Column - 'The earlier you start retirement planning, the better'

This week we get thoughts and views from Private Pension Administrator CEO Husaini Hussin

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

I grew up in a kampung up north. As I entered my teens, I went to a boarding school in another state and later completed my tertiary studies in the US. In my first job with Petronas, I was sent to Terengganu and Sarawak. Later, I moved on to KPMG and frequently travelled the Asia-Pacific region. And with Shell Malaysia, I often attended meetings in London and the region.

The exposure to corporate culture in local and multinational companies has helped to shape my leadership style. I subscribe to leadership by empowerment. It is important to embrace individuality and identify the strengths of your team members. By doing so, you can get the right people to do the right job. I listen and I give space for the team to share their views and conviction. But I keep an eye firmly on the vision of the company and the results that we want to achieve.

What traits do you look for in your talent or how do you decide who is right for a job?

They should have the right attitude and a high EQ. We want people who believe in the company's vision, as this will also help us nurture their career growth. We always look for talents who can operate within the parameters of the industry, yet offer creative solutions.

How do you think the industry you are in will evolve in the future?

Firstly, we have to embrace digitalisation. At Private Pension Administrator Malaysia (PPA), our awareness campaigns are increasingly digital driven, and so are our initiatives to make private retirement schemes (PRS) transactions more convenient to members. The introduction of PRS Online Top Up is a good example.

Secondly, I would like to see passively managed funds, with lower management costs, being offered by PRS Providers to complement existing funds, which presently are all actively managed. Thirdly, I believe more socio-economic data will be made available to the public, which can be used to set a benchmark, to help them understand the importance of planning for their retirement.

What advice can you offer those looking to start their career/own business?

Know your end goal. Do you have the skillset to achieve your goals? If not, how do you bridge the gap? You must be flexible and ready to upskill yourself as the landscape is constantly evolving, regardless which industry you are in. And equally important, be realistic in terms of salary expectations and promotions. Success doesn't happen overnight. And of course, set aside some savings from your paycheques into PRS. The earlier you start retirement planning, the better.

Best piece of advice you ever got on your career.

In my younger days, when I was working in Shell, a senior told me to identify my end goal, build credibility with stakeholders and stay focused on achieving it. In life, we may get distracted along the way, so it is important to manage competing priorities. This piece of advice has helped me get to where I am today.

Most admired business leader? Why?

I don't have a specific person in mind, but I like the achievements of Microsoft's Bill Gates, Apple's Steve Jobs and Google's Sergey Brin. They are innovative thinkers who are ahead of their time, and the products and services are well received by people as they fill a gap in a connected society. But what's amazing is that before these innovations came about, we did not even realise we "wanted" these technologies.

If you could have an hour with any thought leader in the world, who would it be and why?

Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England. I am keen to learn how he balances his life – he is in charge of managing a challenging economy and yet he still manages to find time to compete in marathons. I am impressed and would like to know his secret.

What has been the biggest challenge you have faced? And what did you learn from it?

Career wise, I stepped out of my comfort zone to join PPA and set up its operations as the central administrator of PRS. Given my working experience at that point, the PRS industry was new to me, and new to Malaysia. During my time as COO, I took a lot of effort to understand the industry and to cultivate a good working relationship with stakeholders.

What are the top three factors you would attribute to your success?

Keeping focused on the end goal, persevering in the face of adversity, and having strong support from the family and the team at work.