When the name Abdul Jalil Abdul Rasheed – or Jalil Rasheed, as he is more widely known – is mentioned, it immediately evokes the image of a well-suited young man with many impressive achievements. From being appointed a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) in his late twenties, to being the youngest CEO of Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), and being the first non-family CEO of Berjaya Corporation Berhad, it’s easy to see that the man possesses strong leadership qualities.
Unfortunately, being at the top of his game conjures up just as many negatives as positives. Jalil admits as much when we meet up with him for his cover shoot. Dressed in a more casual attire instead of the suits he was more often photographed in, he shares a candid conversation with us about how being thrust into the public eye has impacted his life and what’s on the cards for him now that he is on hiatus, so to speak.
Born in Raub, Pahang, as the youngest of three children to civil servant parents, Jalil and his family moved to Hong Kong during his kindergarten days. He was enrolled in an English school during the four years that his parents were stationed there. Upon their return to Malaysia, the family settled down in Petaling Jaya. He entered the workforce as an Investment Manager at Aberdeen Asset Management in 2005, advancing to Head of Equities in 2008 and becoming the CEO of Aberdeen Islamic Asset Management by 2010. This was followed by six-and-a-half-year stint as the CEO of Singapore’s Invesco Limited from 2013. He and his family returned to Malaysia following his appointment as President and Group CEO of PNB in 2019, during which he suddenly found himself living in the limelight.
“My appointment at PNB…ideally, I would’ve liked the announcement to be done a different way,” he admits, saying that he was reluctant to accept the role at first as it would mean relocating his family and taking on a massive pay cut. “But I signed a three-year contract for it and I thought, ‘Okay, you know what, my career has made me a decent amount of money, I can afford to take this for three years and let’s really make an impact this time.’ So, when I accepted the role, the Board and I agreed on a date to announce it. Somehow the news leaked out to the press. It was reported on Bloomberg, which made life very uncomfortable for me. Because I was still employed and my own staff were asking me if I was leaving. It was not the way I would’ve liked to break the news to my own colleagues.”
As he happened to be in Kuala Lumpur to speak at an event at the time, he recounts coming down for breakfast at the hotel to see the newspapers displaying his photo, and being recognised by people in the lobby and on the streets. “That’s when I realised the sheer intensity and scrutiny of this role. I still don’t understand why I was so special. Maybe because I was plucked out of the system and also, I was young.” His high hopes for making positive changes through the role were dashed when controversies soon hit and people began harassing him online. Among the most debated was his academic records, with doubters stating that he is a University of London (UoL) graduate and not a London School of Economics (LSE) graduate.
“It was a bit of an unnecessary dig,” he states, referring to the controversy, and goes on to clarify his reason for leaving the role. “My departure at PNB, for people who know, they know that I had absolute disagreements with the direction of the funding. My alignment then was with the then-administration Before I took on the role, I said, ‘This is how the fund should perform, this is how it should be, and only if you are in agreement, would I take on this job.’ And they were, but when the new administration came in, they wanted to go back to the old ways and I was absolutely reluctant. One of the things was putting politicians on the board of listed companies, I said, ‘No, I’m not going to be the CEO then. I’m not going to have that leverage on my career by having all this and signing off on this.’”
All is not lost, however, as his resignation opened another door of opportunity. He was informed by a mutual friend of his and Tan Sri Vincent Tan’s that the Berjaya founder was curious about him. The friend passed Tan Sri his number and within an hour, he received a message saying that they should meet up for lunch. “He is such a charming character, an absolute gentleman. He was on time, he wasn’t full of himself, and was very jovial. Our first conversation, he asked if I was a football fan, I said yes. He asked me for my thoughts on Cardiff City Football Club and I replied, ‘You spent too much money on that. You could’ve had the same level of success by doing half of that.’
“So that was our conversation. We talked about his football club, his business. Then four months into that whole conversation, Tan Sri said that I should become the Group CEO. I was initially very reluctant. He was convincing and persistent, so I agreed to do it for two years. I was probably about three quarters into the two years when I told the board that I didn’t want to renew my contract, as per my initial agreement. I’ve always looked at roles as more project-based. What’s the brief, the tenure, the deliverable expectation…and once that has been achieved, I either stay on for a different target or I move on.”
He officially stepped down as Berjaya Group CEO in March 2022. Since then, he has been on what he dubs his “football groupie tour.” “In my free time, I spend a lot of time researching football clubs,” he states, explaining his love for the sport. “I’ve been a Liverpool fan for 33 years, since I was seven. That’s why I have an interest in how football clubs work, the economics of it. I always tell people I’ve lived a little boy’s dream by managing a football club. It was a fantastic experience.”
He was previously on the Board of UK’s Cardiff City Football Club, Belgium’s KV Kortrijk, and Bosnia’s FK Sarajevo. “I’ve stepped down from everything but I’m still Chairman of the Bosnian club,” he reveals. “The club is equally owned by Tan Sri Vincent and a Bosnian-American entrepreneur, Ismir Mirvić, who asked me to stay on.” On more local ground, Jalil is part of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) of Football Association of Malaysia (FAM), an advisory body that assists the FAM President on decision-making.
When not immersed in football, he can be found participating in various outdoor activities. He’s been playing tennis for the past five to six years, he’s taken up Pilates and, most recently, he’s hired a coach to help him swim. If he isn’t doing any of these, he is most likely tinkering with his cars and motorcycles. While he prefers to keep mum on his collection, he did share that he has an affinity for Aston Martin cars. “I have a big interest in cars,” he beams. “I know cars very, very well. If I look at a car, I would know what the model is, the make, the engine capacity. Motorcycles and planes as well. I can’t fly a plane but because I flew so much during my career and I spent a lot of time in airports, I started looking at planes and Googling them. That was just another thing I developed along the way to amuse myself while waiting at airport lounges.” He goes on to admit that he’s always preferred motorcycles that are “a bit more classic, rather than too souped up,” hence why the Triumph Bonneville is always his choice.
Relishing his current freedom while partaking in the many things that he enjoys, it stands to reason that Jalil is not in any hurry to return to the fast-paced world of funds and investment. As someone who is turning 40 this July, he is mindful of not putting further stress on his heart. This period of break is the longest he’s had since he joined the workforce, he says. He’s taking this time to not only relax and clear his thoughts, but also to reconnect with those around him. Another benefit of having more free time is it provides him with the opportunity to grow closer to his daughters, aged 8 and 10. “They’re at an age where I think they want to spend time with me and I know that there will come a time when they won’t,” he says, sharing that by driving them to and picking them up from school, it gives him the chance to bond with them during the rides. What his next job will be, whether it will be based in Malaysia or abroad, all this will have to wait. For now, Jalil’s new chapter in life involves plenty of bonding time with his children, and football – definitely lots of football.
(Main image: Jalil Rasheed wears Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver with Blue Dial from RADO and a look from VALENTINO)
(On the cover (image below): Jalil Rasheed wears Captain Cook High-Tech Ceramic Diver with Blue Dial from RADO and a look from DIOR)
This cover story first appeared in Prestige Malaysia’s June 2022 issue. To read the full story, pick up a copy in store or subscribe on Magzter.