When you meet Datin Ami Moris for the first time, you know you’re in the presence of a formidable woman. Since joining Maybank Investment Bank in 2009, Ami has been instrumental in its development from a bottom-10 local player to a regional powerhouse that was voted Best Broker in Southeast Asia. Calm, cool and collected, she played a leading role in the acquisition and integration of Kim Eng Holdings, transforming Maybank IB into ASEAN’s leading investment bank.
If you look back at your career to the point where you are now, what’s the one single quality that’s been consistent in you as you climb up the corporate ladder?
In the various roles that I’ve taken on within the marketplace, and especially in the world of banking and investment banking, there are many challenges to staying true to oneself, one’s values and principles. I’d like to be able to say that I really did stay the course of who I truly am.
If there were three qualities that you remain true to, what would they be? Grounded, principled and real.
Are there any advantages being a CEO in the banking sector, which is a male-dominated industry?
You know the funny thing about the industry is that sometimes it’s even taboo to say that the industry is male-dominated. So I guess it’s in leading by example… to really make sure that when we are in any kind of work or task, we do it better than perhaps what our male counterparts would do. So it’s always going that extra mile. You know, being the best of the best. That’s really what my operating principle is.
What are your top tips when you travel?
As a woman and as a business traveller, I like to make sure that the room I get allocated is nearer to the front or middle of a corridor because it is a bit daunting to walk down dimly lit corridors in the middle of the night. Secondly, I always make sure that I book seats that are vacant next to me because – I love men, don’t get me wrong – on long-haul flights and late night flights, I prefer to sit next to a woman.
In your industry, there’s a lot of competition. Being a Southeast Asian brand among foreign competitors, what do you think is the strength that you bring? We have a clear commitment to the region. We are from the region, we are of the region and definitely, we are for the region. We are ASEAN, it’s our home and we truly believe in ensuring we play the part in developing ASEAN as a viable, vibrant and commercially successful economic block.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?
There are many misconceptions about me. First and foremost my name, Ami Moris, for example. Quite often when I turn up, I can kind of register in their minds, “Where’s that tall blonde person that I was expecting?” So I turn out to be quite Malay and rather vertically challenged.
What do you spend the most money on?
Do I have to tell you that? (Laughs) Actually, it is my kids, I spend the most money on my kids.
What’s your most overused phrase or word?
What makes you feel stingy?
Cars with imported duties.
Best book you’ve read?
That’s a really tough question because I read a lot of documents now but in my youth, I used to be a prolific reader. I would say in my transformative years, Hermann Hesse did shape a lot of my thinking.