CFO Innovation Awards 2014: Meet Asia’s CFOs and Partners of the Year

It was the biggest CFO Innovation gala dinner yet. Now on its third year, the CFO Innovation Awards 2014 at the Marina Mandarin Singapore on 13 November was attended by more than 130 CFOs and other guests from Singapore, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and other countries.

And the honorees are:

  • CFO of the Year: Mohamed Rafique Merican, Group CFO, Malayan Banking Berhad (Malaysia)
  • Excellence in Profitability Management: Alan Seigrist, CFO, The Executive Centre (Hong Kong)
  • Excellence in Business Partnering: June Cheryl Cabal-Revilla, Group CFO, PLDT Fixed Line Subsidiaries (Philippines)
  • Excellence in Technology Innovation: Keith Chan, Group Finance Director, Volkswagen Group Hong Kong Limited
  • Excellence in Mergers & Acquisitions: V S Parthasarathy, CFO, Group CIO and EVP-Group M&A, Mahindra & Mahindra Limited (India)

Partner of the Year awards were also handed out to the accounting firms, management consultancies, banks, insurance companies, technology providers and executive recruiters that you, our readers, voted for as the most innovative and responsive service providers to the finance function.

The winners of the CFO Innovation Awards 2014

CFO of the Year: Mohamed Rafique Merican of Malayan Banking Berhad

Just two years into his tenure as Group CFO at Malaysia’s Maybank, Mohamed Rafique Merican (pictured below) recently notched a first for ASEAN banking. Finance worked with the business to design and implement an exclusive two-year strategic partnership with the country’s National Single Window.

Exporters and importers use this platform to make customs declarations and payments and other trade paperwork. Maybank is currently the only institution with access to the detailed and massive records. This is allowing it to find and vet new clients and design trade finance and other products customized specifically for them.

Finance’s initiative can be transformative for Maybank. An initial assessment of 8,000 mainly smaller companies in the Single Window database revealed that 76% had no relationship with the bank. Because Maybank has access to a company’s transactions and track record, it can better assess the risks and offer better terms and conditions than the competition.

The relationship need not be limited only to trade and supplier finance. Maybank is also looking to extend the relationship to lending, transaction banking, investment banking and asset management. And the program will not be limited only to Malaysia. Finance is now assisting the business to forge similar Single Window arrangements with other ASEAN governments.

The out-of-the-box thinking is not new to Rafique, a fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in the UK. Before joining Maybank in 2012, he was CEO of healthcare company Radicare and then CFO of national utility Tenaga Nasional Berhad and power firm Malakoff Berhad.

These experiences over two decades honed his approach to business partnering. But Rafique is also focused on other equally important aspects of financial management. He has implemented activity-based costing for customer profitability analysis, automated and streamlined the budgeting process, and embedded financial performance metrics in the balanced scorecard system.

He and his team are now working with IT on a Regional Data Enterprise Data Warehouse project, which will replace the existing data warehouse in Malaysia and then in the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia. The objective is to establish a single source of truth that is system-independent and able to aggregate data to the group level.

Last year, Maybank grew revenues by 11% to US$5.5 billion and earnings by 12% to US$2.6 billion. If the Single Window initiatives pan out, the financial results in the next two years might be far more robust.

Excellence in Profitability Management: Alan Seigrist of The Executive Centre

What is private equity investment manager doing as CFO of a pan-regional serviced real estate company like The Executive Centre? For Alan Seigrist, the transition from venture capitalist to taking overall financial responsibility for a US$120-million-a-year operation has been seamless.

As a private equity player, he partnered with The Executive Centre’s CEO and founder in 1999 to pull off a US$20-million buyout from the original owners. As CFO, Seigrist then arranged a steady flow of funding from private equity firms including Rothschild Investment Trust, CVC and Headland Private Equity.

Today, the company operates more than 65 business centers across 21 major cities. But his financial management has not focused so much on “flag planting” – expansion for the sake of market share – as on ROI and profitability. The company’s for new projects has averaged over 50% since 2009, helping propel EBITDA to increase 1,575% from 2003 to 2013.

To reach the company’s financial goals, Seigrist built a data analysis platform to track and manage the company’s customer base. This provides the financial understanding that guides customer relations management that both keeps clients happy and also captures new revenue streams as the interaction reveals new products and services customers want and are willing to pay for.

Alan Seigrist brought his family to the awards ceremony

Technology is a key tool in Seigrist’s arsenal. The analytics platform allows finance to support rapid sales cycles, including recent large regional deals with, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and Apple. The use of the multi-dimensional modelling software Quantrix enables the kind of comprehensive financial tracking and forecasting that Excel cannot deliver, he adds.

And the Forecast and Contract Tracking System (FACTS) that Seigrist had a direct hand in developing is helping The Executive Centre manage enterprise risk better – bad debts now account for only 0.05% of receivables, with A/R collection at only seven days. The cost of finance is currently just 0.02% of revenues, a figure that Seigrist expects to decline further over time.

Excellence in Business Partnering: June Cheryl Cabal-Revilla of PLDT

Few finance professionals would want to be responsible for financial management of 16 enterprises, but June Cheryl Cabal-Revilla has accepted the challenge with aplomb. She is CFO of the fixed-line subsidiaries of Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT), a major telco in the Philippines, including companies in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, UK and the US.

Cabal-Revilla (pictured below with her husband, Philippine Mayor Strike Revilla) has been remarkably successful in working with different and diverse stakeholders in the 16 subsidiaries and the holding company, which is chaired by Philippine tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan. “She’s an excellent finance person, very intelligent and with solid integrity,” says the chairman. “She is very personable and a likable and affable person.”

