FP&A in Southeast Asia: The Right Tools, Talent Needed

In October, I had the opportunity to share the advances AFP has made on the Corporate FP&A Professional Certification with practitioners in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In addition, we discussed the educational and networking opportunities that AFP has to offer the worldwide FP&A community.

Singapore

Working in conjunction with the CFO Innovation group, AFP held an FP&A roundtable breakfast discussion entitled ‘Finding the Right Talent and Other Challenges’. The goal of the roundtable was to assess how companies in Singapore are progressing in the task of embedding analytics and business intelligence (BI) in the finance function, and the role that technology and professional FP&A qualifications can play in reaching this objective.

Companies increasingly rely on analytics for forecasting and planning because of trends such as increased volatility in economic and business environments, intensified competition from globalisation, huge volumes of data available due to automation and e-commerce, and demands on finance to supply the rest of the business with clarity on the way forward.

The topics the participants were most interested in addressing included:

  1. The scarcity of FP&A talent.
  2. Inadequate technical tools and knowledge.
  3. ‘Gaming’ of forecasts to align with arbitrary targets.
  4. Lack of timeliness in forecasting.
  5. Resistance to change.

We also secured something of a coup in having Liew Hsiao Yun, FP&A manager at research and consultancy group Wood Mackenzie in Singapore, join the roundtable. Hsiaso Yun is the first person in Singapore to earn the FP&A designation (Kah Mun Hoi of engineering group MTU Asia [formerly Tognum Asia] has since become the second). When highlighting the importance and global nature of the certification, nothing emphasises the point more than having a local credential-holder.

Two of my favorite points from the conversation:

  • I was asked how my professional background made me qualified to write the FP&A exam. While flattered that someone thought I could produce it solo, it provided the opportunity to explain how the exam was the collaborative effort of numerous FP&A professionals around the world, from the original focus group to the item writers and reviewers.
  • A practitioner who works for a major pharmaceutical company mentioned that to better help his FP&A team  understand what the company actually does, not only does he have staff spend time in the manufacturing facilities but actually has them observe surgeries. 

Kuala Lumpur

I attended and spoke at the first ‘Asian Beyond Budgeting Conference’ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This one-day event included representatives from Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Norway.

Tenaga Nasional Berhad

After the conference, I had an excellent meeting with Tenaga Nasional Berhad, the largest electric utility company in Malaysia. Their chief financial officer (CFO) was truly excited to learn about the FP&A designation, and considered this type of credential to be greatly beneficial to both individuals and companies. He was pleased to learn that someone from Malaysia has already earned the designation (Charlene Lee, vice president of finance at sports management firm ProServ) in addition to candidates from Singapore and other parts of Asia.

Ericsson

I also met with representatives from Swedish communications giant Ericsson while in Kuala Lumpur. They too showed keen interest in developments on the FP&A Certification front, as well as the educational and networking opportunities that AFP has developed.

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