UpClose with Dato’ Hamidah Naziadin, Group Chief People Officer of CIMB Group

dato hamidah and ryan chua

As the Group Chief People Officer and Head of Group Corporate Resources at CIMB Group Sdn Bhd, Hamidah Naziadin subscribes to the ethos of hard work and commitment in building a great career. Clutching her first briefcase in CIMB over 25 years ago, Hamidah has been synonymous with the Human Resource world. Leveraging on a strong support system, read Hamidah’s story on her journey, achieving work-life balance and tips and tricks to survive in the corporate world.

1. You have always been part of this industry for 29 years of which 25 has been with CIMB. What got you started and remain driven in the HR field throughout your career?

I did law and I was hoping that at that time that I wanted to be a lawyer. I was watching this series ‘LA Law’ and the honest ones catching the guilty ones and the proper judgement passed to them inspired me back then. By that time, I was already working in the HR field as I was working and studying at the same time. I realised that law is also useful in the HR field as you go through agreements and contracts and that made me continue in the HR field.

The reason why I stayed so long in the HR field, and particularly CIMB, is the growth of CIMB. At different phases of growth, I was exposed to different things/challenges. When I first started out, it was just traditional HR with lots of administrative paperwork and operations. But as I went on, we grew into an international bank which made me learn through the entire HR spectrum of how it has transformed from purely administrative and operation-oriented to one that today earns a seat at the board.

HR is a must there today in nurturing the right talent that the business needs regarding achieving its goals and missions. Personally, I had the opportunity to lead different roles in the organisation. I was exposed to administration and property, corporate communication, overseas sports club and today I also oversee the CIMB Foundation. So it is like having various jobs at the same time. So one is like your company is growing with different people, different challenges and different needs.  At the same time, when you have different roles, it feels like you are working with different companies too.

I am a firm believer in job rotations, and people should be exposed to different things, and that is why CIMB’s tagline this year is ‘We are not offering jobs. We are offering careers’. I have a career with CIMB and 29 years and still going strong. Every day I wake up, I still enjoy the job and still enjoy my career with CIMB.

Related: 11 Unique Life Lessons from Dato’ Seri Nazir Razak


2. How do you achieve work-life balance being a board member in Maxis and also Group Chief People Officer of CIMB Group?

When I started out at CIMB, I was not married, and hence it was a balance between work and dating. When I got married, it became a balance of work and husband, and finally, when we had kids, it was a balance of work, husband and children. You cannot run away from the work-life balance unless you integrate them as one.

And, when I had my children, I was going through the peak time of my career because it was mergers and acquisitions period for CIMB and we were also moving buildings. Despite the demanding work and punishing deadlines, I could integrate my work into my life. How did I do that? Well, it was with a good support system to help me. I reduced my beauty sleep, and I woke up early every day just to spend more time with my kids.

Now that my kids are already grown up, and I do not have to go through that phase anymore. I fully utilise my weekends to be with my family. Going with the flow and integrating work with life along the way is the way forward.


3. Can you share with us one pivotal moment or experience within your career that has profoundly defined who you are today?

I think the tipping point was when HR won our first award, ‘The Employer Choice Award’ back in 2002. That was during the early days of Dato’ Nazir Razak who was influential in my success. Before the award, CIMB was all about business with awards namely best investment bank and best M&A bank. That award made everyone realise the importance of HR. It made the HR job appear sexier and made people see that there is life in HR.

That was also the time where we undertook many new initiatives and tested a lot of things. We changed the way we rewarded people. We introduced a new equity scheme. We were competing with the big banks and why would anyone join a small, local bank that was just starting out. So with all these changes that we made, the award felt like an endorsement that we were on the right track. Our initiatives worked, and people were interested in joining us. It forced me to realise that if you get the strategy right, people are the real assets to a company and you can do wonders with such a strong force.


4. Having assumed various leadership roles within CIMB itself such as Head of Group Corporate Resources, Head of Administration and HR, what is the most important decision you face daily as a leader in your organisation?

HR plays a balancing role between the needs and wants of the employer and employee. It is a very delicate position with a thin line separating these two. When you enforce a policy, you have to ensure that is fair and transparent to everyone in the company. You will need to understand the needs of employees and the employers at the same time. It has to remain competitive and fair at the same time. HR has to come up with bright ideas to ensure this balance.

For example, in 2008 during the global financial crisis, the firm was not doing so well. The company wanted to retain its talent, but it was tough to keep everyone. We came up with a brilliant idea where staffs could take long periods of unpaid leaves up to a year with no compromise to their growth opportunities within CIMB. You take care of the needs of both parties. That particular policy is now a permanent policy in CIMB and has become so popular among staffs.

