CFO Perspective - Page 2

DCFO IWD Series: The female CFO – the right mix of numbers of empathy


Cassandra Chen – CFO of Beamtree Holdings (ASX:BMT) | 7 March 2022

Cassandra Chen

CFO of Beamtree Holdings

In Australia, gender diversity in the board room still needs a lot of work – despite making up 50% of the Australian workforce, only 1 in 5 Australian CEOs are women. And while the stats are disappointing, it gets worse when looking at ASX-listed coampnies. The 2021 Chief Executive Women Senior Executive Census found that women make up just a quarter of roles on executive leadership teams in the ASX200. A figure that hasn’t moved since 2019.

What is interesting to note is that despite the slow rate of change, as of end 2021, women actually make up 38% of CFO roles at ASX50 companies.

This means that the top 50 companies on the ASX have recognised the potential benefits of gender diversity at the C-suite.Even Australia’s super industry has begun to install diversity quotas in their investment mandates. HESTA for example has implemented a “40:40” Vision to ensure diversity in executive leadership in ASX 200 companies.

At the beginning of my career, I didn’t consider that I would end up being the CFO of an ASX listed company. I just wanted a stable job and to be a role model for my kids. I also didn’t think it is that possible for women to be in leadership or in the boardroom as there just weren’t many there.

There will always be the argument that quotas either don’t go far enough or shouldn’t even be required in the first place however, the returns are speaking for themselves.

Great diversity = better decisions and returns

Recent global research from Credit Suisse has identified companies with a 25% or greater diversified gender representation, generate higher returns (9.7% vs 6.8% for companies with minimal representation, respectively). The report further simplifies this as “the higher the diversity threshold, the higher the returns”.

Further research has also highlighted that as leaders women are more socially responsible, and provide safer higher-quality customer experiences.

As an Asian woman, having been the CFO of ASX-listed Beamtree Holdings for the last year, and part of the finance department for other listed and unlisted, small to multinational companies, I believe that women have different approaches that facilitate effective leadership. We are empathic, we are strong, we are resilient, we are fearless and selfless. We are doing a lot more that often goes unnoticed to support workplace culture.

Finance and value is more than numbers

As a CFO, you get to deliver the annual budget and operational plan and help set the long term strategic plan for the company which is incredibly powerful and important. However, finance is more than just numbers, debits and credits. Finance adds value to support the growth of the business by understanding the numbers and knowing how that relates to the business operations.

The Finance department is the one part of the company that touches, interacts and influences other departments – so understanding how your impact can drive the success of the business is key to growth and development. When this became apparent to me, I seized the opportunity and ran with it.  

Six years ago, I moved into supporting start-up business and was part of a successful IPO, which then led to capital raisings and various M&As.The experience was challenging and rewarding. The exposure to a range of founders, C-suites, and board members provided an invaluable learning experience that helped shape my career and into what it is today..

Know your value and influence

Women should recognise the different strengths they inherently bring to a business. Our differences in thinking and logic strikes a necessary balance of critical analysis of big issues.

As a female CFO working closely with the C-suite and board, I’ve noted that my leadership style varies compared to that of my male counterparts. Both have positives and negatives, but I and other woman naturally consider different components that are sometimes overlooked.

Remember that your differences, and what sometimes might be referred to as the “softer” skills, have the ability to separate yourself from the crowd and create opportunities, just as much as your experience and qualifications.

And you never know who you might be influencing with your leadership style.

As I progressed, seeing women take more leadership positions, and being supported by other women to be the best professional they could be gave me something to aspire to.

Therefore, I would encourage all women in executive positions to act as mentors, advocates, and most importantly role models for the next generation leaders because it will be felt long after you retire.

For me, I want to be a role model to my kids. I talk to them about my life experience, both the achievements and mistakes, from being an Asian migrants in Australia to becoming an executive in my profession hope to help them model their life skills.

DCFO IWD Series: Empathy and bravery can help CFOs forge a path forward for talent


By Frances Xu, CFO, TBWA\ China | 4 March 2022

Frances Xu

Chief Financial Officer, TBWA, China

I’ve had the privilege of having many wonderful women around me during my 20+ years in finance. Since my days in auditing, where my direct line manager was a high performer in the entire firm. And after joining advertising, where I’ve spent the bulk of my career, most of the CEOs and CFOs I’ve worked with have been female.

These women became the examples to show me wider possibilities. I saw them doing a wonderful job, I know their capabilities and I witnessed their contributions. And their success and recognition came because of their work and results, not because of anything else.

The biggest lesson for me was there are no limitations for women. I know this isn’t always the case.

In China, the finance sector tends to be female dominated with stability and work life balance as priorities. When it comes to carving paths upwards for female talent, the first challenge is assuring them the company will be supportive and flexible. That this balance would not be sacrificed if they wish to take on more senior roles.

I currently lead an all-female team and prioritise internal transfers or promotions when a new position opens in my department. I take an active role in encouraging my team to expand their horizons and skillsets with new roles in finance or even within the company.

I encourage them: “Don’t give yourself limits; you can do everything. Even if you’re a female starting from a finance position, that doesn’t mean that it stops there. You can do all the brave things, just allow yourself to try.”

Enabling these opportunities for my team is a priority for me, as I have benefitted from such occasions myself.

When I first starting working, my first instinct was to keep a low profile subconsciously. Don’t be too shy or too aggressive because at the time, to say that you’re a capable woman was somehow or other seen as a negative warning rather than a positive thing.

I have always worked for international companies, so I sometimes worried about language barriers and the fact that finance is seen as a back-office function kept me from voicing my thoughts in meetings or workshop. I played the role of listener more.

As I moved up through the ranks and became more involved with the business, that has changed. All those concerns and obstacles was something I put on myself, as the people around me didn’t set those limits on me. That was what held me back for a long time.

I’m glad that I accepted the promotions, as they forced me to put myself out there and express myself, and with that experience it gave me confidence. That I can influence people and that my ideas were valuable, and to fully embrace my role now as a CFO.

This is something I would not have imagined even ten years ago. And has instilled in me the belief that a people-first approach is the best approach.

Lessons from COVID

When COVID-19 first hit China, our priority was our people. As an advertising company we are a talent-driven business, and the decision was quickly made to preserve and maintain budgets that were in support of that.

While we were not hit as greatly as other sectors, there were still many unknowns about the future and the health of our business. We actively shifted budgets around to keep projects and initiatives that impacted the lives and working conditions of our team.

We kept programmes such as “Room 13”, our funding on art activities for underprivileged school children, continued our commitment to LGBTQ+ initiatives and continued to take on pro bono work such as the work we created with Monster Energy promoting organ donations.

We kept our monthly company Fab Fridays activities to celebrate the work together, and even continued with our pre-pandemic renovation plans for our office, which had been on the wish list for a while. So that when our people returned to the office, they would have a great environment to work in. We also applied “Work Anywhere Wednesdays” to give our people more flexibility on working modules.

