Changing with the times

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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 15): The Edge weekly in its latest edition spoked to veteran banker Tan Sri Azman Hashim and looked at his experience in the industry for almost six decades.

The Edge’s Adeline Paul Raj said Azman has weathered the peaks and troughs of economic cycles, seen the industry go through a tough consolidation and has displayed chameleon-like versatility in adapting to the changing times.

However, she wrote that the challenges and disruption brought about by the digital revolution in recent years is unlike anything he has seen before.

“Now, the change is too fast. It can happen overnight, it can happen tomorrow. Somebody comes up with an idea … and the change is viral and it affects everybody,” says the chairman and major shareholder of AMMB Holdings Bhd, who turns 79 in July.

In a candid interview with The Edge,  Azman — speaking in his capacity as chairman of the Asian Institute of Chartered Bankers (AICB) — gives his views of the changes taking place, what banking and the future generation of bankers may be like in three to five years, and how the older generation need to have an open mind if they want to have a place.

Azman said he has been in the industry from the time he returned to Malaysia (from Australia) in 1960.

He said he was in Bank Negara Malaysia for four years right after he came back and that he had been through all the governors, from the first one, (Tan Sri William) Wilcox, and then Tun Ismail (Mohd Ali).

The banker says the world is changing fast, especially in this digital era.

Azman said it is difficult for him to predict what’s going to happen.

“But what’s happening today, I think, is wonderful also ... because things are being done so fast, so quickly, so efficiently. Of course, there are some (things) that disrupt banks. But, I think banks have to get involved. We have to also get into the game wherever we can. Of course, we are regulated — quite strictly, actually,” he said.

Azman told the Edge that these new things do cause problems for regulators.

“They don’t want (these things) to be able to affect the system. But they’ve also got to see whether they can accommodate. If it’s good for the banking system, why not use them? ‘Use’, in the way that they can be regulated, they can be controlled. It can be good for the people as well, you know ... things can be done much faster and so on,” he said.

For more on the views of one of the country’s foremost bankers, read the Edge for week of Feb 19 – Feb 25 available at newsstands now.

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