So to conclude, coming up with solutions to maintain the balance between the employer and employee is the most important decision that I have to make on a daily basis.


5. What is your main focus for CIMB this year?

FinTech – period.

We need to digitalise a lot of procedures and the way things are done around in CIMB. We need to get into the fin-tech space. With so many crowd funding platforms, we need to be able to stay ahead of our competitors and to be able to do that; we need to digitalise the mindset of our people too. We need to prepare and equip them and at the same time ensuring them that we are not taking their jobs away.

There are concerns that labour is fast becoming obsolete with the advancement of technology and addressing this concern is the main focus for us this year. If we can find a way where our people can work alongside technology without the fear of them losing their jobs, it would be great.


6. What are the challenges you face in leading/managing millennial employees from Generation Y?

I believe this is an overrated problem. There are a lot of old people behaving like the GenY people out there. The only thing that differs is probably the fact that GenY employees are comfortable with having everything at their fingertips. They want everything immediately. So the solution is by moving away from a traditional performance appraisal method where bonuses are determined at year end based on your performance throughout the year into something that gives the young one’s instantaneous feedback and also engages in conversations to know the outcome of their work.

Besides that, the GenY also like to be challenged. We have to be ready to move them across departments after a few months to avoid them from being bored. We are already doing this, but I believe that it has to be in a more structured manner. The ultimate goal is ensuring that these millennials retain within the firm by making the job still exciting to them.


7. As the ASEAN integration agenda advances, there is a need for companies to recalibrate talent management strategies and reinvent the HR function. How are you ensuring that CIMB will anticipate and thrive in ASEAN’s fluid operating environment? 

In today’s borderless world, there are three things that people need namely intelligence quotient (IQ), emotional quotient (EQ) and the most important one cultural quotient (CQ). When you face diversity, and you are culturally sensitive, you are open to views from all kinds of background. For example, with CIMB being an ASEAN bank, we have opinions from colleagues in Indonesia, Singapore and even from Thailand.

When you get all these views, and you take all these into account, you come up with better decisions. ASEAN integration can only prepare us to make even better decisions in the seamless world. So many organisations are becoming more ASEAN-centric as that is the way to move forward by connecting with the whole of ASEAN to make greater decisions.

In the HR field particularly, we have the Global Employee Mobility Programme where we encourage people to move around even for short period assignments because it helps bring out the best out of each other. There are new ways out there that make us view a problem from different perspectives and enable us to come up with new solutions.


8. What is the one thing you’ll advice women to do if they aspire to be top managers?

If they aspire to be a senior manager, I would like to tell them that they can have both-family and a successful career. All they need to do is to ensure that they have a proper support system. The company that they choose to commit must have the support system to aid them through the different stages of their life. For example, having an excellent childcare centre, etc. I also believe that the company that they choose has to be able to provide them with opportunities to grow.

For now, statistics show that participation rate of women at the top management helm is still the minute. A woman must also come forward more. If they want a shot at being a leader, they will need to play their role as well. They are simply not enough women who are brave enough to raise their hands and say ‘Yes, I am willing to take up this opportunity and I can do it’. So choosing a company that can give them these two is very important besides having the right mind set to want it!


9. Other than academic qualifications, what are the key attributes that you look for when interviewing CIMB candidates? Can you share some advice to Millennial talents about to kickstart their careers?

Three things come into mind:

  • The first is the 3Qs as I have mentioned earlier – IQ, EQ and CQ
  • Second is energy. You need to show us that you have what it takes to achieve what you want in life. With the current levels of technological advancement, you are almost required to know everything related to the job that you are applying. That shows you have the passion for doing this job or remaining in this field for the rest of your life.
  • The third and final bit is integrity. Working in the finance field, you will need to earn the trust of your managers and even your colleagues. If you have the 3Qs and the energy but no integrity, you are deemed useless.

These 3 are the core values that we look at Additionally, each role has its specific values. For example, in sales, we need someone with the ability to communicate efficiently, and if its fin-tech based, then it’s capacity to adapt and the regularity of thinking outside the box. So I can’t give you all the qualities that fit each job. It depends on the role, but as a whole, those three things that I mentioned earlier are the core values that we are looking for in CIMB.


10. What is your advice to international graduates to make full use of their time abroad?

Build your foundations. Learn as much you can. Do not live your life just for glamour. Choose a field of study that you will remain committed to and you have the passion for it. Learn not just for the sake of obtaining a degree; find a way to apply whatever that you have studied in your daily life. When you choose your first job in a company, do not ask for the pay or even the work-life balance. It’s all about learning as much as you can and building a solid foundation for the later parts of your life. With the amount of competition out there, you have to be ahead and having a solid foundation would help in solidifying your application.

Related: UpClose with Nora Manaf, Maybank Group Chief Human Capital Officer


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