Learning from Leaders

Read on to find out more about leadership insights from Syed Abdul Aziz Jailani Syed Kechik, CEO, at OCBC Al-Amin.
Syed Abdul Aziz Jailani Syed Kechik
Ceo, OCBC Al-Amin
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1. When you look back over your journey towards being the leader that you are today, could you please share with our readers some of your deeply held values?

I have been in banking for the past 28 years, and OCBC is my fourth employer. The values I have held to and honed during the course of these years include adaptability, engagement, teamwork, and agility. Adaptability is key in a dynamic business like OCBC’s where change is the norm. And if we are unable to engage through our interpersonal skills, we will not be able to manage our stakeholders. As you progress in your career, you will require more skills as you’re no longer only a specialist but indeed a manager. Being a team player is important too. Being agile is critical considering how speed can spell the difference between success and failure. In the current industrial revolution 4.0, no one is spared when it comes to embracing the changes that we are experiencing in the digital economy.

2. Throughout your journey with OCBC, what were some of the most inspiring moments that kept you motivated to stay resilient when the going gets tough?

There are too many to recount here, but the key ones would include these 3:

  • When I look back at the first 5 years of OCBC Al-Amin’s operations, we spent a lot of time trying to differentiate our business and in the process, we learned from some mistakes we made. Towards the end of this period, we made adjustments and re-strategised that have helped to make the Bank even stronger.
  • In the following 5 years (from 2013 until today), we executed the strategy that drove the business forward, and along the way made some hard and firm decisions in certain aspects of our business such re-modeling of our branches and network distribution. Ultimately, the bank’s ranking amongst Foreign Islamic Banks in Malaysia improved from being no 5, out of total 6, to no 2 with commendable profitability in 2016.
  • OCBC Al-Amin won many awards since 2013, with the most prestigious being The Islamic Bank of the Year 2014 (Malaysia) by The Banker (London based magazine) and Top FI Partner Award 2015 by Credit Guarantee Corporation (Malaysia).

3. Share with our readers a leader/role model that you place in high regard and how he/she has impacted your own growth as a leader in OCBC.

I would single out Nelson Mandela as my role model. I believe that perseverance and staying humble have the greatest impact and definitely contribute to the effort in growing the business.

4. What are the top three qualities of great leaders, in your opinion?

Aside from what we should already have like honesty and integrity, one must be driven by adaptability, good interpersonal skills, and humility

5. To wrap things up, what would you like to share with fresh graduates to ensure that they are on the right track as they prepare to enter the working world?

Four things, basically.

  • Always keep an open mind.
  • Allow yourself to learn and absorb as much information as possible.
  • Always think out of the box. This is something all employers look for in a potential candidate. What we need from fresh graduates is “a breath of fresh air”, meaning new ideas and approaches.
  • When you’re young and new, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. No mistakes should be deemed silly as long as you learn from it.