PNB chief Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn to lead the EPF, say sources


Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn.

KUALA LUMPUR: Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn, the group chief executive officer (CEO) of Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB), is widely tipped to take over the helm of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF).

His appointment at the pension fund will fill the role left vacant after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim named Datuk Seri Amir Hamzah Azizan, the previous CEO of the EPF, as the second Finance Minister in a Cabinet reshuffle last month.

Reuters, quoting sources, reported yesterday that Ahmad Zulqarnain’s appointment is expected to be announced as early as at the end of this month.

The appointment comes at a crucial time too.

This is as the EPF, which is the world’s 12th largest pension fund, looks to rebuild its reserves following record withdrawals of subscriber funds during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Amir Hamzah had played an important role in the pension fund’s growth and success throughout his tenure as CEO since 2021.

Ahmad Zulqarnain’s role at the EPF will be closely watched by many.

This is especially with the call for government-linked institutions to scale up domestic investments to support the economy.

During the period between 2020 and 2022, Malaysians took RM145bil out of their pension fund to cushion the impact of the pandemic.

This had raised concerns that the depleted retirement savings of the lower-income groups could put a severe strain on the government’s public healthcare expenditure in the long run.

The fund has 15.72 million members and total assets of about RM1 trillion, according to its 2022 annual report.

Ahmad Zulqarnain, a Harvard University graduate, was appointed to helm PNB in July 2020.

PNB is the country’s largest asset manager with RM343.1bil of assets as at end-November 2022.

Prior to his appointment, Ahmad Zulqarnain was deputy managing director of Khazanah Nasional Bhd where he oversaw its Strategic Fund.

Under his leadership at PNB, he spearheaded the creation of Malaysia’s largest automotive group following the consolidation of UMW Holdings Bhd with Sime Darby Bhd.

The consolidation is driven by the opportunities to strengthen the local and regional presence in the automotive sector, as well as to support the country’s electric vehicle push.

He had also sought to add infrastructure assets into PNB’s portfolio as part of a diversification strategy.

Towards this end, PNB has set up a small team for infrastructure strategy.

That will be expanded once it starts investing in the asset class.

Over at PNB, a few names have been touted to replace Ahmad Zulqarnain, with the frontrunner said to be from the banking industry.

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