Essentially, I wanted to keep as much “warmth” as possible, the goal was to not strip everything that made our culture what it is. I didn’t want to give our people the impression that just because of COVID, we were going to remove everything “warm” about the company, turning it into a cold “just about the money” company. Because financially speaking, that would have been the easy thing to do – to just cut out all the non-direct revenue linked expenses.

I wanted people to believe that this company that they decided to choose to stay and fight COVID with is a warm and people-caring one.

We also opened up our senior leadership workshops to our GenZ and GenY colleagues, so they feel they are a part of an important piece of the operation, and have a voice in the company’s direction.

It’s now been more than two years. Did I have any concerns about our approach at the time, despite knowing it was the right thing to do? Yes definitely, I was hesitant about the actions taken, but the feedback has been positive. And as a business, we are headed in a good direction revenue-wise.

The path forward

The finance function is changing and should no longer be considered as a back-office affair. As we’ve all witnessed, forces are reshaping our businesses at speed, and for the health of all organisations we need to give our colleagues alternative ways to run this business.

At TBWA\ our services have expanded beyond just creative ideation and work, to working with key opinion leaders and developing creative technology solutions. This means we cannot use the same financial angles to assess feasibility.

Today, we are more involved with our frontline colleagues in discussing possibilities early in the process. Even junior members of my team play active roles in coming up with solutions that meet both the finance and client requirements. They do more brainstorming; not just straight bookkeeping and it is a change that I’m very happy about.

One of the things I love about working in advertising, is the fact that creativity and creative work happens daily. In more finance-centric industries like banking, people are numbers-driven, while in advertising, people are more dreams-driven.

And it is my role as the CFO to help make those dreams possible.

About Frances Xu

Frances Xu joined TBWA in 2014, taking the role as Chief Financial Officer and is responsible for the overall financial operations for all brands under TBWA. Frances has many years of working experience in advertising industry. Before joining TBWA, she worked as Finance Director and Commercial Director in LOWE under IPG and MEC under WPP. Besides gaining rich experience in finance, she also has very deep understanding and perception in advertising industry.

She has always believed that the foundation for the success of financial management is to keep innovating, raise sufficient communication with business side and a great sense of team spirit. During her career, she has been tightly working with the business units and leaders, use her experience to support the Agency to win customers, expand business scale, increase earning, balance risks and stabilize financial situation.

Before stepping into advertising industry, Frances worked in PWC in auditing.

Transforming The Traditional CFO; Diversifying The Workplace & Business Strategy Tips


Fatihah Ramzi, DigitalCFO Asia | 3 March 2022

Mette Ingeman Pedersen

Group Chief Financial Officer, Saxo Bank

Finance professionals must boost effectiveness and flexibility to thrive in today’s fiercely competitive business market, especially if their business objectives include driving critical change and digitalization to keep up with increasing growth, offering new goods, or becoming a worldwide corporation. This entails comprehending the rapidly changing corporate landscape, which is undergoing a digital revolution.

The digital age has brought with it not only new technology that have transformed the way business is done, but also new threats and problems. The emotional intelligence of skilled financial professionals is combined with the correct technologies in the future of finance. Incorporating the appropriate tools and software into company processes allows for more intelligent decisions, increased efficiency, and increased production. The future of finance also looks at diversifying and encouraging more women to take on financial roles.

DigitalCFO Asia spoke with Mette Ingeman Pedersen, Group Chief Financial Officer of Saxo Bank, who was in Singapore to attend the new office opening ceremony. Saxo Bank has been in Singapore since 2006 and just moved to a new office at CapitaSpring.

Future Of Finance In The Next 5 Years

If we start from the perspective of CFOs, the speed at which business decisions, supported by real time data are made, will change. Companies can continue to expect a lot of real-time data but the speed at which it is being translated into business decisions will change in the next 5 years. As financial professionals, one of our core competencies would be to bring forward reliable, timely and quality data so with the speed of decision-making going on, the time to produce data is extremely short.

As finance professionals, they can expect themselves to get into interpreter roles when in situations that require them to do finance partnering as it goes back to the competency in providing decisions based on readily-available data. This will both be a challenge and an opportunity growth for CFOs as it is a skill that can be used not only in making business decisions but it can help the company move within a financial space with the use of financial data as well as non-financial data.

If CFOs bring that into their agenda at large, non-financial decisions also require a lot of data as well as reporting and a lot of the core competencies of financial professionals are flexible and can be used in multiple areas. With that being said, CFOs can expect more bridging of financial and non-financial needs for data-driven decisions and give the necessary support the business requires.

The Effects Of The Pandemic On Customer Relations

The focus is not so much on the pandemic as digital delivery was already pre-existing within each company but, the pandemic brought about larger opportunities as there was an increase in the online spending of customers. There was an increase of purchase in capital market products and for some companies in the finance industry it was a good wake up call in having to come up with solutions on how to better service their customers.

If we take a look at the Asian market, digitalising consumer spending and purchasing has been around for a long while whereas in the European market it just started picking up recently as the necessity for such services have arised. For example, the Reddit fueled activity that was going on last year where new mechanics that were pandemic-driven were put in place. This is because the pandemic has allowed people to get knowledgeable on such services and the need for it drives companies to implement them quickly and efficiently.

It is interesting that things like these were picked up from trends and in the finance perspective, a CFO’s key responsibility will be in managing the portfolio optimisation of resources to whether it be capital, people, infrastructure or so on. In times like these where things move so quickly, financial professionals have to find out what is driving these changes, what is really behind it and where do they need to place their investments.

“This is why I believe that successful finance functions, going forward, really need to be out there in the decision making part of the team because if you do not have this information, there is no way you can reprioritise and rebalance your investments within such a timeframe.”

Mette Ingeman Pedersen, Group Chief Financial Officer, Saxo Bank

Recognizing Women In Leadership Positions

Finance as a profession has a challenge that it is seen as masculine. If we were to look at universities and colleges, you will see a majority of men in this economic and finance related fields.

“If we start from a pipeline perspective, I think finance has the same issues as mathematics, engineering and technology but it stems from the same trends at bay,” commented by Mette Ingeman Pedersen, Group Chief Financial Officer, Saxo Bank.

Mette Ingeman read this fantastic piece the other day, which was about women leaders in the world’s big financial institutions and found a commentary on economics which is that “we will find it dry if we think it is simply about mathematics but if we understand it is about the welfare of people, then we should be able to”.

Based on that commentary, Mette believes that finance professionals are not good enough at telling what exactly they are doing. According to Mette, that commentary was immensely motivating to her because it shows that she has the opportunity to change people’s lives. Finance professionals are able to set up the best platforms that makes it relevant so that people can start investing and it has been seen that when women invest, they actually do better on the overall because they think longer and they care more about long-term profits compared to short-term profits and if finance professionals can bridge that gap and make it understood that that is what people get to be part of, more women would want to work and hold leadership positions in finance.

Yes, there are a lot of dry numbers in these jobs but actually, those dry numbers are only a part of what we do. If we were to look at what we do as a whole, we are actually storytelling. CFOs help to shape and move things for the company. This means that we are looking at finance differently and thinking about it as a storyteller that is able to set the scene and drive prosperity within the company. It will be difficult for many women as it is a cultural journey due to the fact that there is insufficient diversity in the finance scene.

