Irwan’s Amazing Journey Of Finance Mastery

2nd #GreatHeights Series - An Interview With Mohd Irwan Ahmad Mustafa, Class of 1997

Norfarah Mohamad, Head of KYSER Content of the Cemerlang Editorial Team managed to get an interview with a successful investment wizard, Mohd Irwan Ahmad Mustafa, currently the Head of Private Investment, Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB)

After Kolej Yayasan Saad (KYS) Irwan went to Kolej Matrikulasi Yayasan Saad (now known as KYUEM) for a Twinning Programme conducted by INTI International College in Penang before completing his Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting & Finance) and Master of Finance from The Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. He worked in PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in Assurance department doing financial audits, internal control assessments and due diligence. He managed to complete his Chartered Accountant exams within 3 years and at the same time enjoyed fast-tracked promotions at work. He was then headhunted to join and lead a department in a logistic company managing its investments in Malaysia and Indonesia before joining Ekuinas, a private equity firm in Kuala Lumpur. After 6 years, he joined PNB in 2017 to look after its private equity investments in his current position.

Won Tan Sri Halim Saad Gold Medal and Renong Group Scholarship Trust Fund.

Irwan always treasure his post as House Captain for Rahman. “In those days, we were among the few that shaped the early experience and culture that some of you might experience nowadays. Being a leader taught me the importance of being honest, humble, high integrity, leadership by example and competent in whatever you do. These key traits of character development influenced how I carry myself from KYS days to where I am today”.    

Back the days in KYS, Irwan chose Social Science as he always wanted to learn as much about science, business, economics and accounting. “The opportunity to learn in a conducive, structured and holistic. KYS has all the right infrastructure and staff (academic and non-academic) that promote a proper character development for someone who is willing to study and has the right attitude to excel in the future”

When asked about his greatest achievement during the the school years, this is what he said. “I was grateful to be awarded as one of Tan Sri Halim Saad Gold Medallist recipients. I am very thankful to all, especially the teachers and support staff that helped many of us during those days. Being one of the Gold Medallist from one of the top school in Malaysia obviously helped in my university applications and I was also selected to be one of scholars for Renong Group Scholarship Trust Fund”  

If he had another chance to relive his days in KYS, “I would probably spend more time in learning musical instruments, balance it with spiritual health by spending more time with the Al-Mighty, and perhaps talk more with teachers and staff. As you probably know, our time in KYS was full of classes and extra-curricular activities, but I believe if we stop for a while to enjoy the time we have in KYS be it by just talking to friends, teachers, staffs and not focusing on individual activities (gadgets, computers, etc) our time will worth a lot more in KYS”

Juggling Work, Studies and Family...

His first three years in Assurance Department in PwC him a lot in understanding how a business works. “The first three years were also the most difficult part I believe in my career as I was juggling with hard work (late hours and weekends), studying for my Chartered Accountant exams and starting independent life alone as my parents are based in Ipoh. Thankfully with support from everyone, especially my parents, family and friends, I managed to complete my Chartered Accountant exams within 3 years and at the same time enjoyed fast-tracked promotions at work”

His first three years in Assurance Department in PwC him a lot in understanding how a business works. “The first three years were also the most difficult part I believe in my career as I was juggling with hard work (late hours and weekends), studying for my Chartered Accountancy exams and starting independent life alone as my parents are based in Ipoh. Thankfully with support from everyone, especially my parents, family and friends, I managed to complete my Chartered Accountancy exams within 3 years and at the same time enjoyed fast-tracked promotions at work”

At one point of time he was struggling with weight gain. “I gained so much weight in my early years of career due to insufficient sleep, poor eating habits and lack of exercises. KYSERs tend to be very active in school and university and I realised that your priority will shift as your career starts (you will work more, exercise less). Overtime, I realised that my health deteriorates in pursuit of career advancements and that’s when I realised that I needed to take care of myself better. I started running marathons (completed more than 5 full marathons and ultra- marathons), cycling, swimming and spending more time with the Al-Mighty, my parents, my wife and children. My current work commitments require me to travel extensively, that’s when I started to travel efficiently by keeping it short and come back home as soon as possible.

According to Irwan, Private Equity Investment is a type of asset class which provide “high risk and high return” return profile. This will require careful investment criteria, strategy and deployment of capital judiciously overtime. “It took a lot of careful planning (> 6 months), long hours of financial simulations, strategy validation and learning from others (especially mistakes) who have done it before.”

He was tasked to design a strategy framework to increase private equity investments in PNB, which manages more than RM300 billion of assets today. His greatest achievement to-date in PNB is getting the approval to help PNB increase its allocation in private equity investments from current ~2% (~RM6 billion) to ~7.5% (>RM20 billion) in 5 years. 

For KYS students, here is a piece of advise from Irwan:

“You live an age that is different from many and you have to chart how your future look like. Instant gratification should be avoided, always be thankful for what you have, help others when you can and always target beyond what you think you can achieve. Always provide time for the Al-Mighty, parents, family and friends and whatever you do, always remember that good deeds will always be remembered”

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