Family ties no boon for top banker Nazir Razak
KUALA LUMPUR, July 2 — Datuk Seri Nazir Razak, brother to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, has denied his kinship helped spur his rise up the rungs of Asia’s banking world, saying any influence gained is from his position as CIMB Group chief executive.
The youngest son of Malaysia’s second prime minister did not deny he holds some sway with political leaders, but told Financial Times in an interview published today that his influence is only as much as others in similar positions heading major companies.
“We are a successful business that doesn’t get involved in that stuff [corruption],” he told the influential international business paper.
“But I’m not going to deny the fact that it is a problem.”
In the article, headlined “When toil is as strong as family ties”, the paper noted that it was difficult to tell whether the blood ties were a boon or bane for the rising Asian banker.
“I do have family occasions, but I wouldn’t say that I have more influence with the present PM than I did with previous PMs, if you like. Therefore, the relationship is more derivative of my position running the bank rather than family,” Nazir was quoted as saying.
The paper reported him pointing out that he had led CIMB’s investment bank since 1999 while Najib has only been in office since 2009.
The 45-year-old who aims to grow Malaysia’s second-largest lender by assets into a regional powerhouse has been winning admirers for his strong stand against corruption, saying today that the issue was a major setback in thrusting this middle-income country into the ranks of first-world nations.
Nazir was named “Best Top Executive in Malaysia” by influential British financial magazine, Asiamoney, for two years running, in 2009 and 2010 and one of Asia’s 50 most influential figures of the last decade by FinanceAsia in 2006.
His CIMB Group had bought the Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) Asian business units in April this year, a month after completing a painstaking process to win a 60 per cent stake in Filipino giant San Miguel Corp’s Bank of Commerce for RM881 million.
But detractors, including those who have lost out on business to CIMB, have questioned his credentials due to his family’s political links.
Aside from his high-profile brother and father, Nazir is also the nephew of Malaysia’s third PM, Tun Hussein Onn, and cousin to incumbent Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein.
According to FT, he is also very close to Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, who runs state wealth fund, Khazanah Nasional, which the paper said effectively controls CIMB along with the country’s national pension fund.
The paper also highlighted that Nazir is married to the daughter of a former central bank governor.
“Ironically, perhaps, these tight links with the rest of the establishment pose the greatest threat to his own future if the upcoming elections result in a regime change, kicking out the political party that has ruled Malaysia since independence,” FT said, citing an investor with the biggest private stake in CIMB, Hugo Young.
Young, who is a fund manager with Aberdeen Asset Management that has a 10 per cent share in CIMB, told the paper Nazir’s political links were a weakness to his financial career.
“It is obviously a vulnerability [for him]. It is not so much political or connected to his brother; it is more that he is a part of that almost royalty, that power in Malaysia.”