Tips On Maturing Financial Automation

One barrier could be that finance professionals are a little bit risk-averse; they know what they have and they are aware that delivering quality is important. Sometimes, it can be daring to think about automation; how to ensure quality, productivity and even profitability. However, when it comes to implementing automation or even updating new softwares, it is not necessarily a lack of will but a lack of comfort in the process that it would take. The reason for that is that finance professionals could think that automation is merely a technical change and with that perspective, it will be hard to implement those changes.

But if they look at it as a “people change”, then it becomes relevant to make such investments even if they do not really understand it. They will need to change how they work with it, what they use it for, make the changes and the competence profile of their people and set more diverse teams in general. It can be done in terms of understanding what a data scientist does and broadening the finance teams with such positions. When maturing the company’s financial automation, there must be a braveness to change, the need to challenge yourself as a financial professional and to bring yourselves out there.

The future of finance will involve further use of real-time data as well the speed in which informed decisions are made with those date. Further digitization of companies will occur with new positions involved as well as new automation in place. This just means that working to get the right people and technology in place will allow companies to have an advantage in facing the inevitable disruption ahead especially during the times of the pandemic. Through diversifying the workplace in every aspect and having clear understanding of key responsibilities as well as core competencies, CFOs are able to take their companies to greater heights.

ASEAN Chief Finance Officers to Discuss the Important Role of CFOs in Rebuilding the Region’s Corporate Financing


DigitalCFO Newsroom | 12 November 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the importance of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues and these are even more prominent factors in ASEAN as companies strive to rebuild businesses with higher resilience around Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As stewards of over US$14 trillion a year in global corporate investments, Chief Finance Officers (CFO) are a driving force for the achievement of the SDGs (estimated to be attained by a funding of US$5-7 trillion per year), and that has created new operational and cost risks, which CFOs are grappling with.

To provide a guiding framework by putting corporate finance at the centre of the Sustainable Finance agenda, the UN Global Compact Network (UNGC) launched the UNGC CFO Taskforce in 2020, which will meet for the second term during the upcoming Go ESG ASEAN 2021 virtual conference on 24 & 25November 2021 to discuss:

  1. The required financial support in closing the SDG financing gap in the ASEAN region, to ensure a sustainable recovery 
  2. How CFOs can incorporate sustainable finance practices into their operations, and contribute in advancing the sustainable finance landscape in the region

“The world is facing a triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution that started way before the pandemic arose. ASEAN faces the same problems as the other regions, with the additional risk that the crisis will likely increase poverty, conflict and migration,” said Faroze Nadar, Executive Director of UN Global Compact Network Malaysia & Brunei (UNGCMYB), organisers of the 2-day conference.

“ASEAN’s pathway towards a sustainable future, however, will differ from its global counterparts, considering the differing social and economic development factors, which present an opportunity for ASEAN businesses, and CFOs are uniquely positioned to reshape the future of corporate finance and investment as a catalyst for growth, value creation and social impact,” he said.

The CFO Taskforce convenes a multi-sector group of corporate finance leaders to interact with their peers, investors, financial institutions and the United Nations to share ideas, develop new concepts and frameworks, and provide recommendations to unlock private capital and create a market for mainstream SDG investments. 

The UNGC recently announced that 60 companies with a global market capitalisation of over US$1.7 trillion have already committed to implement the ‘CFO Principles on Integrated SDG Investment and Finance‘ within their organisation, by setting key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure progress against the principles.  

“The session will also be examining the challenges and opportunities of getting more ASEAN corporate leaders to join the CFO Taskforce, as we only have a handful of regional representatives,” Faroze added. 

Source: PR Newswire Asia

From fiduciary to visionary, CFOs should consider themselves as change agents for their organisations: Ayelet Rotblat


Qinthara Fasya | 20 October 2021

Ayelet Rotblat

CFO of SAP Southeast Asia

Regardless of industry – be it pharmaceutical or automotive – organizations throughout the world have realized the need to become more flexible, resilient, and sustainable during the last year. They had to rethink and alter their fundamental business strategy to stay ahead in the digital era.

According to a BCG survey, 80% of businesses across industries intend to accelerate their digital transformation. They will be able to become even more relevant to their consumers as a result of this acceleration, which will help them future-proof their firm. From fiduciary to visionary, CFOs must consider themselves as change agents for their organizations. Finance is at the heart of many business decisions, and new procedures introduced by the finance department are frequently the first step in digital transformation projects.

DigitalCFO Asia spoke with Ayelet Rotblat, who was recently promoted to Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for SAP SEA in June, on what CFOs should focus on in the next few months.

Developing Key Financial Strategies – even with WFH

In today’s post-pandemic economic climate, financial organisations need to remain nimble and enable new services-based business models. On top of that, there has been an increased focus for financial organisations to drive stability in times of high volatility and as businesses face new risks.

As CFOs, we have the data and critical responsibility to predict future business realities, to plan accordingly and to ensure we are ready to support our customers with the right tools in place.

Ayelet Rotblat, CFO of SAP SEA

We have also seen many examples of organisations that took new services to market overnight to be more attuned to the needs of their customers. For example, treasury is key to optimising working capital and cash to keep the business afloat. Due to the current unpredictability, CFOs need to have a solid enterprise-wide planning process to model and predict future business outcomes holistically. With that, they can identify business gaps ahead of time with smart predictive planning – all made possible with artificial intelligence. 

Over the past 18 months, CFOs have stepped up in their strategic roles. They will continue to identify new sources of liquidities, reimagine business continuity and focus on driving compliance and rigor in cybersecurity to help companies emerge stronger in an unpredictable business climate.

With remote work arrangements, critical finance and accounting functions, Ayelet notes that year-end audits and quarterly reviews had to be done virtually – a challenge for employees who could not be physically on-site with clients and teams. However, with the right technology and skills in place, some companies could navigate this transition to virtual work smoothly and successfully. Moreover, internal, and external digital collaboration quickly became the option for conducting financial business in the short term.

It has become clear that standardising, automating, and simplifying financial processes allow business continuity in any workplace. At SAP, it was a seamless transition for the team – whether it was making payments on time, signing documents, month-end closing and reviewing quotations, they were easy to manage.

We are seeing more and more CFOs take the lead in evaluating the transformation and acceleration of financial processes that are suitable for their companies.

Where should CFOs pump their money?

Since the subjects they must manage are more diverse than previously, CFOs are thinking more holistically. Data protection, cloud and infrastructure regulation, and information security are among them.

The idea of having only one version of the truth while adhering to regulations is quite appealing. As a result, business process intelligence will become increasingly crucial, as will interpreting data (through data mining) and identifying holes in present procedures.

Sustainability is a big topic these days and, in many cases, championed by the CFO of the organisation owing to their oversight of the company spend and the correlation between sustainability improvements in the company to financial impact. Companies are evaluating their approach to sustainability, especially with the increased expectations of global businesses to tackle climate change, spearhead diversity and inclusion and mitigate biodiversity loss. As they deliver positive impact on society and the environment, these businesses are also looking for the right technology to obtain insights, track performance and accelerate their progress. 

