An Interview With Ms Saliza Abdullah, Group Managing Director & CEO

BG Capital Holdings Sdn Bhd


Berani Guard is one of the most comprehensive and professional security solutions and physical guarding services provider in Malaysia. But what many people may not know, is that the company is only one out of three, from a total of 905 guarding companies in Malaysia that is 100% owned by women!

Team MalaysiaSAFE had the opportunity of speaking to Puan Saliza Abdullah, Group Managing Director and CEO of Berani Guard’s parent company BG Capital Holdings Sdn Bhd, to gain some insights at her blueprint for success in a traditionally male-dominated industry. The incredibly humble and cheerful mother of two gave us over an hour of her time to talk about women empowerment and her unrelenting passion for security.

The family-owned Berani Guard was founded by Saliza’s late mother, Hajjah Maimoon Mat Akil back in 1992. What began as a mom-and-pop business with a mere 30 security guards, has now grown into an establishment which employs over 500 personnel, consisting of armed and Nepalese guards, servicing clients throughout Malaysia.
“To be honest, I never imagined that one day, security would pave the way for my professional career path,” said the Bachelor of Science graduate in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University, United States. Being the youngest daughter of three sisters, Saliza was close to her mother. Even though in the beginning she had no interest to participate in the family business, Saliza decided to join the company in 2001, right after graduation to help her mother. Despite what friends thought about her leaving an opportunity to join the corporate world, Saliza saw Berani Guard as a stepping stone to test herself in business and perhaps one day venture into other areas.
Time flies and Saliza has now been with the company for almost 20 years. But it has not always been plain sailing. Even though it was her family’s business, Saliza started from the bottom as a junior executive. She recalls her experience at attending meetings during her earlier years in the company. “Clients did not take us seriously because they were more familiar with ex-army and ex-police officers."
Not to be deterred by industry stereotypes, Saliza became even more determined to improve and further equip herself with skills necessary to be successful in the business.

"We had to deal with the stigma that as civilians, we lacked knowledge in security and safety, and on top of that, we were women!"

During her years in school and university, Saliza was always active in taking up leadership roles. She learnt that when one holds a position, they can bring about important changes. But not to her own benefit, rather to others. “I knew that if I am to be taken seriously in the industry and to be successful, I had to find a way to add value to myself and the company,” said Saliza. So, within two years of working with Berani Guard, she obtained her MBA from Multimedia University (MMU) with industrial training at University de la Rochelle, France.
Saliza later joined several entrepreneurial associations such as the National Association of Women Entrepreneurs of Malaysia (NAWEM) to expose herself to forums on business management. To familiarise herself with the physical guarding industry, she also joined the Asia Pacific Security Association (APSA) and Malaysia Security Industry Association (PIKM), where her hard work and dedication later led her to be elected as the first woman Vice President in PIKM’s 40 year history. Besides being an accomplished entrepreneur, Saliza also attended a number of trainings on security and has been certified as a Crime Prevention Specialist by the Chartered International Institute for Security and Crisis Management (CIISCM).
Armed with business management knowledge, her mother’s tutelage and practical experience for almost a decade in the industry, Saliza decided to set up BG Capital Holdings in 2009, as a form of restructuring the operations of her family’s business. “Since I studied engineering, I saw the need to integrate physical guarding with technology,” she said. “The guarding industry is highly regulated. We cannot simply conduct a business that could go against the company’s articles. So, we decided to form another subsidiary which focuses mainly on technology, named BG Monitrack.”
Now, BG Capital Holdings will serve as the parent company, with licence to provide consultancy, training and risk management services, under which Berani Guard will provide Arms & personnel services, and BG Monitrack to provide technological solutions.

“Ultimately, we wanted to become a one-stop safety and security solutions provider.”

Over the years, Saliza has received numerous accolades for her entrepreneurial achievements and contributions to the community. To name a few, in 2010 she was named in the top three of the Great Women of Our Time Awards (Finance & Business Category) by Malaysia Women’s Weekly. In 2011, she was nominated in the top 10 finalists of the Junior Chamber International (Malaysia) Creative Young Entrepreneur Award.
More recognition followed when she won the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund in 2014 from the US Department of States, for youth community policing and mentoring program. The following year, she received the National Council of Women’s Organizations Malaysia (NCWO) Young Iconic Award for Entrepreneurship, presented by 14th Queen of Malaysia, HRH Tuanku Hajjah Haminah. Last year, she received the Outstanding ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network Award (AWEN) from HRH Princess of Thailand.
In spite of all her personal accomplishments in business, Saliza said that the thing which gives her the most satisfaction is doing something meaningful and impactful for the country. In a seminar which she attended, Saliza was inspired by a speaker who had quoted Sir Richard Branson. “In simple terms, a company does not mean anything until 3 things are accomplished – Achieving a good bottom line; able to provide for the welfare of your employees; and giving back to the community,” she explains.
With a deep appreciation of the challenges women faced in the community and workforce, Saliza founded a social enterprise initiative called BGCH For the Community to create awareness on women empowerment and personal safety. “As a woman, we tend to be more nurturing and empathic towards others. So a woman’s natural instincts would already give her the characteristics to be a protector,” opined Saliza.

