Syed Zain Syed Noh, IRMCert

Head of Risk Management/Engineering Dept

Allianz General Insurance Company (Malaysia), Kuala Lumpur


How did you get your job?

I graduated from a local university and hold a science degree, majoring in agriculture science and engineering, with business and finance minor courses. I didn't really pursue any specific career route so upon graduation I applied for several vacancies and was accepted as a management trainee.

Satisfied that I had secured my future with a steady job, little did I know that the job offered to me was as a loss adjuster, and with the job, my involvement in the insurance industry started.

It was quite an experience for me, a fresh graduate to jump into a 'tough job, to the extent that I feel that the job is an 'occupational hazard' to me. My job as a loss adjuster was short-lived (about 2 years) by another offer as a risk surveyor with a risk management consultant firm. I quickly took the offer to leave the loss adjuster position.

The role as a risk surveyor was much more respected and interesting, to which I started to develop my passion in risk management. After 4 years of on the job learning, specifically on environmental, property and engineering risk assessment, I then moved to a greener pasture for a wider opportunity.

Having served an Islamic insurance (takaful) company for about 8 years as a risk surveyor and an underwriter, I decided to take a turn in my role and went out of my comfort zone, to becoming a business development manager of a corporate unit in another takaful company.

It was a good experience to discover my strengths/weaknesses and confirmed my passion, to which it wasn't into business development or marketing. I had some tough times on the job, although my technical knowledge supported me very well. In other words, I wasn’t happy.

I got a break from the business development position and was lucky that Allianz was expanding their Risk Management Department (responsible for carrying out property and engineering risk surveys at clients' locations) and was offered a manager position.

Something struck me that I needed if to find out whether what I had been doing all along was a standard, a theory in practice that could be a formal yardstick of my previous experiences. My CEO at Allianz was kind enough to grant approval for me to enrol into IRM's International Certificate in Risk Management program after searching for local franchise certification on risk management.

I got a morale boost after completing the certification and was confident of the new-found knowledge in risk management, and was determined to share the knowledge. I started to probe into possible initiative or projects that I could use my knowledge in the company.

What’s a typical day like?

As the Head of the department that is responsible for the nationwide risk surveys conducted by Managers and Risk Engineers, my daily activities are to monitor the risk surveys and consultations, reviewing and strategizing department’s capabilities and processes where necessary to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

Occasionally, I do joint marketing and presentations to clients on risk management awareness, sharing the risk analysis and actions for improvements. I still do risk reviews and analysis on queries by the underwriters and business development managers.

Apart from that, I sit in the panel of trainers for the company’s technical certification program. I was also responsible for leading a risk management project two years ago, to develop a risk assessment system for the nationwide use on property risk survey tool. The system was successfully launched early this year, and I now monitor the usage and review for any possible enhancements.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The privilege of being able to enter into restricted and ‘unauthorised entry’ areas, even escorted into it (not the jail though). The experience was invaluable/priceless.

What are the challenges?

“Why fix something when it is not broken?” “I have been doing this for so long. Nothing bad has happened so far”.

To get clients to see the importance of reviewing risk exposures and improving risk via recommendations was always a challenge. Rarely clients will take those with an open heart.

Although there has been certain improvement on the level of awareness towards risk management, business owners are still favouring revenue over risk management.

In what way are your IRM qualifications relevant?

It is very relevant in the industry that I am working in. It provides me with a systematic approach in my job and helps to guide my role to being a professional risk manager. However without passion, even having the professional qualification will not make a person to be an effective risk manager.

What would you say to others thinking about joining IRM as a member?

Your previous decisions were alright, but joining IRM as a member was my best decision yet.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions? Has being linked to the IRM helped?

I have been the Head of department for 10 years now, and I could literally see the department’s growth in terms of role, potential and importance, which was boosted after the completion of my certification program with IRM. I saw myself promoted to a Senior Managerial position upon improving and developing the dept further, all thanks to the knowledge gained through the IRM program.


Top tips:

Discover your passion in risk management

Plan your career. The best plan is to enrol with the IRM as I found the educational program was carefully laid-out.

Practice what you learnt. Learning without practice is meaningless (if it is just to fill your resume).