The deployment of AI and machine learning will certainly be central to the enablement of financial institutions in the region. We are already witnessing intelligent automation in most finance processes. Specifically, we have seen automation being deployed for revenue accounting, bank reconciliation and cash applications to name a few. While somewhat in the early stage, we can expect automation to be fully integrated into ERP solutions or can predict scenarios by working with data scientists (rather than developers).

Transiting smoothly to a digitally operated workplace

SAP adopts a three-pronged approach to help businesses navigate the new workplace environment with business-transformation-as-a-service. Firstly, they strive to deliver a modular and homogenous integrated suite of products and services. Secondly, they enrich these offerings with intelligent technologies. Thirdly, they adopt a cloud-first strategy so that their customers can increase their operational efficiency, agility, resiliency and speed of innovation. 

RISE with SAP is an approach to help companies pave their way to run as an intelligent enterprise with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, connectivity to SAP Business Network, and a selection of industry cloud solutions for any organisation’s core business. The benefits they aim to bring to organisations include lower total cost of ownership, more innovation, more speed and agility, and seamless collaboration with suppliers, customers, and service providers. Ultimately, the goal is to help organisations across the globe become intelligent enterprises by connecting with a community of networks and run a sustainable business.

Financial organisations must stay flexible in today’s post-pandemic economic context and allow new services-based business models. Furthermore, in times of extreme volatility and when firms face new risks, financial organisations have placed a greater emphasis on driving stability. Standardising, automating, and simplifying financial procedures has become obvious as a means of ensuring company continuity in any organization.

Look Inwards to Expand Outwards: Timothy Williams


Overcoming pandemic-related obstacles mean more than hurling hurriedly developed technology solutions at them. Regional Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of FCM Travel Timothy Williams shares the need for businesses to have a comprehensive long-term strategy more than anything else.

Tatiyana Emylia | 13 October 2021

Timothy Williams

Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of FCM Travel

It has been almost two years since the start of the global COVID-19 pandemic. By now, Zoom calls are a well-integrated routine, loungewear is on trend again, and regurgitations of the phrase “the new normal” spur jaded eye rolls rather than looks of trepidation.

Where many have been—and are still—cooped up at home, some industries have been hit harder than most: it’s not unusual to see yet another restaurant or travel agency buckling under the pressure. What may be unusual though, would be the sight of global business travel management business FCM Travel thriving instead, where the company recently announced plans for further expansion into Japan just last month. Regional CFO Timothy Williams spoke to DigitalCFO Asia on how they made it happen.

Answering the calls of their customers

FCM Travel has long positioned themselves as a business with a major focus on global data and analytics. With a number of technology platforms already in the works, COVID-19 was not a catalyst but an accelerator for their launch to meet ever-evolving client demands. They recently rolled out the FCM Traveller Hub, a web portal for managing and booking travel while accommodating traveller preferences, travel policies, and approval hierarchies. The interactive resource is a one-stop shop for clients to get real-time updates and information on corporate travel plans.

Beyond literal travel, the firm also rolled out a Travel Policy Benchmarking tool, which had been in the works long before the pandemic washed up on our shores. The tool enables clients to compare the efficiency and success of their own travel management programs against those of their peers globally to see where they stand and which elements they may want to reevaluate. FCM Travel also launched its AI reporting tool just last year. Comparable to a chatbot, the natural language processing tool can answer questions concerning travel data for answers in the form of actionable insights.

FCM Travel’s ‘Airport-like’ Office Concept – PHOTO BY: Qinthara Fasya

The secret lies in stabilisation

FCM Travel was able to stay afloat thanks to their strong foundation laid by their long-term strategy. Rather than come up with reactionary and ultimately weak measures in response to the pandemic, it was treated as just another “blip on the radar”, albeit a long-term one. The firm stuck to their strategy and worked around COVID-19 rather than let it change their goals. While the path to accomplishing them certainly got longer, sticking to their guns kept FCM Travel focused and enabled them to hone in on what they already had been pre-pandemic.

Knee-jerk measurements are asking for trouble

Digitalisation is definitely hot on everyone’s lips, but if businesses are only thinking of transforming and changing things right now as a reaction to the pandemic, such a strategy may be doomed from the start. Rather than chasing a boat they may have already missed, the key thing businesses need during this sink-or-swim period is to have a long term strategic plan for the business—and ensuring that all leadership are fully committed to it. A long term plan, Williams explained, should be everything-proof: the strategy should be able to counter pandemics, economic cycles, even government turmoil—the business should not deviate from it regardless of the obstacle.

“When it comes to COVID, we don’t sit there and whine and complain, because we can’t do anything about it. What we can do is keep on the mission we were always on,” he said.

With a roadmap set in stone, the main principle businesses should abide by is to keep optimising it. Whether this means streamlining processes or growing the capabilities of their team, there is no end beyond the horizon: good can always be better.

The cost of not evolving


Article attributed to Kabir Shakir, Chief Financial Officer, Tata Communications

Kabir Shakir

CFO for Tata Communications

The global business landscape has been shifting for some time, but last year it accelerated at an unpredictable pace. Today, CFOs have a different role beyond the financial health of the organisation. We are catalysts for change. The CFO is a trusted advisor to the CEO helping in steering business transformation – to help shape their organisation for the future.

One of the biggest challenges is how can you predict and prepare for the future when you don’t know what is around the bend? For example, if you are driving a car and approach a bend at full speed you will crash, but if you drive too slow, you will be overtaken. So, what do you do if you don’t know how to navigate the road ahead at the right speed and take the right approach?

Be a future thinker to be ahead

The recent times have been unprecedented. Standard solutions and the way we look at performance have not always been ideal. But there are lessons we can learn from.

For instance, nearly all of us have been working from home — pretty much for 100% of the time for over a year across the globe. If there is any silver lining to the pandemic, it is that we had the infrastructure to enable this. There has been a rapid shift to the cloud, where software has defined everything, and app-based services have ensured seamless connectivity of people, processes, apps, and devices. Imagine if this pandemic hit us only a decade ago, the world economy would have been significantly impacted as none of this would have been possible.

So, who were the people that made these digital transformation investment decisions five years ago? Without all the facts and figures? Without knowing what would happen?

There is a great example I could give: Pokémon Go, the digital game, became an overnight phenomenon in 2016. I actually had people walking through my front garden to capture these virtual creatures on their phones through the app. The valuation of Nintendo, the franchise owner of Pokemon, went up by almost $7.5 billion in a short span of 48 hours. Despite the fact that Niantic, the American software company created the game and launched it successfully. And the game become a global phenomenon due to the cloud infrastructure Niantic already had in place – all thanks to the future-thinking they made years ago.

Ultimately, it is the decision of the CFO to invest for this unknown turn in the bend. They must develop the knack for steering and accelerating at just the right speed, in blind yet calculated anticipation of what’s coming. The CFO is making decisions today for what can transform a business and not just make it more profitable five years from now but also relevant and future-proof.

