Staff Reporters
Jun 17, 2021

Asia-Pacific Power List 2021: Abdul Sani Abdul Murad, RHB Banking Group

A commitment to making progress runs through Abdul Sani's work within RHB Bank's marketing team and the heartfelt advertising he has used to propel the bank's brand higher in the estimation of consumers.

Asia-Pacific Power List 2021: Abdul Sani Abdul Murad, RHB Banking Group
Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers

Abdul Sani Abdul Murad

Group chief marketing officer
RHB Banking Group
New member 

Abdul Sani Abdul Murad has worked to put a more human face on Malaysian banking conglomerate RHB Bank. And his tenure as group chief marketing officer, which began in 2017, coincides with a steady rise in the bank's appeal among younger and more affluent consumers.

Sani, as he is universally known, is responsible for group-wide brand and media strategy, consumer research, and all business, consumer and marketing strategies and programs, along with driving customer and business growth while overseeing all marketing operations. He has restructured the marketing team and oversaw a brand refresh centred on the idea of making progress together. 

In parallel with improvements in the bank's digital offerings, Sani's role has been to make the bank more relatable through storytelling. In recent years, the company and longtime agency partner FCB Malaysia have made an impression with a series of touching tales, including a heroic teacher, a 10-year-old baker raising money for her sister's leukemia treatments, a collection of upwardly mobile people including a young woman aiming to be become an airline pilot, a well-known esports player, a dad who literally carries his daughter through her school years, and a magician who has to learn some new tricks when the pandemic strikes. 

While all of the above work is inherently diverse, especially in showing people of varying socioeconomic strata leveling up, the brand spoke even more directly to diversity in a film for Malaysia's national day in 2017. The film took a risk by touching on—and starkly visualising—racial, ethnic and religious tensions. The work is confronting, in that it intentionally forces viewers to think about their own reactions to the situations that unfold. In effect it asks, would you be able to see beyond colour? The film became the brand's most watched to date, with more than 20 million views.

Great work is one thing. Moving the needle for the brand is another. Happily, Sani's efforts have helped RHB move up the ranks to become Malaysia’s 14th most valuable brand, according to Brand Finance's Malaysia 100. The brand has also laddered itself up in consumer favour: Malaysians voted it a preferred brand for banking, investment and insurance in the Putra Brand Awards for the last three years, giving it a bronze in 2018, a silver in 2019 and a gold in 2020. (Presented by the Malaysia 4As and Malaysia Advertisers Association, the awards are based on a consumer survey of 6,000 Malaysians.) Most importantly, RHB recorded its best financial performance ever in 2019. In 2020, despite the pandemic dampening its financial results, RHB continued to see significant improvements in many brand metrics.  

Before RHB, Sani spent nine years with HSBC, where he won accolades for having the best marketing team in Asia and helped launch HSBC Amanah (HSBC's first Islamic bank franchise globally and Malaysia’s first Islamic bank launched by a foreign brand). Prior to HSBC, he spent a decade at Unilever, where he helped gain market share and category leadership for hair products, tripling the business within two years.

A well-known figure in Malaysia, Sani is a frequent juror, article contributor and speaker, including at 4As events and UNIMAS (Universiti Malaysia Sarawak). Within RHB he is an advisor for the RHB Youth Council, which nurtures new leaders; has spoken as part of the RHB Wellness Programme about normalising discussions around mental health; and has mobilised his team to raise funds for the less fortunate during RHB community weekends.

Asia-Pacific’s 50 most influential and purposeful marketers


Campaign Asia

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