Ahmad Zulqarnain is PNB’s new CEO

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN/ pic by TMR FILE

PERMODALAN Nasional Bhd (PNB) has appointed Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn (picture) as its new president and group CEO, succeeding Abdul Jalil Abdul Rasheed who vacated his position two weeks ago.

Ahmad Zulqarnain, whose appointment is effective July 1, takes over the role after serving Khazanah Nasional Bhd for six years.

He was one of two deputy MDs at the sovereign wealth fund since 2018. The announcement confirmed rumours that he was the frontrunner to get the top job.

Following investigations into alleged discrepancies involving Abdul Jalil’s credentials, PNB said it has received all the relevant regulatory approvals for the appointment of its new chief, including from Yayasan Pelaburan Bumiputera, the PNB board and regulatory authorities.

Ahmad Zulqarnain has more than 20 years experience in both banking and corporates, including tenures with UBS Warburg, Pengurusan Danaharta Nasional Bhd, CIMB Group Holdings Bhd and Symphony Group.

Prior to Khazanah, he was appointed as the first CEO of Danajamin Nasional Bhd in 2009.

His latest appointment as PNB chief makes him the third CEO in less than five years at the state-linked fund, which manages over RM312 billion of assets under its unit trust operations.

The Malaysian Reserve had previously reported that both Ahmad Zulqarnain and former Khazanah MD Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar had been tapped to lead PNB.

It is learned that Azman had been offered to succeed PNB chairman Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz, whose tenure ends on July 1. Azman served as Khazanah’s MD for 14 years before stepping down in August 2018.

Abdul Jalil, in announcing his resignation on June 15, claimed of being harassed with anonymous hate calls, and that his corporate email account and LinkedIn profile had been hacked. The 37-year-old said the harassment was the last straw that led to his resignation.

Questions about Abdul Jalil’s academic and career credentials were raised prior to his resignation. Abdul Jalil claims to be a graduate of the UK’s prestigious London School of Economics (LSE). However, it is argued that he did not attend LSE in the UK, but did an external programme with the University of London, in association with LSE, at a college in KL.

The Securities Commission Malaysia (SC) has since opened an investigation on the alleged discrepancies. SC said PNB, as a capital market services licence holder, is required to ensure that all information submitted to the SC for Abdul Jalil’s appointment, including his work experience and academic qualifications, are true and correct.

PNB said it has given an initial reply to the regulator and has set up an inquiry team to investigate. A more detailed reply will be submitted after the inquiry ends.