-led digital bank as CEO, but she shoots it down as “gossip”. Raja Teh is AmBank’s managing director of wholesale banking.

“[This is] purely market gossip,” she says when contacted by The Edge.

The five digital banks are only expected to make their debut in about one to two years.


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