Focus on women entrepreneurs

TARGETING at women in business will be a new area of focus at Affin Merchant Bank.  

“There are a lot of women entrepreneurs nowadays. We see value in this sector and will identify and unlock the different types of value,” its president and chief executive Datin Zuraidah Atan noted, adding that this new division would be headed by a man. 

Under her long-term plan for the bank, many developmental roles have been identified. The obvious one is to ensure that it brings in the right returns to shareholders. 

Society and the power of opinion makers are important considerations. “We held a seminar in merchant banking for judges and have proposed one for journalists,” said Zuraidah, a lawyer by training and former OCBC banker. 

Some of her higher-ups were quite appalled at the idea of her trying to impart info to judges. But she calmed them down, saying other professions should know more about what bankers do. “It is about providing access and breaking barriers.”  

Her emphasis now is on interacting more with small-and-medium scale industries (SMIs), not so much for lending purposes but for access to information and understanding on both sides. “We also get an idea of business viability and other aspects of their products,” she said. 

Zuraidah knows that persistence pays and doesn’t get put off with a brusque greeting on some of her rounds at state agencies. 

“We have to be tough and work towards our vision,” she said, adding that the bank had got projects with Kedah and Johor state governments. 

Right now, she holds the proud position of being the only woman CEO of a bank in Malaysia.  

“It is a matter of opportunities and being at the right place at the right time, coupled with support from a lot of people,” she said. “But there is also a lot of pressure.” 

Cleaning up the bank was one part of a job she considered quite well-done. “It is now a clean bank that pays dividends,” she said, adding that some potential changes in shareholding did not deviate her from making sure that the institution remained intact. 

The KAF group has recently se- cured Bank Negara’s approval to start negotiations with Malaysia In- ternational Shipping Corp (MISC) for its 36.8% stake in Affin Merchant. 

Zuraidah read law at the Uni- versity of Buckingham and had her secondary school education at the Tunku Kurshiah College in Seremban. 

Apart from work, her love includes her two cats, Alia and Blackie, and IT gadgets. “I’m a sort of Inspector Gadgets,” she said. Among her collection is the thinnest laptop. 

She is happy to be entrusted the top job at Affin Merchant. 

“Otherwise, I may have opted to work overseas in Shanghai or Hong Kong,” she said of the opportunities available during her days at OCBC. 

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