Malaysia is anticipated to announce the appointment of Ahmad Zulqarnain Onn, currently serving as the CEO of Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB), as the head of its largest state pension fund. This move comes as a response to the vacancy created by the former CEO of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), Amir Hamzah Azizan, who assumed the role of the second finance minister following a cabinet reshuffle in December. The official announcement of Ahmad Zulqarnain's appointment is expected by the end of January, with the decision being closely watched as the EPF, the world's 12th largest pension fund, aims to replenish its reserves, which were significantly impacted by substantial withdrawals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Ahmad Zulqarnain steps into this leadership role, his impact on scaling up domestic investments will be of particular interest, aligning with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's calls for government-linked institutions to play a supportive role in bolstering the country's economy. With a background as CEO of PNB since July 2020, Ahmad Zulqarnain has been actively involved in various strategic initiatives, including supporting Malaysia's electric vehicle push and diversifying the portfolio by incorporating infrastructure assets. His leadership and decisions will be crucial in steering the EPF through its efforts to rebuild reserves and address concerns about the strain on healthcare funding in the longer run due to substantial withdrawals from retirement savings between 2020 and 2022.
Established in 1951, EPF is a substantial pension fund managing approximately 1 trillion ringgit in assets, making it the 12th largest pension fund globally. Besides its significant investments in the Malaysian public equities market, including major entities like Malayan Banking and Tenaga Nasional, EPF also participates in private markets, including real estate and private equity. The appointment of Ahmad Zulqarnain reflects a strategic decision to entrust a leader with a track record in both the public and private sectors to guide the EPF through a crucial period of rebuilding and strategic decision-making.