Be a catalyst; all innovation is now digital

I now see my peers in the industry evolve their enterprises from working on digital projects to initiating digital programmes and having a fully-fledged digital adoption roadmap encompassing all parts of the organisation. All innovation is now digital. Such as the hotel I stayed at recently, where everything in the room was Wi-Fi enabled and controlled by a tablet – the lights, AC, ceiling fans, room service, and more. I can imagine if manufacturers of physical switches do not evolve, their entire business will be at risk. I won’t be wrong in saying that as a company, we live or die by our digital evolution.

The CFO of a business should be trusted with leading the way. You only have to look at the four quadrants of CFOs we have today – Stewards, Operators, Strategists, and Catalysts. It’s this latter quadrant where the crème de la crème of the top-performing Fortune 500 companies are. They are making the decisions that are shaping the future – and the businesses they help steer are reaping the rewards.

Be disruptive in digital transformation

Having a solid brand is still important today. It should speak on your behalf and offer your brand values in a reliable and consistent manner. Today, a competitor brand will not disrupt your business by offering a 30% price cut – it will be because they have a fundamentally different go-to-market model. There is a CFO behind that. He or she has helped their company to lay down forward-thinking plans. More often than not, it is based on digital transformation.

Customers are crucial of course; they demand better products. You need to be online to deal with this – even if you do not have an online presence, it still affects your business. Take third party rating sites such as Trip Advisor for example, where some customers are reviewing you – and other customers are listening and making decisions that affect your business based on what they read. Your online presence matters more than ever.

You may have a great brand and customer-base, but you also need employees who will go the extra mile to evangelize on your behalf. Potential employees will now judge you on your digital transformation. It started with Bring Your Own Device, but now it is extended to software and usability – the need to consume info where and when they want. CFOs need to help their organisations attract new talent who are demanding this high level of employee experience. They are making the choice to join you based on your digital infrastructure right now.

Be agile and adapt

Today there is often less time and more data muddying the waters. But big decisions are still needed from CFOs. The answer is to fail fast.

Not all trends are successful – who remembers snail-trail beauty treatments? Yet participating in the ones that are a success allows for huge profits, if you are prepared to fail fast by making a few wrong turns along the way.

It is all mostly about agility and the right KPIs. The product lifecycle is shorter, but the mark-ups are potentially greater. CFOs need to be let loose to constantly adapt.

Be ‘Digital-First’ with a digital ecosystem enabler

Organizations who act as a digital ecosystem enabler provide the answer for CFOs. Tata Communications can help create the ecosystem for borderless growth and address challenges – in whatever form they lie. But you need to acknowledge that there is a bend coming and be prepared. We can help you make this happen.

Organisations need a digital-first infrastructure in place. And CFOs, in my view, need to be able to spend a disproportionate amount of their investment budget on digital. You need to be prepared to fail faster. To write off certain projects so that you can reap the rewards of those that don’t.

Future-facing CFOs need to make the decisions which will help their business evolve and be in the best place possible for whatever is ‘beyond the bend’.

Paving the way for payment and procurement workflows


In an ever-advancing digital landscape, GuocoLand’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Andrew Chew sheds light on the risks and benefits of evolving ahead of the curve, rather than at the back of the pack.

Tatiyana Emylia | 8 October 2021

Photo by: Qinthara Fasya

Andrew Chew

Chief Financial Officer for GuocoLand

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The saying seemed to ring true in the built environment sector, where digitalisation appeared incompatible with the labour-intensive nature of this industry—that is, until the pandemic hit. With employees suddenly stuck at home, a number of firms found themselves having to aggressively push for digitalisation in the hopes of resuming construction and maintenance operations. A pioneer on this front, premier regional property company GuocoLand’s CFO, Andrew Chew, spoke with DigitalCFO Asia on the long-overdue evolution and hopes for the coming future.

Evolving as an opportunity rather than a solution

The company had long been exploring avenues to digitalise even before COVID-19 hit as part of their measures towards upscaling. GuocoLand had installed real estate management software to digitalise transactions including invoicing, sending reminders, payments, credit control, and the like. Doing so meant that the company did not need to increase their headcount as they expanded, even after adding a million square feet of additional space under management when Guoco Tower opened in 2016.

Digitalisation means more than cutting costs. When the pandemic hit, there was less disruption to existing processes: most data needed was already uploaded into the cloud, so employees could easily work from home and operate without much troubleshooting. While common fears surrounding digitalisation involve a complete AI takeover, system upgrading instead provides more opportunities for employees to upskill. Staff would also be able to focus on more value-added work rather than having to devote time to mundane tasks and transactions.

Teaching an old dog new tricks

On the flipside, Chew acknowledged the difficulty of digitalisation in the built environment. More than labour, processes involved for development are heavily paper-intensive, with countless regulations to follow and documentation to track. But it also meant that an overhaul for the industry was long overdue. It was when these processes were brought to a halt during the pandemic that became the catalyst for GuocoLand, OCBC, and local fintech Doxa to come together for a strategic partnership announced earlier last month.

The three entities are currently piloting the industry’s first end-to-end digital workflow solution for development projects, named Doxa Connex for Developers. The platform digitally connects all parties involved in these projects, enabling main contractors to virtually issue e-invoices across relevant parties, including architects, consultants, property developers, and finally to banks, to finally issue payments to the main contractor. The pilot program will be in supporting GuocoLand’s luxury freehold condominium project, Meyer Mansion.

If successful, the project could have major implications on how the industry may operate in the coming years: GuocoLand has set their sights on the long-term goal of streamlining the entire procurement and payments workflow process across the built environment value chain, looking perhaps at payments for subcontractors next as well as rolling out the platform across more complicated projects, such as Guoco Midtown. 

Looking forward

For CFOs looking to digitise, it is understandable that most would not want to risk disrupting their workflow amid experimentation. One simple but significant step towards automation would be to implement a robotic process automation (RPA) within the relevant process. This sets up software to automate existing workflows, while ensuring hardly any change to the actual process—all that changes is who operates them, from human labour to digital automation.

The more tedious, but arguably more rewarding method would be to critically examine the company’s processes and changing whatever seems unnecessary. This may involve taking apart certain processes or chains entirely, but ultimately results in a more streamlined workflow.

It is clear that GuocoLand picked the latter.

With RPA, change happens only within the company, but when re-examining old cogs in the machine, firms have the potential to transform existing processes not just internally but as an entire industry as well.

Chew said: “With Doxa, various parties within the process chain are involved and transformed, and that’s ultimately what we’re trying to do here. It’s a small part of a bigger jigsaw puzzle, but an important part too.”

The Power of Technology Disrupting the Digital Investment Space Globally


Qinthara Fasya | 16 September 2021

Singapore is a major financial and fintech centre on a global and regional scale. However, there is still space for more digitalization in the industry. Henry Toh, CFO of Tiger Brokers (Singapore) spoke with DigitalCFO Asia on how he sees technology impacting the digital investment industry throughout the world, particularly in Singapore.

