Monday, August 23, 2010

Two Islamic banks looking to hire CEOs

By Habhajan Singh
At least one local Islamic bank and a foreign bank's Islamic subsidiary is headhunting for new heads while another Islamic bank had recently axed its former acting chief executive officer.

Maybank Islamic Bhd and HSBC Amanah Malaysia Bhd are looking for new top guns while it is understood that Kuwait Finance House (Malaysia) Bhd had just recently axed a top official who had been on a long suspension.

Maybank Islamic, the Islamic arm of Malayan Banking Bhd which badges itself as the largest Islamic banking player in Asia-Pacific, is already headhunting for a new CEO to replace Ibrahim Hassan who will be retiring soon, say industry sources.

At HSBC Amanah Malaysia, the Islamic subsidiary of the global banking group should also be on the lookout for a new head as its executive director and CEO, Musa Abdul Malek had opted for retirement, though it could not be confirmed if they are looking outside the group.

"With the dearth of talent, it would be interesting to see how they fill these and other vacancies at the Islamic bank," said one Islamic bank official, who also highlighted the impending entry of the Islamic megabanks.

At KFH Malaysia, it is understood the Kuwaiti-owned Islamic bank had recently axed its former deputy CEO, Ab Jabbar Ab Rahman, who was also at the point the bank's acting CEO, after a long suspension and a domestic inquiry. It is understood that another KFH Malaysia senior bank official had also been axed.

However, Ab Jabbar could not be reached to confirm the latest events at the Islamic bank which had been mired with allegations of mismanagement. At Press time, it could not be confirmed if Ab Jabbar and the other top official were terminated or simply asked to leave after their contracts lapsed.

On March 29, The Malaysian Reserve had reported KFH Malaysia's then new boss Jamelah Jamaluddin, who came on board just under two months earlier, had directed more than a dozen staff to go on leave pending internal investigations into "transactions and contractual arrangements that have been undertaken over the years".

In an email response back then, Jamelah said the bank was "taking a proactive approach and conducting a due diligence status audit, in light of the different and more challenging economic environment". She added: "This is aimed at obtaining an accurate picture of certain transactions and contractual arrangements that have been undertaken over the years. Some employees have taken leave to help facilitate the exercise and the bank will be guided by pragmatism and act accordingly as per the recommendations of the audit team conducting the due diligence status audit."

At KFH Malaysia, though, hiring is not the order of the day for the moment as the Islamic bank tries to recover lost ground after its recent debacle.

In November 2009, Rating Agency Malaysia had given it a negative outlook on the financial institution ratings due to the deterioration in the financial metrics of both the bank and its parents.

On Aug 3, Malaysian Rating Corp Bhd affirmed KFH Malaysia's long- and short-term financial institution ratings at AA+/MARC-1 while outlook on KFH's long-term rating was downgraded to negative from developing. Accordingly, it said KFH Malaysia's long-term rating outlook has been revised to negative from developing to reflect that of its parent.

(This story appeared in The Malaysian Reserve on 23 August 2010. The Malaysian Reserve is a daily business/finance newspaper published out of Kuala Lumpur, with a sectoral page on Islamic finance on Mondays, edited by Habhajan Singh)

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