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Exploring the financial services industry

The financial services industry is one that shines with no small amount of glamour, due in part to wildly successful movies like Wall Street. Glamour aside, however, it is an industry that plays a huge part in driving the nation’s economy and those who work in the industry are the ones who push and steer the whole entity.

So what motivates people to join this elite group?

Azizi Mustafa, chief operations officer of Malaysian Industrial Development Finance (MIDF), agrees that while money is a big carrot, one bigger pull factor is the challenges one would face. Those who thrill at the prospect of situations that would challenge them to push their boundaries would definitely take to financial services like a duck to water.

“Financial services is a competitive industry,” says Azizi, adding that bankers don’t reproduce the same product, but constantly update and rearrange their products to suit different clients.

The latest outlook for financial services in Malaysia

According to the latest Bank Negara report, the Malaysian financial services sector seems to be doing well – Azizi calls it “promising,” adding that Malaysia has long been known as a financial hub, both from a conventional as well as an Islamic standpoint. He also lauds Bank Negara’s move to liberalise the market by allowing foreign players to come in as one that would encourage the local players to beef up their game and step up to the international playing field.

MIDF

One such player would, of course, be MIDF. Established 52 years ago, it offers a range of financial services, namely development finance, investment banking, and asset management. Development finance helps companies to start up; it helps SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and SMIs (small and medium industries) with medium and long-term financing for manufacturing finances – automation, factory relocation, etc.

This division also has had a part in contributing to notable domestic projects and local companies Chemical Company of Malaysia (CCM), Batu Tiga Industrial Estate, Malayawata Steel, Malayan Flour Mill and The Hilton Kuala Lumpur.

MIDF Investment, which commenced in January 2007, was the result of a merger between MIDF, Amanah Capital Partners and Utama Merchant Bank. The company in the sum of its part has achieved many notable deals in its portfolio like the RM250mil syndicated floating rate term loan agreement with Binariang Satellite Systems in 1996 for the Malaysia East Asia Satellite (Measat) project. In terms of the financial services provided by MIDF, the investment banking body picks up the baton when the companies have become more established. At this point, companies will start looking for ways to get more assets. Enter the investment bank, and its banking services and solutions. Companies will get financial advice regarding company restructuring and/or the acquiring of other companies, as well as services including brokerage and the underwriting of debts and equities.

When the company has grown even more with the help of its added investments, the asset management arm – MIDF Amanah – steps in to help it manage its wealth. MIDF Amanah deals with the investment advisory discipline, incorporating financial planning, investment portfolio management and a number of aggregated financial services, delivering to clients which consist of individuals, institutions and companies. The aim is to strategically invest the funds contributed by said clients into company and project stocks, getting optimal returns over time.

Azizi Mustafa, chief operations officer of MIDF Azizi Mustafa, chief operations officer of MIDF

Playing with the big boys

Planning to make your own footprint in this fast-paced industry? Azizi says that as a whole, the industry requires people who are analytical and have good problem-solving skills; in the case of MIDF, the development finance arm has been around for half a century so it welcomes fresh, inexperienced people with passion that it can train and groom with its wealth of experience at hand.

However, as MIDF’s investment bank body is “in the expansion phase,” it would prefer someone with more experience, whereas asset management looks for financial visionaries who would, for example, be able to pinpoint what shares one should buy. If you were to go into development finance, you would be selling products to SMIs and SMEs, so it’s best if you have a silver tongue and the ability to do sales and marketing. If you were to be an investment banker, however, you need to be able to listen, understand, and advise: All three are vital when you’re about to dispense advice as to how your clients should go about expanding their wealth. Asset management, on the other hand, will require you to be well-versed in investments and hedge funds, with – as earlier mentioned – a great deal of vision.

Why MIDF

At MIDF, they believe that there’s a correlation between a good working environment and productivity hence their luncheon talks – talks that touch on non-work related topics like nutrition and safety – and amenities such as gyms and staff lounges to promote social and physical health. From this, one can tell just how much of an emphasis MIDF puts on the work-life balance of their employees. The company also places importance on their employees’ growth, career-wise: If your job scope requires you to get professional qualifications, your tuition will be paid for by MIDF. “This is a place where you can balance between the expectations of work, and the expectations you have of yourself,” Azizi concludes.

For careers in MIDF, click here.

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