Trading Trends Evident in the Past Year

The trading trends across time has been largely the same. Risk on and Risk off approaches. Except that it had been noted that investors tend to pick up riskier assets during a risk on period, ie Cryptos, Reddit Stocks and higher volatility EV counters. And Risk off trading largely still evolve around the traditional businesses, for example Banks, Consumers / FMCG type of companies

Boom and Bust cycles had also become much shorter than before. Dot Com Bubble burst took 1808 trading days to recover from a 57% drop, Black Monday took 402 trading days and 29% drop. Covid 19 only took 117 trading days and 34% drop. Clearly this is a result of excess liquidity within the markets, creating a situation where investors had a pile of Dry Powder fund waiting to be deployed when opportunities arise.

Tiger Brokers in Automating its Financial Procedures

Through API connections, it is possible now to push data directly into the client’s own trading systems and ERP system. Once this is done, automatic reconciliation becomes a reality. In a corporate environment, this greatly reduces the time taken for trade matching and portfolio mark to market.

Trading in the Current Market

Depending on the current economic activities and how the pandemic situation rolls out, trends and stock market developments may change and can be fast changing. 

At Tiger Brokers Singapore, we always encourage investors to be prudent, monitor and keep abreast of the latest news and developments closely to make investment decisions befitting their investment portfolio.

Given the current fast moving and quick changing market sentiment, investors should keep a close eye on their portfolio performance. Be ready to change their investment objectives should situation arise. At Tiger Brokers, as much as possible, live prices are provided to users to help them keep track of the fluctuations, this is especially important given the new level of volatility some of the counters had introduced to the market. Real time news also helps keep users abreast of the current development for decision making.

Tiger Brokers’ institutional division provides clients with comprehensive technological solutions that include advanced portfolio and risk management tools. With its sophisticated client management tools and functions, fund managers and professional advisors can manage accounts and assist clients to invest seamlessly. 

Our consumer business on Tiger Trade brings proven technology for our B2B partners and clients. We hope to bring the same to the B2B segment and allow institutional partners to also tap on our technology to grow their business in our ecosystem. We are thrilled to formally launch our B2B segment with some of the strongest and well-established partners, together we are committed to transforming the financial advisory landscape. Tiger Brokers suite of API will allow financial institutions who wish to retain their branding and UI/UX to connect to Tiger Brokers for transactions. 

Safeguarding our Investors assets is sacrosanct to our business. Users should be able to invest in what they want, and not worry about losing their assets due to non systematic risk. At Tiger Brokers, every possible avenue is employed to ensure that customers assets are properly custody with globally reputable custody banks. Cash is also segregated via client trust account set up.

Reliability of the trading platform is another key to today’s investing environment. This means, not just an informative platform where live prices and news are real time. Latency is also another requirement, especially in the institutional space. At Tiger Brokers, our platform is industry leading, apparent by the number of users we have accumulated in a short operational time in Singapore. And we are grateful for them choosing us. Our system is frequently load tested to ensure that it can handle large amount of orders in times when volatility sets in suddenly.

It’s time to make way for digitalisation in manufacturing


Tatiyana Emylia | 16 September 2021

Jaison Kamura

Head of Finance for Arctsone

Gone are the days of simplicity. Where manufacturing processes used to be simple – some manufacturers only made a single product – they now need to evolve to keep up with the production of a plethora of complex products consumers of today demand. It is up to manufacturers to rapidly extend, transform, and adapt their existing systems to increase efficiency and efficacy to meet expectations and keep ahead of the competition.

Arcstone, a manufacturing software company, specialises in digitalisation: they aim to help manufacturers gain control and optimise their production processes for the larger cause of complete manufacturing transparency across the entire supply chain. Head of Finance, Jaison Kimura, gave DigitalCFO Asia the run-down on the digitisation of manufacturing and steps beyond.

Digitalisation is not a matter of if, but when

When it comes to SMEs, businesses need to digitise or risk falling behind, Jaison said. Times are changing – software solutions must be flexible and easily updated so that changes to operations can easily be implemented when needed. To achieve this, manufacturers must invest in IT and be open to adopting newer, more agile technologies. A Manufacturing Execution System (MES) and Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP) are some elements that need to be well-connected and integrated to provide manufacturers full end-to-end visibility of operations they need on the shop floor. Beyond internal processes, digitalisation via enhancing data collection methods can also boost customer relations through providing today’s more conscious consumers with data transparency. 

This is easier said than done. Some businesses may resist change not because they are against digitisation, but do not know where to begin. Lack of knowledge on technology solutions and the cost associated are some contributing factors as well.

Despite these concerns, Jaison stressed that digitisation is still inevitable, for it is only through this evolution that SMEs can stay competitive and serve their customers in the long run. A bold statement, but rings true: a lightweight MES alone can streamline heavy manual-based production processes to more automated ones, simplifying workflow and driving greater efficiency.

Adapting to Industry 4.0

As a start, Jaison recommended CFOs have a look at tools and digital systems that are scalable and integratable within their existing systems. Most manufacturers already have their own systems, so adapting to industry 4.0 – the era of smart factories – would mean integrating new tools with them for operational enhancement. The core idea is not to replace, but to augment, integrate, and enhance what is already there. 

When it comes to cost, small and steady is key. Jaison advises against jumping into the deep end of complex technologies like AI tools and vision detect systems but rather take digitalisation a step at a time. The first thing CFOs need to focus on is to digitise their operations, before moving on to optimisation and the like. Most importantly, CFOs need to be open minded. This is an iterative process – there would be much trial and error before finding the perfect fit – but it will happen.

Evolution is a two-way street

Digital growth isn’t limited to manufacturers. Arcstone themselves continue to automate and transform where they can. They switched over to an accounting system, Xero, from traditional human accountants within the past year. Not only does the system manage and process all accounts, but also hosts the company’s financial information on a server for more accessibility and collaboration. Xero’s integration into Arcstone’s existing systems cut down time needed for paperwork and enabled finance staff to focus on more analytic work and ways to optimise our business operations.

Automation and transformation on the whole eliminates inefficient workflows and manual tasks, increasing workload savings and efficiency where attention can be redirected to more important work. With offices in India, Vietnam, and Indonesia, it’s important that Arcstone employs digital systems providing accurate and consistent information for standardisation, so they can serve their clients to their fullest.

Digitally Transforming with custom-designed IoT Solutions

Qinthara Fasya | 10 September 2021

Davy Lassagne

Group CFO at UnaBiz

The optimal IoT experience is one that is straightforward and straightforward to use. Companies seeking to reinvent themselves through new technology face an enormously complicated and diversified environment, which can be intimidating. DigitalCFO Asia spoke with Davy Lassagne, Group CFO at UnaBiz on how it has transformed its company and finance operations through IoT, and how other companies or industries can follow suit.

UnaBiz was recently recognized by IMDA under Accreditation@SG Digital, an elite IMDA initiative that identifies outstanding digital companies based in Singapore and helps them grow and compete globally. SG:D Accredited companies are put through a rigorous financial, commercial, and technological review to determine their potential to foster digital innovation and deliver to Singapore’s government agencies and large corporations.

Financial and Business Transformation

UnaBiz have moved the entire finance function in-house over the past 5 years, and most importantly, we are now entirely digital. Not a single paper is handled by the team today and our processes require little human intervention, except for validation purposes. 

