An Interview with Nora Tahir, an ICDM board-ready talent. She discusses risk management, corporate scandals and diversity.
Tell us your journey to what you are doing now. As a kid growing up in the 80s and living in boarding school, we were often told about the shortage of professionals in the field of engineering, accountancy and medicine. To keep us from getting homesick, we have strict prep time and we studied hard and were committed to make up for the shortfall in those professional fields. After securing the relevant scholarship and placement at university, I was set to get my first degree and after that, got on my path to become a professional accountant.
Securing the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) articleship contract was not that easy since I was, firstly, a foreigner and secondly, a graduate from a Scottish university. But as the saying goes, all I need is that ONE offer and the rest is history. I continued to strive hard in the first 30 of the 36 months contract and passed both my professional exams at first attempt. Now, when I look back to the past 30 years, I would not want to change anything and I am at my best doing what I do.
Being the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for such a large financial institution is no easy feat. The role comes with high exposure to risks. How are you managing that? If there is anything that has helped me in my work is the drive to always do the best for the company and the belief that I can make a difference. Having good business acumen and a strong common sense ease the process of understanding the nature of business that I am in. The hands on experience at the earlier stage of my career has helped me tremendously in terms of coming up with suitable checks and controls and also designing processes which deliver efficiency and cut down redundancy.
I strongly believe in having my team to also subscribe to my core values. I ensure they understand my visions for the company. I coach, guide and motivate them in giving their best in all that they do, and equip them with the right developmental training for their jobs.
What are your thoughts on the corporate accounting scandals that have unfolded over the recent years? What went wrong? The lack of governance is essential in some of the key failures and major scandals. Despite all the advancement in technology and how much quicker we can do our tasks, the need for strong governance has never diminished in its importance but it has become even more integral.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming introduction of Section 17A of the MACC Act? Laws are supposed to conduct the affairs of the society. I believe this is a timely introduction and in time, we will restore the integrity system which has to a certain extent, eroded. I am part of the task force in Cagamas which is responsible to introduce the necessary improvement to our current policies and procedures to embrace the spirit of this Section 17A.
Measures have been taken to improve board gender diversity here in Malaysia and around the world. As a female aspiring director, were there any challenges in your journey to becoming board-ready? I believe in diversity in its truest form, beyond gender, if I may say. Diversity is a crucial factor that will help many corporations progress well into the future. The complementary skills amongst board members are more important now given that the world has reached a different level of advancement, such as Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the Internet of Things (IoT). How corporations operate will ensure its survival and hence all hands must be on deck to achieve the desired outcomes.
Can you recommend a book to those who are also on the same path to take on a larger leadership role? Surrounded by Idiots by Thomas Erikson. I have always been passionate about working with people and I believe very much in the importance of communication and teamwork. This book allows me to polish my personal style so that I can better influence those around me. When I am not at work, I enjoy hiking and without fail, the mountains restore my perspective of life.
Nora Tahir is currently the Chief Financial Officer of Cagamas Berhad, the largest local bond issuer after the Malaysian Government. She spearheaded the financial leadership of the Group, which was set up 33 years ago to develop the secondary mortgage market and deepen the capital market offerings.