Executive Interview
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   Executive Interviews   
An Interview with
James Stevenson
Chief Executive
Radiance Assets Bhd

Radiance Assets Bhd (RAB) is a Shariah complaint investment holding company, based in Rawang, Selangor, Malaysia. We are investing in businesses that use modern technologies to better the lives of the population, improve the environment and generally to make the planet a better place for the world's population. Our investments include Fintech, Cleantech, Meditech, Insuretech, Agritech, Artificail Intelligence and Big Data, amongst others. Our remit is actually global so we have interests in a number of businesses outside of Malaysia, and indeed South East Asia.

Publish Date: 
26 October 2021

Tell us about your background, and what are you most passionate about?

Having been in financial services for more than 35 years, I have been blessed with working in a number of jurisdictions. I have been involved in a number of different industries, within financial services, including investment banking, leasing, consulting/advisory, turnaround and transformation and asset management. In addition to these roles within financial services I have also held senior management positions with two industrial companies based in China.

 

Certainly now, in the twilight years of my career, my passion is to 'give back'. I am very keen to help others improve their lives, improve the environment and generally to leave the planet in a batter state than when I came onto the planet, all those years ago. I feel blessed that my Executive Chairman, Ezman Zamani, has exactly the same goals. I think it is fair to say that I have rarely, if ever, worked with someone whose thinking is so aligned with my own objectives.

 

In addition, I have been very fortunate in my career to have had some excellent mentors, who always provided sound advice and support, and I would like to think that I am now in a position to do the same to others, so I try to act as a mentor to my staff at all times.

Describe a time you had to make a tough decision (e.g. budget cuts, organizational restructuring, market withdrawal, etc.). What did you do and what was the result?

For me, this is actually a very easy question to answer. The hardest thing, I believe, any executive manager has to do is to make mass redundancies. Obviously people's lives and livelihoods are at stake, as are their family's. Children need to be fed, clothed, educated and so on. Without income that is made so much harder. During my first experience of executive management we restructured the business and at the end of the day, we had reduced the headcount by about 1/3. However, we were fortunate that the market (and economy) were strong at that time, and we were very generous with the redundancy packages that were offered - way above the minimum required by law, and actaully everyone that left was in fact happy with what we offered, particularly as we helped a number of people find new roles. So what for me was initially a traumatic sitiuation, became a situation where my management team were actually more highly regarded by both the remaining employees as well as those that were made redundant, despite the restructuring.

How would others define your communication style? Do you prefer to be close to your employees or maintain a healthy distance, and why?

I believe in honest and open communication from the executive management down, BUT also from the employes upwards to the executive management team. I have an open door policy, and if anyone has any concerns, questions or issues they want to discuss, I will always make time to listen. I hold a regular bi-weekly executive management meeting with all the top management and they in turn communicate to all their staff.

 

I dont think one should consider the relationship with employees as either close or distant, but rather professional. I like to be there for the staff whenever they need me, whether it is to support their decisions, provide training or mentoring, address any concerns or issues, and so on. My staff are hired, either by myself or the management team, and as such they have my trust. I am there for my staff whenever needed, but I do think it is important to have some 'social' time with the staff occasionally, maybe team lunches or dinner for example, rather than the staff thinking or feeling that I am always distant to them, or giving the perception that I am permanently tied to my office without giving time to the employees.

How has the industry been changing in recent years? What do you think are the biggest challenges your industry will face in the next 5 years?

This is an interesting question, as the world is slowly recovering from the COVID pandemic, and the turmoil it has caused to companies and economies alike. Clearly the retail industry, and the F&B sector have changed dramatically as a result of the pandemic and the lockdowns that most nations have enforced. This has driven the retail and F&B sectors 'online'. There has been a seismic shift away from shopping in stores to the online market place, and thus has driven Fintech businesses ahead. There has been a huge need for payment gateway services, for example. We actually have a large subsidiary business in the Fintech arena, (www.redipay.com.my) and this business has benefitted tremendously from the pandemic driving businesses online.

 

From a personal perspective, I think the changes we have seen will continue for the foreseeable future. I think it is important that all businesses, across all business sectors, remain flexible and agile - able to make quick changes as markets and economies evolve. This is something I think the retail sector, in many cases, has been too slow to pick up. As senior executives, I think we must embrace change, and the opportunities that change presents. I am constantly on the lookout for investment opportunities where the management has demonstrated embracing change.

What personality traits make a good leader?

I am a big fan of Simon Sinek, and actually attended a speech by him several years back. Whilst he has many quotes attributed to him, this one resonates with me most, and is certainly the trait I try to achieve.

 

What makes a great leader? Simon Sinek suggests, it's someone who makes their employees feel safe, who draws people into a circle of trust. But creating trust and safety—especially in an uneven economy means taking on big responsibility.

(https://simonsinek.com/discover/why-good-leaders-make-you-feel-safe/)

 

Gaining someone's trust may not be too hard, but actually keeping someone's trust over the long term, is much harder.

What does the future hold for your company?

We are extremely optimistic for the future of RAB. We have some very strong partners (sophisticated investors) who are investing in our Islamic Redeemable Preference Share programme and are extremely happy to keep supporting us. This 'liquidity' allows us to make investments when the right opportunities arise. We are also happy that we have made some majority as well as minority investments that are proving to be very successful.

 

We are very happy to be working with the management teams in the businesses in which we have invested. For us, it is not just about the financial and/or regulatory due diligence - that only provides a snapshot of the company, we also need to be happy that we can work long term with the management of those investments.

Contact

James Stevenson

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