For example, we receive all our invoices in electronic form via email and they are automatically routed to our OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software which then populates our accounting software. The only input our team then needs to do is validate the pre-selected accounting entries the system has chosen, and the right cash outflow lines coming from our automated bank feed. 

Digital automation freed up a tremendous amount of time for the entire team to focus on more value-added activities like forecasting, cash flow management, and stakeholder engagement.

From a business perspective, we have transformed the company from a pure network operator to a fully integrated data provider, seamlessly merging connectivity, hardware and platform services to provide a total solution for our customers. Beyond providing data-as-a-service to our clients, we provide them what we call the “3Is”:

  1. Insight: It’s about providing just raw data, but actionable intel from the physical world so our clients can…
  2. Improve their processes, offering, cost structure etc to ultimately have an…
  3. Impact on the environment and the communities they serve.

A great example of that is our work with Japan’s largest Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) company, Nicigas. We helped them digitalise their entire meter reading operations, leading to more frequent and accurate consumption insight. These actionable insights has allowed Nicigas to optimise their operation and reduce their distribution costs, which in turn lead to drastic reductions in carbon emissions and better services to their customers.

Challenges and Triumphs during Covid-19

The pandemic has challenged us on all fronts; while it has hit the brakes on aviation, a key sector we used to focus on, it has propelled enterprises and governments into an accelerated state of digitalisation, especially in the Facilities Management and Asset Management sector. 

Again, back to the example of Nicigas, the need for remote monitoring, and reducing manpower and human contact drove the team, and our partners to ensure the delivery and deployment of 850,000 smart meters readers in the Kanto region. The need for digitalisation has never been more meaningful, and we are proud to have completed the project despite the pandemic and global supply chain disruption. 

The year also pushed us to venture into new areas, such as developing a highly scalable middleware cloud platform in order to expand our service offerings. These changes have allowed us to evolve into a tech-agnostic service provider that ensures that our partners get the best of each technology. 

Despite our achievements, the team remains on its toes as we face a bigger global issue – the shortage of components globally.  

IoT Solutions for those who want to Digitally Transform

UnaBiz provides IoT solutions that are cost effective, energy efficient, and highly scalable – 3 key elements for enterprises or governments who want to digitally transform and grow sustainably. The company specialises in sensor product design, manufacturing, and cloud platform services that do not require heavy investment in network infrastructure, which makes it accessible for early adopters and highly efficient for large-scale projects. Most of its custom designed solutions are retrofitted onto existing assets to prolong their remaining useful life (RUL). 

UnaBiz is a proven Massive IoT service provider. Unlike most technology providers UnaBiz is tech-agnostic and vertical agnostic. The company provides solutions across a hybrid of low-power wide area (LPWA) technologies such as Sigfox, LTE-M, NB-IoT and LoRa, to power business growth. The company is selling in 28 countries worldwide and has already deployed over 1 million devices globally across various verticals. 

Tips for CFOs to adapt their Finance Operations

UnaBiz’ mission is to unite people and technology to create an impact on a massive scale.

And that always starts with our people. I never bring people on board for their technical knowledge and skills. Those are easy to find or acquire. I only hire team members that have the right attitude towards work and the right cultural fit: always be a team player, always thrive to do better and always embrace the mission and values of the company. 

When those three elements are aligned, nothing becomes impossible because everyone works in the same direction, supports each other and has the success of everyone at heart. 

Everyone at UnaBiz thinks and acts as an owner of the company, pushing the limits of what is possible, owning mistakes, learning from them and improving. Everything else -technology, processes, tools, nimbleness etc – will follow.

CFO Dialogue: CFOs should consider outsourcing CX as a Growth Strategy


William Foo, CFO of Everise shares why CFOs should consider outsourcing CX as a growth strategy.

By: Qinthara Fasya | 13 July 2021

Photo provided by Everise: William Foo, CFO of Everise

According to IDC, 80 percent of enterprise revenue growth would be based on digital products and operations by the end of 2022. This will necessitate a significant investment, but CFOs must enhance the bottom line. As businesses shift to the cloud, cloud contact center software allows for seamless interactions to be handled from numerous, more cost-effective locations — Everise estimates that corporations can save up to 65 percent on in-house staff in some circumstances.

Next-generation outsourcers are assisting businesses in lowering or optimizing their expenses through seasonal hiring, where employees are paid just for the period they are on the job or based on success or productivity measures. This aids CFOs in risk management. DigitalCFO Asia spoke with William Foo, Chief Financial Officer of Everise on CX strategies, credit card fraud, and evolving more to flexible, local models, manned with teams that are native speakers.

How has CX evolved in recent years?

The customer experience (CX) industry has significantly transformed over the past decade, adopting advanced technology to Cloud Contact Centre as a Service technology (CCCaaS), and enabling services such as omnichannel customer relationship management (CRM) software, natural language interactive voice response systems (IVR), and chatbots.

The pandemic catalyzed the need for digital customer experiences, resulting in brands applying widespread use of digital channels, such as smartphones, consumer-friendly apps, and social media. Today’s consumers expect content to be ubiquitous, seamless, and personally relevant, such that whenever they seek out a brand, they are known regardless of the platform they choose to engage with the brand or retrieve brand information. 

Enterprises need to provide an intelligent and efficient digital experience as a critical differentiator to keep customers engaged, attract new ones, and streamline back-office operations.

How does CX drive digital transformation for companies that are transitioning to digitalisation?

Digital transformation is something that everyone is talking about, but few are truly taking action. Improving customer experience can catalyze organizations to take action to digitally transform. Given that we have economies of scale, Everise can actively drive such innovation and digital transformation for our customers, reinventing the way they deliver and improve customer experiences.

In Southeast Asia, 1 in 3 consumers are new to digital services, and 90% of these consumers intend to continue their newfound habits post-pandemic, according to Bain & Company. 

We offer our customers an exage® CX technology ecosystem that delivers omnichannel, multilingual customer experiences to millions of customers. Our CX also provides full proficiency multilingual support through strategic placement of experience centers across three continents.  

Some examples of innovation include breakthrough artificial intelligence technology to power CX evolution for our customers across the world. We built an intelligent voice solution that enables clients to automate inbound and outbound call processes with a voice-based virtual assistant. This voice automation technology cuts through long IVR workflows, and with call volumes spiking at various times of the day, an IVR solution helps manage call volumes in a human way. 

Our chatbot, together with IVR, significantly reduces pressure on existing teams and fluidly scales to meet spikes in demand. Additionally, with chat logs available for live agents to access, the solution increases response time, enabling first contact resolution and reducing cost-to-serve for the client. 

When clients are committed to leveraging intelligent technologies to improve the customer experience, results are inevitable. As investing in such technologies can be costly, brands can and should partner with outsourcers who can provide such one-stop solutions and customize the solutions to suit their particular support needs. 

What are the benefits of a positive customer or product experience?

A positive customer or product experience critically builds loyalty and trust. Moreover, research by PwC shows that customers are willing to pay up to a 16% price premium on products and services with great experiences, and one in three consumers will walk away from a brand they love after just one bad experience. 

