Abdul Jalil leaves PNB, claims intense pressure

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

PERMODALAN Nasional Bhd (PNB) president and group CEO Abdul Jalil Abdul Rasheed (picture) has resigned amid speculation that he would be replaced.

PNB confirmed his resignation effective yesterday, the latest in a long list of ousted heads of government-linked companies (GLCs).

Prior to the official statement late yesterday, Abdul Jalil’s farewell email to staff went viral over social media — in which he said he had been pushed to end his tenure at PNB after receiving hate calls and that his corporate email account and LinkedIn profile had also been hacked.

PNB, Malaysia’s largest fund manager, said its board of directors have already approved Abdul Jalil’s successor and an announcement is pending regulatory approvals. It did not say why Abdul Jalil resigned.

In his farewell note sighted by The Malaysian Reserve, Abdul Jalil said his family made a sacrifice for him to work at PNB for the sake of the country and he regretted his early exit.

“We made a big financial and family sacrifice to relocate back to Kuala Lumpur from Singapore because I truly wanted to contribute to nation-building. I’m disappointed this has come to an abrupt end.”

At 37, Abdul Jalil became the youngest chief at PNB in October last year. His preference for crazy socks and batik reflected his dynamic leadership and hopes of change at PNB.

He removed dress codes early on when he joined PNB and introduced work-from-home as a permanent option for staff — whom he referred to as colleagues or his team.

“It is a culture based on trust,” he said in one of his replies to a Twitter user who asked about the flexible work culture he envisaged.

On the business side, Abdul Jalil last month revealed a promising three-year plan to shore up PNB’s investment overseas to 30% by 2022 from the current 8.5%. He also emphasised corporate governance at investee companies with key performance indicators instilled to drive performance.

PNB has majority or controlling stakes in at least 10 listed companies and has a minimum 10% shareholding in Telekom Malaysia Bhd, Axiata Group Bhd and Tenaga Nasional Bhd among others.

Khazanah Nasional Bhd deputy ED Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn has been tipped as the preferred candidate to replace Abdul Jalil. Ahmad Zulqarnain has been at the sovereign wealth fund since May 2014 and was previously CEO of Danajamin Nasional Bhd.

Malayan Banking Bhd (Maybank) group president and CEO Datuk Abdul Farid Alias is also being considered for the position. An official spokesperson said Maybank does not comment on market speculation.

Various names are also said to be vetted for the chairman role currently helmed by former Bank Negara Malaysia governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz.

Questions were raised, prior to Abdul Jalil’s resignation, about his academic and career credentials which he purportedly gave a false account of.

His former boss and current CEO of Aberdeen Standard Islamic Investment Sdn Bhd Gerald Ambrose, however, has testified to his mettle and said the company was well aware of his qualifications.

“We know he did not misrepresent his qualifications at all,” Ambrose said.

Abdul Jalil was made CEO of Aberdeen Islamic Asset Management in 2010 at the age of 27. He was regional head of South Asian business at UK-based Invesco Ltd, an investment firm with over US$1.2 trillion (RM5.13 trillion) in assets under management, when he was offered to lead PNB — a move he described as “the biggest privilege life could accord” to him.

Credit Suisse Securities (M) Sdn Bhd country head Stephen Hagger, in a note which has been circulated online, described Abdul Jalil as a sharp dresser and a critic of poor corporate and political behaviour.

He said Abdul Jalil is well-known in international fund management circles for his credibility and intellect.