Zeti Aziz’s Thoughts About Being Back in Public Service: It’s time to act
September 12, 2019
By Admin: Robert Buck
Tan Sri Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz is back in public service again after three years since she stepped down as a governor of Bank Negara Malaysia, a post she has held for 16 years. Hence she has retired for quite some time, Zeti Aziz did not expect to be offered the chairman position of PNB. She took over the position from Tan Sri Abdul Wahid Omar.
“When I left the bank (Bank Negara), I felt it was the best position that I could have had because it provided me with an opportunity to make a contribution. I was by then 70, I didn’t think that I would take on another position.”
“I was overseas when I got the call and I said, ‘Can it wait until I come back?’ They said ‘No, we’re going to call you tomorrow for your decision.’ I reflected on it and accepted.”
After resting for three years, she’s back on taking lots of responsibilities and busy schedules. Aside from being the chairman of PNB Group, she is also the chairman of Sime Darby Property and a member of the board of Asia Business School.
“I had done everything I had wanted to do, so it was time for me to go and I prepared the bank for that for at least three years.”
“Juggling the hats” has been very challenging for Zeti and to serve in the government again didn’t cross her mind when she decided to retire.
She received several invitations from all over the world to speak at conferences and panels, something she enjoyed doing when she left the central bank.
“I met my old friends in the central banking community and it was great. And on the home front, I helped out with the education arm of the bank, where I still had the Asia School of Business and the leadership center, and INCEIF (International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance). I was happy with that arrangement.”
Her main focus at the moment is PNB. She promised to run PNB with the same determination she had with the bank. In her 16 years working in the central bank, she said there was not a day that she did not work hard and intensely.
“I always had a great sense of purpose about what had to be achieved and I was very ambitious about what had to be achieved as well.”
She also talked about her plans for PNB while still the chairman. She even explained the difference between being at the central bank and at PNB.
“Not a difficult one. At the central bank, of course, it was managing the reserves … we had about US$100 billion equivalent. In PNB, the fund is about RM300 billion. The central bank is at the frontier of the investment of the reserves and, I should say, it is as good as any international investment bank. We reached that level in terms of asset allocation, in terms of risk management, in terms of managing liquidity. So, in that respect, there are many similarities.”
Now that she serves PNB, she believes that putting the right culture in place is all-important for the company to move in the right direction in a very challenging environment. Although Zeti has not confirmed how long she will remain chairman of PNB, she assures us that she will continue to operate as long as her health allows.
“It depends on what I want to achieve and also on my health. I’m happy to do this because many [of our clients] are small unitholders. When you take on a position, you must know what your obligation is, and work towards achieving that mandate. So, if you know you can no longer do so, you should give way to someone else who can.”