"At BG Capital, we play our role as a corporate entity to link stakeholders like the government, NGOs and community with programs tailored to empower women to be confident, financially independent and brave. "

The programs involve continuous learning and opening of minds so that they can be creative and be ready to adopt new ideas,” said Saliza. “At the end of the day, it is the duty of every individual to determine the safety for themselves, family and country. Commercial security providers such as us will only be complementary to that cause,” added Saliza.
BG Capital’s continuous support and involvement in the community has allowed her to network with other corporate entities, and this has become a marketing tool for her company. “We never had hard marketing for our physical guarding business. It is all done through word of mouth. That is our Blue Ocean strategy,” professed Saliza. According to Saliza, her company’s success over the years was all down to their capability of providing comprehensive support and value-added services to their clients. “Nowadays, people don’t want to just see products and services. They want the experience as well.”
Today, BG Capital services contracts mainly from the private sector. Only 9% of their clients are from government. Their clients include Sunway Group, Zalora, City-Link Express, Naza Group, Johor Corporation, Petronas, Toshiba, Somerset Serviced Residence and Marriott International.
When asked what is the formula to her success, she said, “Understanding the importance of continuous learning, improvement, creativity and innovation to grow.” Notwithstanding the fact that she was elected as Deputy President of NAWEM, which allowed her the opportunity to learn from the very best in the industry. "You must set a good example, especially as we are women in the industry. People will observe the work that you do,” added Saliza.

“To be a leader in this industry, you must be able to earn the respect of your peers rather than demand for it."

Her domestic success had not gone unnoticed at the international stage, when she was recently invited to give a presentation at the 7th World Women Leadership Congress & Award in Mumbai, India. She was the only speaker from Malaysia. Being true to herself and her passion, she presented a paper on Women Empowerment with regards to Entrepreneurial Sustainability and Resilience in a Male-Dominated Industry. She shared her experiences on how she managed to break the glass ceiling to secure prominent projects in Malaysia by having resilience, sustainability and integrity in her business practices. During the event, she was also honoured with the Woman Super Achiever Award by the organiser.
Having already achieved so much at a relatively young age, Saliza feels that there is still a lot for her to accomplish before she retires to start focusing more on her family. Some notable changes in regard to women empowerment which Saliza was keen to point out are that this year, the number of women holding the top 9 posts in PIKM has risen to 33% compared to 14% when she first joined in 2014. Also, previously the Certified Security Guard (CSG) program could only produce 1% graduates who are women because there is just one centre in Malaysia which has allocation for women participants. Now, it has been increased to 10%, which rightfully represents the gender demographic of the industry.
On a personal level, Saliza said that she will have satisfaction in life if she is able to balance everything that she does. She wants to see her business continue to grow and be successful, and that the same values she applies now would be handed down to the next generation of women entrepreneurs. She hopes that she and her company can continue to do good things for community and country, and be impactful even if they are just small impacts. “I am not perfect but I have clear conscience in the things that I want to do as long as the intentions are good. Life is short. Be good or be screwed,” she politely joked.
Besides her mother, the other professional figure who inspires Saliza is the former CEO of PepsiCo Inc., Ms. Indra Nooyi. “I had a wonderful opportunity of listening to Ms Nooyi’s talk during her visit to the Global Women Summit in Kuala Lumpur back in 2013,” she said. Ms. Nooyi reminded her audience that whatever that we do, it will have an indirect impact to our children. “So, we all have to continue to do good because when we are no longer holding a position in a company, our legacy will be gone if we do not include family values as our pillars,” Saliza added.
Looking ahead, Saliza plans to introduce BG Monitrack solutions to the market, in line with Malaysia’s Industrial Revolution 4.0. At the moment, she is in the final process of discussing with several technological partners to adopt and integrate AI and Big Data. Expanding on BG Capital’s event community space platform known as THEBASE, she also recently signed an MOU with a newly established Malaysian food delivery company, where BG Capital would be spearheading the activities to recruit and train home based food entrepreneurs to capitalise on the market using technologies. “I also hope to bring in “sexy” to the security industry. And by sexy, I meant embracing the embodiment of femininity, intelligence, wisdom and being confident with yourself as a woman of worth.”