WHILE many may think otherwise, Bank Rakyat chairman Datuk Noripah Kamso does not see a glass ceiling in the financial services industry, let alone the Islamic finance sector.
“Islamic finance is not a faith-driven thing. It means business or commercial so you just need to be performing, whether you are an Islamic individual, man or woman. It is for everyone, ” she said.
Noripah knows better, having been named by UK-based think tank Cambridge IFA as The Most Influential Woman in Islamic Business and Finance at the WOMANi Awards 2019 held recently in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Based on leadership, advocacy and industry-wide recognition, she was adjudged from among a field of top 300 international recipients from 16 other countries, all of whom are leading change, breaking barriers and creating new possibilities in the world of Islamic ﬁnance globally.
As a banker for 35 years, Noripah shared that she felt fortunate to have gone across the value chain – from corporate banking to corporate financing, margin financing, trading and asset management among others – gaining solid experience in commercial bank, merchant bank and investment bank operations.
“It was the last 10 years when I was in asset management that I started to pave my path towards becoming a global practitioner.
“Being an advisor of CIMB Islamic, I had the opportunity to be part of international conferences and corporate events, from where I built my strong network of friends around the globe and understood how the global stage functions.
“Upon completion of my role as an advisor, I decided to reinvent myself, ” she said.
Noripah, who authored Investing in Islamic Funds: A Practitioner’s Perspective and Credit Decision Making: A Qualitative Approach, said she took up a lecturer post in 2015 at Drake University in Iowa, United States, tutoring MBA and undergraduate students in Islamic Capital Market at the School of Business and Public Administration, under the Global Practitioner in Residence programme.
She explored establishing a new department at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies during her stint at the University of Oxford in the UK in 2016.
She is also a visiting lecturer in Fundamentals of Islamic Finance Contracts at Saint Joseph University in Beirut, Lebanon, since 2015, where she has committed 15 hours of lectures annually.
These are just a few of her achievements on top of her other positions held, including as Top Glove Corporation Bhd director; Islamic Finance Industry Council, Malaysia-US Chamber of Commerce, Washington DC co-chairman; and, Securities Commission Malaysia Securities Industry Dispute Appeal committee member.
Speaking on her role in bringing Bank Rakyat forward, she emphasised positioning the bank as “sustainable bank” through its five-year BR25 transformation plan by integrating sustainability into its business strategies.
“With a total asset of RM106.89bil and a profit of RM1.86bil, I believe that Bank Rakyat as a cooperative Islamic bank is now ripe for global recognition within the global Islamic banking space.
“The bank has recently entered into a partnership with the United Nations in Malaysia, towards implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
This partnership is in line with my aspiration to establish the bank as Malaysia’s first sustainable bank, a space which has not been championed by any other bank in this country.
“We work towards our goal by 2025, we are committed to supporting the 3Ps – namely People, Planet and Progress – whereby progress here doesn’t mean just profit but also social development and shared prosperity, ” she explained.
“My role is to ensure that the bank is relevant in the future to offer great customer experience to the eight million customers that we are going to have, as per the BR25 plan.
“Also, my role is to make sure there is also international recognition in integrity for Bank Rakyat, ” she said, adding that the bank will be organising a local and an international integrity conference very soon.
On challenges in the Islamic finance industry, she shared that there is so much misconception globally, such as it being for the Muslims only and that those selling shariah products are not compliant.
“Such misconceptions are a challenge to Islamic finance and to educate the public on the product will take time and effort.
“The Islamic banking and finance industry is comparatively a young industry and is evolving slowly.
“The markets are constantly changing and one needs to be ahead of the current situation and the challenges that arise, ” she said.