Investment banker extraordinaire! That is how his competitors describe Datuk Nazir Razak. To them, he is a true blue investment banker as when everyone else gives up, it is him who would come up with a solution.
With a powerful combination of “brains, drive and pedigree,'' he is a man that the corporates have sought out for many years. They come from among the rich and powerful and the companies that have complex corporate deals.
Nazir is the youngest son of the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein - Malaysia's second prime minister - and brother of current Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak.
Internally, at CIMB Bhd, he is well-known as someone who is “tough on delivery’’ and yet a “value junkie’’ for he is “best at value creation, be it for the company or shareholders.’’
When contacted by StarBiz, he said: “I am excited about the new opportunities that the new banking group will bring.
“I believe there are tremendous areas for value creation through synergies between the two banking units.''
On what this meant for him personally, he commented: “The bigger challenge will be moving from a battleship to an aircraft carrier.'' Nazir is certainly positioning himself for a fast take-off.
“We are in a better position now to be acquisitive. There is no secret. Once you combine this, it makes ourself stronger... we will look to acquire,” he said yesterday.
A few years back, when he was made chief executive of CIMB Bhd, he was asked if he aspired for higher positions in corporate Malaysia.
“I am happy at CIMB Bhd and I see myself here,'' he had said. When asked about this yesterday, he said: “I continue to be in CIMB except that it is a bit different this time.''
Under his leadership, CIMB Bhd can claim to have a lion's share of the investment banking business.
The bank has won many accolades in the past few years, from “best equity house’’ to “best domestic investment bank.''
Nazir himself was named “CEO of the Year (2004).’’ That was in Malaysia but beyond that, he is recognized as one of the “25 Stars of Asia’’ by Business Week and recently, one of the World Economic Forum’s young global leaders.
He joined Commerce International Merchant Bankers Bhd fresh from university as a corporate finance executive. That was in 1989.
Sixteen years later, when he is about to turn 39, he is head of a larger banking group, which specializes in commercial and investment banking.
Against what can be termed a meteoric rise, people wonder what has kept him going all these years.
Change - and his ability to change with the demands of the organization and environment. Coupled with a drive for business. That is partly why every six months or so, CIMB re-organizes itself.
He was reported to have described changes as those which “are necessitated by the fact that it (CIMB) operates in an industry that is furiously evolving as a result of globalization and liberalization.''
Amid all the glory, he remembers the good work done by his predecessors such as Datuk Dr Munir Majid and Robert Cheim, who had built up CIMB’s foundation.
He is also known to give credit when it is due. Good employees are known to have received big rewards and high salaries from him.
In his new role as head of CIMB Bank (which will be the new entity for Bumiputra Commerce Bank) and CIMB Investment Bank, Nazir’s biggest challenge would be to match the working culture of the commercial bank with that of the investment arm.
This is a tricky issue, market watchers say, and they really want to see how Nazir will pull it through.
A merchant banker said that it “would really be a paradigm shift to get Bumiputra Commerce to work the way CIMB does.’’ Nazir has been known to say: “The word ‘No’ is not in my vocabulary.”
The fact that he would be at the top, and not driving up the investment bank directly, means that “competition would be evenly distributed in the investment banking sector.”
Whatever may be the case, Nazir is not the type to let things lie. Knowing him, he would take challenges in his stride.
For some time, the market has known that CIMB has aspirations to grow big.
The way Nazir has managed his business has been described to be “in the likes of JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley.''
Size-wise, the group has a long way to go towards the stature of these giant investment banks.
But there is no under-estimating how businesses can grow from a small, nimble base.
What more, as the belief still stands, powered by a CEO who still has so many years of his best to give.
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