Cradle's Rafiza Ghazali leaving to join KAF Investment consortium’s digital bank as CEO

  • Consortium did not want to hire traditional banker to lead the team
  • Innovation role at Sime Darby & startup exposure worked in her favour

Cradle's Rafiza Ghazali leaving to join KAF Investment consortium’s digital bank as CEO

Cradle's Rafiza Ghazali leaving to join KAF Investment consortium’s digital bank as CEOIn a press release issued yesterday, Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd announced that its group CEO, Rafiza Ghazali (pic) is stepping down on 31 May to pursue other opportunities.

That date also marks the end of her 2-year contract with Cradle as she started on 1 June 2020. It is not clear when she tendered her resignation to the board, but Rafiza already knew she was leaving on 29 April - the date Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) announced the five parties it was awarding a digital bank license to.

DNA has learnt that Rafiza will be joining the KAF Investment-led digital bank consortium as its CEO. MoneyMatch, Carsome and Ringgit Plus are the other consortium partners. The formal announcement is expected to be made next week.

One condition that BNM imposed on all submitting parties for a digital bank licence was that they had to identify who their CEO was going to be. Rafiza had been picked by KAF before the 30 June 2021 deadline to submit its application.

An executive familiar with the KAF consortium’s thinking on its choice of CEO said they did not want to hire a traditional banker to lead the team as their digital bank is going to adopt a strong startup culture. “It is not easy to find the right fit. A lot of factors were taken into consideration. This was thoroughly thought through,” says the executive who declined to be quoted.

In Rafiza’s favour was not just her banking background but her experience augmented by four years with Sime Darby as its innovation head. Her Cradle exposure and network was also a key plus point in the decision to hire her as creating partnerships with startups, especially those who have a SME base of clients is going to be a key strategy. Incidently, both MoneyMatch and Ringgit Plus have enjoyed support from Cradle grants (before Rafiza’s tenure).

With business plans and strategies already mapped out before submitting their application, Rafiza has been brought in to execute at speed and create a startup culture. “You cannot ask a traditional banker to do this,” says the executive. Even key technology decisions have been made. In Dec 2021 KAF Investment picked Temenos, a Swiss based banking software company, to launch its cloud-based digital lending business and bring new products and services to market faster.

Meanwhile, ecosystem feedback on Rafiza’s performance at Cradle has been mostly positive despite the rolled eyes that greeted the appointment of a rookie (in terms of her ecosystem involvement) to lead the key startup agency in May 2020.

Read also: Puzzle over Rafiza Ghazali’s appointment at Cradle

This led many ecosystem leaders to question the logic of Cradle chairman, Yvonne Chia’s support for Rafiza’s appointment. DNA questions to Yvonne on this matter were not answered. Rafiza said her desire to contribute to the startup ecosystem was her motivating factor to apply for the role.

Yvonne, in her comments on Rafiza’s leaving said, “During her tenure Rafiza has worked effectively with all our key stakeholders and demonstrated her capabilities in repositioning Cradle to play a leadership role in the Malaysian startup ecosystem. At a personal level, Rafiza has also been an exemplary model of the participation of women in senior positions in the digital and startup arena.”

A key development during her tenure is Cradle being designated as the focal point for the startup ecosystem and appointed the coordinating agency for the Malaysian Startup Ecosystem Roadmap 2021-2030 (SUPER).

Some are disappointed Rafiza is leaving, believing she has done a good job. Ben Lim, managing partner in NEXEA Angels Sdn Bhd, a venture capital firm that successfully submitted a bid to run the MystartUp accelerator programme is one. “I think she could have done a lot for startups. Her intentions and direction are good,” he says, especially in partnering with the private sector.

As of publication time, Rafiza had not replied to DNA’s questions on her motivation in leaving and her key achievements at Cradle. Meanwhile the board has appointed Norman Matthieu Vanhaecke, Senior Vice President of Corporate Services, as acting Group CEO while a process is undertaken to identify a replacement.


Related Stories :

Keyword(s) :
Author Name :
Download Digerati50 2020-2021 PDF

Digerati50 2020-2021

Get and download a digital copy of Digerati50 2020-2021