I think we can all agree, that for most, Singapore is a very easy place to live. For sure, I am not alone in taking for granted the gifts bestowed upon us from past generations: the economic stability, efficient governance, safety and security. We are fortunate to enjoy these advantages on our little red dot.
And our position becomes downright enviable when we see the political and economic disruptions occurring in other countries today. Watching these events from afar as Singaporeans, we may be inclined to also draw inward, to seek refuge in the institutions and in the economy we’ve built here at home.
My experience tells me that only by reaching out and looking beyond our own economy will we be able to overcome the many challenges that are amassing at our doorstep. Think about it. Singapore is such a small country. Yes we are affluent, but that wealth is due in no small part to the trade that we facilitate between ourselves and others in the region and around the world.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have different roles in IBM thathas allowed me to travel and live outside of Singapore. The seven years I spent abroad not only provided a rich professional experience, but it also opened my eyes to the vast cultural differences between countries and peoples that may not be evident to those who have yet to leave Singapore’s embrace.
This is what compels me to write today. As I see our regional neighbours gaining strength and influence, I believe it is more essential than ever for our workforce to move out of their comfort zone and gain international experience. Similarly, at a job function level, my CFO peers must also jettison their traditional role expectations, because the responsibilities of the CFOs are quickly changing.
The new role of the CFO
Just as I would advise an up-and-coming colleague on the value of experiencing different cultures, so would I extoll to my CFO peers the imperative of welcoming change within our discipline. No longer simply back room bean counters, CFOs are now sitting side-by-side at the table with the CEO, creating strategies that will make or break the business.
If you think about it, this is a perfectly natural transition. Of all the data that an organization now collects, it is actually the finance department that has much of that information. And with those insights, the CFO is not only better able to help design company strategy, but is also more empowered to make decisions that can translate into competitive advantage.
Here at IBM, I have access to a great depth of IT expertise and people who can make highly technical concepts easy to understand. The fact is, technology is now moving so fast that it is sometimes difficult to grasp how the world is shifting, and how that translates to the level of finance.
I believe the more outside-the-box experience you have, the better positioned you will be to overcome the challenges that come with change. I would be more than happy to lend my perspective on how I evaluate ROI as a CFO, how you can stretch your dollar and better manage your cash flow, and how as CFOs we can leverage IT to increase productivity and return value to shareholders.
Chief Financial Officer, IBM ASEAN