THE final report of Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd, covering 1998 to 2005, contains a lot of familiar corporate names. Many of those who had served in the management have gone on to bigger and better things.
For example, the three managing directors, Datuk Azman Yahya, Datuk Seri Abdul Hamidy Abdul Hafiz and Datuk Zukri Samat, are heads of Symphony House Bhd, Danajamin Nasional Bhd and Bank Islam Malaysia Bhd respectively.
Others on the roll of honour included Datuk Mohd Bakke Salleh (Felda Holdings Bhd MD), Datuk Ismee Ismail (Lembaga Tabung Haji CEO), Eric Chan Kok Leong (Eastern & Oriental Bhd executive director), Abdul Rahman Ahmad (Ekuiti Nasional Bhd CEO), Shahril Ridza Ridzuan (Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd MD), Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn (Danajamin CEO), Ee Kok Sin (Affin Bank Bhd chief financial officer), Fazlur Rahman Ebrahim (MD of Prokhas Sdn Bhd, somewhat the successor to Danaharta) and Datuk Kris Azman Abdullah, who was until recently an executive director of the Securities Commission.
Clearly, Danaharta had some serious talent in its seven years of existence.
Says Azman of Symphony House, Danaharta’s first MD, “We had to start the organisation by getting in people who already had good experience because of the intensity of the whole programme. So we couldn’t afford to really train people.
“We did take in some young people. At the time, people like Rahman, Shahril and Zul (Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn) were quite young, brilliant guys and all that. But the initial core team comprised those with good experience.”
Because Azman had come from the Amanah Capital group, it was only natural that he brought over some of his former colleagues to Danaharta.
“I needed to get Danaharta up and running within three months. So the easiest way is to tap some of the resources within Amanah. Even if I were to get people from outside, going through the interview process and serving the notice period would take too long,” he recalls.
“So I sought the permission of the chairman then to get the core team from Amanah to help me out. And he agreed because Danaharta was an entity of national importance.”
As asset management company set up in June 1998 by the Government during the Asian financial crisis, Danaharta was meant to thwart the then imminent disaster of the rising level of non-performing loans (NPLs) in the domestic banking system.
The company’s twin objectives were relief the financial institutions of the burden of managing NPLs, and to maximise recovery value of the NPLs in its portfolio. At the same time, Danaharta injected funds into the financial institutions.
It was a mission that attracted a lot of professionals who wanted a fresh challenge.
Says a former Danaharta executive, who is now a department head at a government-linked company, “I joined because it was exciting. This was an opportunity that will not come up again. You got to test yourself. There was partly the national duty angle as well, and my service there is a feather in the cap.”
Wong Muh Rong was doing corporate finance at an investment bank when she decided that Danaharta was where she wanted to be instead.
“It was the recession and there few deals to work on. I was very bored and was reading newspapers in the office for hours,” she says. “Danaharta wanted people with five to six years’ experience and I didn’t have that.”
Her father, Tan Sri Wong See Wah, the former Deputy Finance Minister, offered to arrange for an interview with Azman but told her that it was entirely up to her to secure the job. And she did, ending up in the corporate finance unit.
“I’m very proud to be a member of the Danaharta alumni. It was a very good training ground and I am where am today because of that,” says Wong, who is managing director of Astramina Advisory Sdn Bhd, her own outfit.
When asked about the characteristics of the Danaharta alumni that will make them effective CEOs, Azman says, “The ability to work under pressure is definitely one. A lot of people can put in the hours, but the ability to put in effective hours is very important, to be able to prioritise what needs to be done.
“I’m pretty happy that generally the team at Danaharta are honest. Integrity is very important. They know the importance of our mission. They had to get it done and they got it done. They work as a team. I don’t encourage office politicking. Basically, I try to get everybody to work as a team. That’s really critical.”
Indeed, it was a demanding environment. Says the former executive, “We had to think on our feet. We were always put to the test. We had to be the MacGyver of the day. We were given a penknife and we had to dismantle a lorry.”
Wong says one of Danaharta’s more notable achievements was to figure out how to calculate listing premiums when working out deals with white knights of listed companies. “We had to come up with something out of nothing,” she adds.
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