CX also can directly impact the experience of a potential customer. Positive customer reviews make potential customers feel more confident in buying your product or service. However, the open nature of digital and social media platforms makes them the ultimate double-edged sword as customer support channels. It’s a very efficient way to show off a brand’s responsiveness and gain highly visible, vocal brand promoters in the process. But it holds the risk of exposing a business’s lack of responsiveness and gaining highly visible, vocal brand detractors in the process.

Our CX teams help boost customer satisfaction, by moderating digital channels, facilitating better reviews, and producing brand advocates in the process.

In times of uncertainty, why should CFOs consider outsourcing CX as a growth strategy?

There is historical evidence that companies that invest in delivering quality customer experiences emerge stronger after a crisis. McKinsey found that during the 2007-2009 recession, companies that led with superior customer experience provided shareholder returns that were three times higher than laggards. They also found that the top reasons for stalled transformation initiatives were due to resourcing issues and lack of core competencies. Outsourcing enables entities to benefit from:

  • Lower operations costs. In-house customer support is often provided from the expensive cities where company offices and executives are located. However, if an outsourcer has a cloud-based technology stack, they could operate where real estate and labour costs are lower.

  • Cost-efficient and proven technology. Investing in customer experience technology is expensive, especially if that technology must be secure enough to safely manage sensitive customer information. An outsourcing partner invests in the best technology and spreads the cost out among many clients, enabling cost efficiency. 

  • Seasonal demand support.  If a company’s support needs are higher during some seasons than others, they may have to spend part of the year paying for manpower they do not need during low demand seasons or not having enough experienced staff in high demand seasons. As an outsourcing partner has a diverse set of clients, they are able to move agents around over the year and retain experienced talent.

  • Flexible cost structures. In-house customer support results in fixed costs, even when demand is low. Outsourcing partners can offer flexible cost structures that only require payment for work done, allowing companies to save money. 

How do next-generation outsourcers assist CFOs in risk management?

It’s our agility and ability to innovate that helps CFOs mitigate the risks of an unpredictable market. We help them optimize their services for performance and cost, and to adapt to their needs. Digital innovation is a critical component to enabling this.

We also believe that to mitigate risk, you need a geographically distributed workforce that is digitally enabled. We call this strategy “flexshoring” because it provides the flexibility of blended work-at-home and centralized office teams on a global scale. By combining multi-shore (a mix of onshore, nearshore and offshore) customer service teams, we give our customers the advantages of reputable outsourcing regions without the risks of over-relying on any one of them. This approach helps mitigate any potential fallout from geopolitical upheavals, natural disasters, or other unforeseen market risks. 

For example, we recently supported a client who was digitally transforming their CX just before the pandemic hit. Our solution included “right-shoring” their support resources around the U.S. and Guatemala while deploying cloud contact software, as well as voice and chat automation. Because of their foresight, they were able to continue supporting their customers without any downtime, thereby effectively managing risk.

What is particularly unique about this was the amount of attention we paid to synthesize the voice automation to match the older demographic. We were able to contain and automate about 50% of inbound interactions.

This attention to the details of the experience also came through during the pandemic when the team saw increased interactions from customers about offering disabled delivery service – this was shared, and a new service was launched.

How does fraud cause hidden costs in the financial management of businesses?

Scammers are often adept at finding loopholes in policies and procedures that are put in place to enhance customer experience and meet the demands of legitimate consumers. A fraudster can dishonestly interface with their target’s customer support agents to be successful, for example. This often happens when purchases are made with stolen or counterfeit credit card numbers, false warranty claims, or exploitative use of discount codes, and can result in significant losses to the company, along with reputation damage.

Many business leaders do not realize that customer support teams can help to identify and nip fraud (such as reseller warranty fraud, account fraud, and content moderation, but not credit card fraud) in the bud. The key is having an experienced team because intuition plays a vital role in fraud detection and prevention. For example, in one case that involved a leading connected device manufacturer, Everise combined an experienced team with AI tools to create the Fraud Squad. They were tasked to build a data model that reviewed their online store order review process to identify potential fraud risks. The findings resulted in identifying bad actors which resulted in substantial savings and the creation of a knowledge base to use on the frontline for identifying future fraudulent behavior.    

Outsourcing companies that succeed at sniffing out fraud often do so because they retain their best agents, who can identify when something is awry and will note certain patterns of behavior occurring. Everise recently made a discovery that blocked the efforts of a single fraud ring, saving the client almost US$10 million in the process.

How and why modern CX strategies are changing – including evolving more to flexible, local models, manned with teams that are native speakers.

In CX, both business models and services are evolving. Some ways in which we are helping customers to transform their CX are as follows.

  • Omnichannel Integration. Say a customer reaches out to a brand for one product, and again for another product, they not only expect the brand to deliver the same experience across both products, but also to retain their personal information. They do not want to provide the same information time and again for specific product lines, or even according to the channel they chose to communicate with the brand. They expect the brand to know their details and know them with reference to any product they buy, and any channel they choose to reach out to the brand.  Companies need to provide omnichannel integration to help customers to enjoy a seamless experience with their brand, while using data analytics for improvement. 
  • Native speaking multilingual hubs. A seemingly basic but deeply important aspect of customer experience is to provide native multilingual support, particularly in Asia where local consumer behaviours are varied. Speaking the language of your customers creates deeper trust and loyalty that improves their affinity towards your brand. But doing so at scale requires working with partners who have hubs that attract and manage these speakers in a single hub.
  • Using technology for customer service excellence. By removing repetitive tasks using technology such as AI-powered conversational chatbots and robotic process automation tools, companies can not only better manage call volumes, but enables CX staff to focus on being empathetic and resolve highly complex problems.
  • Innovative partnership model: Increasingly, our clients are seeking to streamline their vendors and have true partnerships with a handful of competent partners who can deliver a consistent holistic suite of services, while continuing to remain agile and innovative. This, along with increased technology capabilities is also moving the industry towards more outcome-based costing models. 

Can you share how Everise has automated their financial processes such as financial planning analysis, budgeting and forecasting?

In order to standardize our financial processes globally, Everise partnered with Oracle Netsuite, a leading cloud-based ERP which seeks to provide real-time visibility for global operations. This partnership has enabled the Finance department to present insights for planning, budgeting, and forecasting processes that drive insight-led growth, which in turn, aid Everise management and the operations team to make more informed business decisions. 

Everise also utilizes business intelligence dashboards to stream and view all real-time operational, human resource and financial data into a single view. Doing so helps the company make quick data-driven growth decisions that benefit the company, our partners and our people.

About William Foo

William Foo is the Chief Financial Officer for Everise, with more than 17 years of experience in senior management and finance roles within large multinational conglomerates. He is also a Chartered Accountant of Singapore. His responsibilities encompass the group’s financial, contractual and risk management matters which also covers Everise entities in the USA, Philippines, Guatemala and Malaysia. William also leads the mergers and acquisitions function of the group.Most recently, he led the sale of Everise to Brookfield Business Partners and its institutional partners (Brookfield). See his full bio here