UpClose with Nora Manaf, Maybank Group Chief Human Capital Officer

nora maybank interview

With humanization as her mission, Nora Manaf acts as the Group Chief Human Capital Officer to Maybank, the largest publicly listed company on Bursa Malaysia and one of Asia’s largest commercial bank taking nearly 46,000 professionals under her wings.

Since she took office in September 2008, Nora has spearheaded Maybank’s Human Capital strategy focusing not only on employer branding but moreover, employee benefits and talent diversifications. In the face of Asia’s financial volatility, expanding technology and job-stealing robots, Nora and her team unveils radical solutions to Maybank’s Human Capital initiatives. Some of it includes the award-winning Maybank Go Ahead Challenge and awarding maternity leave for up to 365 days to eligible female employees.

Her secret to success? “Identifying the right talent and implementing the right solutions”.

1. What got you started and remain driven in the field of Human Resources throughout your professional career?

Well if you have a look at my profile, for me it is like coming home because I qualified as a chartered accountant, I did not practise for very long as I practised audit and later finance before my marriage. During the early days of my married life, I went into teaching, lecturing and consulting in multiple industries including telecommunications.

Telecommunications was my last industry before I came home into banking with Standard Chartered for 9 and a half years. So that is how my participation started with accounting and finance. Now having said that, GOD has his ways. I didn’t want to do accounting and finance. I wanted to do law. Even while doing accounting, I aced my law papers but struggled with my accounting papers. My entry into accounting wasn’t by choice, but I’m a firm believer in making a positive impact in everything I do even if I dislike it. That has been a mantra of my life.


2. As integration agenda of ASEAN progressively advances, how do you ensure that Maybank will be able to anticipate and thrive in ASEAN’s fluid operating environment?

Well, I do not want to sound arrogant, but I don’t have the patience to wait for the consortium of like-minded people. I don’t have time for that. So, we have recalibrated the way we look for talents.  There is a shortage of individuals who know how to channel the knowledge in the right way. So that is what we work hard on. The key is to identify the right talent, for the right task and the right roles and give them the opportunity to flourish. The danger of trying to make everybody alike is like telling a tiger, an ant and an elephant to behave in the same way, which is ridiculous.

So for Maybank, even the way we select talents from way back then in 2010 is different. Interviews are a waste of time for me and also for the students. Instead, we run competitions and challenges and let the students/applicants enjoy themselves as well and observe and pick from there.

Related: UpClose with Hamidah Naziadin – CIMB Group Chief People Officer


3. What is your primary focus for Maybank this year in 2018?

For me, I have sleepless nights thinking about how do I ensure that we have a workforce that is so diverse in every way –  not just gender, race and nationality but also the terms and conditions of employment. Some things relate to laws of a country and regulators. I have to make it work. I will push things through, and I am committed to people. If you have what I want, but you only have two days in a week, I will make it work. It doesn’t sound as easy as that.

Well if I say that is the deal, I have to make the path to check if I am going against any laws or even union agreements. However, I am determined to do that, and it is for the survival of Maybank.


4. Speaking of diversity, do you think women are at a disadvantage and have to face bigger challenges to work in a male-dominated industry?

Well, from a gender perspective, I have had good and bad experiences. Good in the sense that most of the people that opened the doors for me were men but societal norms look in every corner. My bad experiences are with conservative men where they were conservatively brought up. So I want to tell both men and women then that there are great men out there, but there are also men that are who have different views because of what the society has taught them to believe in – that men lead and women follow. That can be quite sensitive.

To the women out there, I would say, do not take advantage of the fact that you are a woman as that would be your detrimental. You will have to work doubly hard, but some men will have to work doubly hard as well. That is the real world. Do not take advantage but instead demonstrate what you would want so to achieve.  I have had a balance of men and women who I had to call my role models and good managers, but one thing consistent about them is their self-confidence.

While banking and finance are a male dominated industry, Maybank is proud to initiate numerous incentives to bridge the gap. For example, we recently offered maternity leave for up to 365 days to our female employees as well as systematically integrated initiatives like Women Mentor Women/Council and flexible working hours that we offer to our staffs.


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

Well firstly I want to say to you guys or anybody, do not apologise for wanting to make sure you want to have what Maslow’s hierarchy of needs says it is basic- having enough money to maintain a life that you want. Why should you feel bad about it? Money is not evil. Wanting to command a certain pay level is not a bad thing. It is only bad if you are self-centred because in the same breath I tell many people, why do you need so much money-because you want to maintain your family and your lifestyle and also help others. If you can’t help yourself, how are you going to help others? So don’t feel bad about it.

Secondly, have a bigger mind, have a bigger heart and a bigger mind set. For example, no matter the company you are in, you must make sure that every work is done properly even a minor executive job. You are still part of a bigger ecosystem. Your ambition always is to be opportunistic in the way that you would be able to influence the company the best way and also the country and even ASEAN as a whole. That is thinking big. Don’t be hung up by where do you start. Find a way to give back to the country and also your region. Be proud that you are an ASEAN batch even in the UK and say to yourself that you are going to make it work here and you are going to influence it from here. Have that ambition.


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