In the third installment of our Connecting Musafirs conversation series, we talk to Jaafar Rihan who is General Manager, Capital Markets and Head of Islamic Investments at the Employees Provident Fund, an agency under the Ministry of Finance Malaysia and one of Malaysia’s largest institutional investors with more than USD150 billion under management.
Jaafar Rihan is well aware of the opportunities within the Asian region, both economic, as well as personal. As a senior investment officer at the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), he is directly responsible for exploring viable investment opportunities in markets outside Malaysia.
His work requires him to travel frequently around Asia as well as further-flung markets, which have afforded him some remarkable investment prospects as well as cultural insights and experiences.
Recently, in Bangkok for an investor roadshow, he was taken over by the central role the Chao Phraya River played in serving the nation and providing livelihood for the people.
“I was amazed at the weight of Thai history and culture along the river. It is the heart of trade and transportation for many Thais, even till today,” says Jaafar.
Jaafar finds there are always plenty of things to learn from other Asian countries, which could benefit Malaysia and fellow Malaysians in general, providing a different perspective to our existing customs.
“For example, all Thais practise the same gesture, the wai, which is generally a show of respect. It is one of the many marks of a uniform identity, something which could be attributed to the single school education and their social behaviour,” he explains.
Jaafar tends to rely on Google for travel preparations, particularly around weather conditions and information on what to pack. He does find that one of the challenges as a Muslim traveller remains finding good places to eat easily.
“When in doubt, I just stick to seafood,” he adds.
While Jaafar looks forward to new tools to navigate around this challenge, he isn’t letting it slow him down on the experiences and learnings from travel. He will be spending more time in and out of the region this year in his capacity at the EPF before taking a personal trip to Australia with his family at the end of the year.