Future Corporate Banker

By Mel Sim

If corporate banking is something you’ve always wanted to do, advice from Zaharin Mohd Ali, Head of Corporate Banking Division at Bank Islam, is the head start you need.

Having been in the banking industry since 1995, Zaharin Mohd Ali – Head of Corporate Banking Division at Bank Islam – knows the ins and outs of the financial world and what it takes to make an impression in this challenging industry. “Integrity, discipline, willing to learn and common sense are among some positive traits I personally subscribe to become a reliable corporate banker,” says Zaharin, who started his career as an executive trainee with a foreign bank before joining Bank Islam 15 years later.

Zaharin, who was named the Head of Corporate Banking in 2015, overlooks the overall performance of the bank’s corporate banking division to ensure the business growth and service quality for Bank Islam’s corporate customers are in line with the yearly budget and expectations approved by the board. He shares that his division is a specialised role where they normally serve more established and complex business customers.

“Their requirements may vary from one another thus a tailor-made approach is often required depending on the industry their business operates. Therefore, the technical learning curve is steep and the importance of people skills, especially in communication and negotiation, are widely observed in corporate banking,” says Zaharin.

If corporate banking is what you’ve always dreamt of doing, here’s what Zaharin has to say about the kind of talent he’s looking for: “Anybody who is passionate in sales, enjoys meeting people and resonates in analytical works should fit well in this role. At the very least, one must have decent communication skills, both written and oral, with good listening ability as part of the tools in processing and translating the data in managing business risk better.”

As for technical skills, Zaharin says exposure in sales, marketing and accounting law should help the talent settle down faster in the role though more in-depth analytical tools, especially in credit evaluation and risk management, will need to be brushed up as one’s career progresses.

The hardest challenge in corporate banking would be managing risk as corporate bankers are expected to grow quality business based on future projections. Because of this, Zaharin advises fresh graduates to come equipped with the right energy. And when you progress, our corporate banker head believes that strong business acumen and good technical skills are added advantages.

How Bank Islam differs from other commercial banks is that it is a full-fledge Islamic commercial bank that offers a wide range of Shariah-compliant products and solutions governed under the Islamic Financial Services Act (IFSA) and supervised by Bank Negara. Here, corporate bankers are recruited on a need-based basis while equal opportunities for new vacancies are given to existing staff and new hires with the right skills set, according to Zaharin.

“The Bank continues to strengthen its market share in retails business segment while numerous new initiatives are launched to capitalise on the emerging opportunities, especially on the fee-based income segment across all lines from retails, deposits, wealth management, SME and capital market,” explains Zaharin of Bank Islam’s current focus.

As for the current digitalisation in banking, Bank Islam ensures its people are fully equipped to embrace the challenges. “Bank Islam started its digital journey in early 2018 with the establishment of a digital business unit and recruiting talent from outside to spearhead this initiative and coordinate with other stakeholders for immediate exposure and learning process,” says Zaharin.

The bank also offers a series of in-house training module ranging from soft and technical skills such as sales and negotiation skills and credit evaluation model, especially for corporate banking staff. “We also send our people to external courses and seminars for them to build their networking and exposure to the industry while learning the technical contents,” he says.

Ready to be part of Bank Islam’s dynamic corporate banking division? Zaharin shares this tip on how to impress during the interview: “Be prepared and confident in expressing yourself with a smiley face.”

Share this article: