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Set a target and work towards it

Datuk Yusli Mohamed Yusoff, CEO of Bursa Malaysia, talks about work challenges, investing and making honest money Datuk Yusli Mohamed Yusoff, 51, is an easily recognisable face in the local business world. After all, this is the man who has been helming the country’s stock exchange, Bursa Malaysia Bhd, since January 2004. Before becoming synonymous with the exchange in recent years, Yusli was with different industries. The economics graduate and chartered accountant started his career in corporate finance in the Renong Group before switching to general management in fields such as engineering, telecommunications, merchant banking and property. “The fact that I’ve worked in different industries makes it easier for me to appreciate some of the problems faced by the listed companies. So when I interact with the [management of] companies themselves, I have a good understanding of how businesses operate and this is useful for this job,” he says. He had his first taste of the stockbroking business when he became CEO of CIMB Securities in 2000. Working at Bursa has been very interesting because of the diverse stakeholders that need to be engaged with and managed. “If you talk about investors, there are millions of them, so we try and engage with the bigger ones. Now that we are also listed, we have a new group of stakeholders who are our shareholders and they obviously expect us to perform well financially. On one hand, we have to engage them and take care of them — that’s the balancing act that we have to do every day. On the other hand, we have public-interest stakeholders like the regulators and the general investing public who obviously need to be taken care of, so we can’t go around overcharging for our services. Trying to manage the commercial as well as our regulatory duties is a constant challenge. On one hand, we need to regulate our brokers, listed companies and stakeholders, but at the same time, we have to go after them if they break our rules.”

Here, Yusli shares his thoughts on making an honest living, advancing your career smartly and investing.

Definition of success

Once you’ve achieved that. It’s also important for them to understand that they can make a lot of money the honest way if they work very hard and have very creative ideas. that sense of balance must be made between work. you would have achieved success. It’s important for everyone to take control of their lives by having targets. family and spiritual life. that’s a few hundred million ringgit. that’s when they should make the most of their life. people behave in certain ways to get more money and in many cases. If you think of a huge multi-billion dollar project and there’s a 10% commission being paid illegally. you are drifting aimlessly.Success is achieving a sense of balance in one’s life. If you’re going to make an investment decision.and medium-term targets. more important than it should be. I’m very concerned with society thinking that there are backlane options and they do it as an avenue to enrich themselves — because there is a cost to it all. money has become an important ingredient in people’s lives. These targets can be short. When they’re young and have plenty of energy and drive. it can lead to unhealthy behaviour like rolling the dice. be they career objectives or anything else they want to do. without them. You multiply that by the number of similar projects going on and ultimately it has to be borne by someone — whether it’s the government. You will find that in many cases. . for all you know. Lessons on investing. It’s important for young people to realise the importance of making money the honest way. in terms of accumulating knowledge and experiencing success. Society has become dependent on money for everything except breathing. especially in the family and spiritual life arenas. I think it’s important for younger people to have an idea of where they want to be in the future. Although that might one day be chargeable. although there are certain areas that I can improve on. try not to rush into it because the more you rush. On that score. Success is also how high you want to set your sights or what your targets for achievement are. and these costs have to be borne by society. the chances of making a wrong decision are much higher. I really admire those who can balance everything. There are many ways to make money. saving and spending Don’t rush into anything. and nowadays many are focused on how to make a quick buck at the expense of other people. the company or the consumer that ends up paying for the service or the product. About making an honest living Unfortunately. For me. I think it has been a relatively good balance.

Maybe I can find a group of people with very good ideas and help them out. so from a company’s perspective. Now. Generally. although maybe not on a full-time basis.A piece of advice I was given a long time ago: When you want to buy something. I will always be involved in something till I’m older. sometimes even in foreign currency. do it very quickly. we’re certainly very conservative. the more you spend. they are much more careful and conservative and hopefully. I don’t have any firm plans but there will be one criterion. when most of the time it just increases your risk when you rush into it. you can be more assured that your investment will be well taken care of. before the Asian crisis and when the crisis came and the currency went against us. many of these companies found it very difficult to manage their borrowings. We don’t invest in stocks because our board wants to be careful about our money. we put in a deposit or we invest in an AAor AAA-type bond. [Sometimes] it doesn’t matter how good the product is. Any excess cash that we have. Debt I think I am better at managing other people’s money. they will remember this lesson for a long time. I haven’t followed that advice on most occasions but I think it makes a lot of sense. When you’re going to do a major investment. take your time. Future plans I would like to be able to earn a living in a less stressful position in the future (laughs). that would be very interesting. there will be fewer stakeholders to manage and I would have more control over the fate of the industry… and not be subject to the world’s political and economic events. The more you earn. but when you want to sell something. think about it and find out as much as you can and do comparisons. you should really take your time. Today. . If you want to buy shares and stocks. Sometimes. We saw many companies that over-borrowed. Businesses can borrow as long as they do it carefully. people feel they have to invest in something fast because they might lose the opportunity. I think businesses should gear or borrow because its more tax-efficient and obviously more so if new startups are expanding their businesses. but if you have faith in the people who run the company. I always tell people that they should get to know the people that run the company because you’re investing in it. it’s important that you understand the companies you buy into. and I think that’s terrible because I think the really successful people are those who spend less as they earn more. I don’t save enough and I spend too much (laughs). As for saving and spending.