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Posted on 2019-08-05 06:00:00

In our interview with Sazaliza Zainuddin, Chief Financial Officer of Employees Provident Fund, he explained what drives him as a person professionally, the most memorable advice he has ever received and what he thinks the most important trait is to be part of the EPF team.

“At the EPF, each one of us is driven by our vision, which is to help members achieve a better future. We define ‘a better future’ from three perspectives - The first is financial security. We want to empower our members to be financially protected, to have consistent and secure income for their retirement days. Secondly, we want them to be able to take care of their welfare and well-being, by leading a healthy lifestyle. And thirdly, we want them to have a happy and meaningful life with their loved ones, while being able to give back to the community, at the same time,” said Sazaliza.

With the average life expectancy of Malaysians at 85 to 86 years old, Sazaliza said that the EPF continues to stay committed in ensuring that the 14.7 million members registered with the fund, can have adequate savings to make it through another 25 or more years after retiring at 60.

“This vision is a huge responsibility for us at the EPF to uphold, but it gives us a powerful sense of purpose - everything that we do here and the improvement we make is for the benefits of these 14.7 million members,” said Sazaliza. He candidly shared that he sees his job as more than just a means to earn a living, but as a national duty to Malaysia’s working population and their families.

“I remember my first boss when I joined the EPF telling me that being an employee here, I am held accountable for the lives of 14 million Malaysians. This advice serves as a reminder for me to always do the right things, with the right intentions at heart and in mind at all times,” said Sazaliza. That conversation with his boss 13 years ago became a mission statement for Sazaliza, which has guided the way he makes his decision at the institution.

Coming in with nine years of experience at one of the Big Four auditing firms, Sazaliza said that the EPF’s environment and work culture is far removed from the common perception of a laid-back government office. He shared the EPF’s people and culture transformation efforts that have started in the institution, as early as 2001.

“We have been steadfast in future-proofing the organisation, from our processes all the way to building the agility of our employees. Conversations about preparing the organisation for the VUCA (volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous) future is a norm here. We want our people to be aware that to remain relevant, they need to constantly up-skill themselves, take on new challenges and always, be ever-ready for change.”

Since joining EPF, he has held various roles, which has equipped him with experiences and established stronger network across the organisation. The first role held in 2006 was as the Head of Accounts, before moving to other roles, including the Head of Procurement, the Head of Finance, and the Head of Internal Audit, subsequently. The diverse exposure has strengthened his understanding on both micro and macro levels from strategy formulation to execution. More importantly, it has built his leadership capability and prepared him for his current role as the organisation’s Chief Financial Officer. Even though the EPF’s policy generally calls for employees to be rotated every two to five years, Sazaliza considers himself lucky to be trusted by the institution to progress faster, having switched five times since he came on board. “If you look at the learning methodology, 70% of what you learn is actually from on-the-job training. What I appreciate from the EPF is that they allow me to rotate easily within the organisation and not just be in a single position for a long period,” explained Sazaliza.

He also highlighted about the many learning and development opportunities at the organisation. “Our EPF Learning Campus in Bangi, is our dedicated learning and development hub. It caters and offers comprehensive L&D programmes, which encompass non-executive level up to C-Suite level. The best part is that employees are empowered to choose and select their desired learning intervention - this is one of the ways that we empower them to take charge of their own professional and personal growth.”

At the end of the day, Sazaliza shared that the joy he gets from working in the EPF is being able to truly make a difference. “Being in the EPF requires you to have the right mindset to help improve the welfare and well-being of 14 million members – some of which might be people close and important to yourself, then the satisfaction of being able to make such changes that benefit them is truly priceless,” said Sazaliza.

He also highlighted that the most important trait for anyone working at the EPF is having a high level of integrity. “Warren Buffet once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities - integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. Reflect on this and you’ll find it’s true. Integrity is what makes it hard to question a person’s intentions because you can be sure that he or she will use sound judgment in their decision making,” he said. Sazaliza went on to emphasise that “a person who is a great example to others of integrity will gain respect and inspire others to emulate the same set of values.”

“So yes, at the EPF we want people who are bright, curious, and passionate, those who really want to make a difference. But those with high level of integrity is even more critical to ensure the organisation will continue to remain relevant and serve its purpose meaningfully to our members,” emphasised Sazaliza.

This vision is a huge responsibility for us at the EPF to uphold, but it gives us a powerful sense of purpose - everything that we do here and the improvement we make is for the benefits of these 14.7 million members.

By Hadi Azmi

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