Bumi Armada Bhd
By HASSAN BASMA
When I joined Bumi Armada in 2005, we started with answering a fundamental question. What should come first? The chicken or the egg? In our context, it meant asking ourselves if strategy comes first, or talent? The answer was simple. It was the egg. Talent always comes first!
So, we sought out the best and the brightest from across the globe. The challenge was however two-fold.
We had to sell both Malaysia and a virtually unknown Bumi Armada. In some ways, Bumi Armada was the harder sell.
Malaysia is well known for its tourism, friendly people and, of course, food. We needed to convince them that this Asian tiger would also roar. An Asian company working out of downtown Kuala Lumpur can also become global; that one does not have to be in a fancy location like Houston to make it big in oil and gas sector.
The oil and gas infrastructure in Malaysia and presence of a leading company like Petronas also helped.
Our bold aspirations attracted a few top talents from leading companies and that proved to be the pull factor for more. Our thinking on prioritising talent paid off.
Over the last nine years, we have grown exponentially to a company with a global footprint and growing reputation in floating, production, storage and offloading systems (FPSO) and managing large fast track projects for the offshore oil and gas industry.
Today, Bumi Armada has over 1,500 onshore and an equal number of offshore employees from 38 nationalities operating all over the world.
Bridging talent gaps
Talent has been a key driver of our success. We did, however, face some challenges in this journey.
Malaysia did not have a large, sustainable local talent pool for the marine industry. So we needed to look outside our borders. A major impediment to bringing in foreign talent was the two-year work permits. We needed to give talent some long-term tenure assurance to make them give up a good job elsewhere and consider moving to Malaysia.
What we did in spirit has now been done as an immigration innovation by the Government.
The Residence Pass–Talent (RP-T) launched in 2011, a 10-year visa allows our foreign talent to live and work here for the long term. We encourage our employees to apply for the RP-T. By offering some semblance of stability we are able to attract top foreign talent to join us on local expatriate packages.
Talent will continue to be a key driver of our future growth. In the marine industry, we are at the forefront of technology and innovation. Floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) is a frontier territory.
In Malaysia, there is a huge shortage of naval architects, marine engineers and project management talent. We are just not churning out enough talent in these areas.
The industry needs to market itself well to attract the right talent to join us so we can have a sustainable talent pipeline in the country.
We need to build capacity locally so that we can be self-sufficient on critical resources in the future.
At present, our talent source markets span from India, the Philippines, Ukraine and Poland for marine talent, and to the UK, France and other European Economic Community countries for experienced FPSO and gas talent.
Expatriate facilitation therefore is very relevant to our business. But lest we miss the point, I would like to emphasise that foreign talent acts as a spur to building local talent.
We hire more than 15 fresh graduates every year, and an equal number with two years experience, where we mould them in the Bumi Armada way, including stints abroad. The is in line with our ‘global execution, local delivery’ strategy.
These are exciting times for Bumi Armada, and I would say for Malaysia as well, as it aspires to reach high income status by 2020. We are on a roller coaster ride that never stops.