“Within the organization, her views are always solicited,” he adds. “Beyond finance, she exerts influence as to how strategic plans are crafted . . . One day, she should be groomed to become a CEO of major company within the Group.”

Emmanuel Lorenzana, President and CEO at PLDT cable company Cignal TV, has been working with Cabal-Revilla for 18 months. “In such a short time, she helped a fast-growing but unprofitable organization into profit for the first time in its existence,” he says. “She did this through tough but fair fiduciary measures and helping create a culture of efficiency in cost and resource utilization.”

Cabal-Revilla’s focus on affable business partnering and tough but fair financial discipline helped boost core income at the holding company by 30% to US$78.8 million, even though revenues grew only 7% to US$1.3 billion. Cignal TV, which has been in the red since it was launched in 2009, reported core income of US$1 million in the first half of 2014 – from a loss of US$2.9 million in the same period last year.

It might be that a 17th or an 18th company will get added to Cabral-Revilla’s portfolio. Not to worry. Most financial systems are now automated and a new Center of Excellence for Finance is freeing in-house finance teams to focus more on analytics and strategy support for top management and operations.

The adoption and improvements in finance systems, says the CFO, have not only cut the overall cost of finance, but also accorded respect and empowerment to the function – which in turn is attracting the best and the brightest finance professionals to join and stay on with the company.


Excellence in Technology Innovation: Keith Chan of Volkswagen Group Hong Kong

Visit the Volkswagen showroom in Hong Kong and be prepared to be impressed by the efficiency and real-time systems in place there – through the use of tablets and smart phones. Customers sign for purchases and other services on the iPad, which is automatically updated on the financial and other systems.

It’s all thanks to Group Finance Director Keith Chan (pictured below), who also leads IT and procurement functions. A self-confessed tech geek, he has been pushing the use of mobile technologies in the showroom, the new automotive center and the back-office, including accounting, finance and analytics.

The initiative has been working out so well that the Hong Kong office, which is also responsible for Macau, has been designated an innovation hub by Volkswagen headquarters in Germany. The Hong Kong unit was recently invited to the Global Country CEO Meeting to share its best practices and innovations with other markets. The use of mobile technologies in Hong Kong is now being replicated in China, the Philippines, Middle East and other places and brands.

The deployment of the latest mobile technologies in finance is particularly useful in process automation and management analytics. The CFO and others in finance can view, assess and approve transactions on the go, for example. Real- and near real-time information can also be accessed anytime, anywhere and action taken or recommended.

Excellence in Mergers & Acquisitions: V S Parthasarathy of Mahindra & Mahindra

Between 2005 and 2011, automotive multinational Mahindra was the second most active acquirer in India. The conglomerate bought Korea’s Ssangyong Motors, Yueda Tractor Co. in China, Engines Engineering Italy, the UK’s Stokes Group and domestic firms Satyam Computers and Punjab Tractors.

V S Parthasarathy is a key player in more than 50 M&A transactions, which have propelled group revenues to US$16.5 billion today. Mahindra & Mahindra, the flagship utility vehicle and farm-equipment company, earned after-tax profit of US$633 million on sales of US$7 billion in fiscal year 2013-14 – up 12% and 1%, respectively, from the previous year.

The M&A experience and expertise finance has accumulated should continue to serve Mahindra well. But Parthasarathy is not limiting the service just to the group. He is offering finance’s expertise to Mahindra & Mahindra’s vendors, dealers and other business partners as well. These medium- and small-sized enterprises are typically not in the radar of investment banks.

“This benefits the entire eco-system and creates a deep bond between Mahindra & Mahindra and its business partners,” says the CFO, who is also Executive Vice President for Group M&A and Group CIO.

A fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, Parthasarathy  joined Mahindra & Mahindra in 2000. He has pioneered a CFO Track Program at Mahindra, which identifies young talent and takes them through a mix of classroom training and cross-functional job exposure. He is also focused on technology as an enabler of financial and operational efficiency and effectiveness, as well as in risk management and M&A.

ACCA’s Soo Yee Leong (left) congratulates V S Parthasarathy  

Partner of the Year Awards

The top three vote-getters and the winners of the Partner of the Year Awards are:

Best in Audit Services

Ernst & Young


PwC (Partner of the Year)

Best in Risk Management Advisory

Ernst & Young


PwC (Partner of the Year)

Best International Bank Provider of Cash Management Services


HSBC (Partner of the Year)

Standard Chartered Bank

Best Hong Kong Bank Provider of Cash Management Services

Bank of East Asia

BOC Hong Kong

Hang Seng Bank (Partner of the Year)

Best India Bank Provider of Cash Management Services

Bank of India (Partner of the Year)



Best Indonesia Bank Provider of Cash Management Services

Bank Central Asia (Partner of the Year)

Bank CIMB Niaga

Bank Negara Indonesia

IBM ASEAN CFO Angeline Chua (left) presents the award to BCA’s Dhalia Ariotedjo

Best Malaysia Bank Provider of Cash Management Services


Maybank Bhd (Partner of the Year)

Public Bank

Best Philippines Bank Provider of Cash Management Services

Bank of the Philippine Islands

Metrobank (Partner of the Year)

Union Bank of the Philippines

Best Singapore Bank Provider of Cash Management Services

DBS Bank (Partner of the Year)

Overseas-Chinese Banking Corp. (OCBC)

United Overseas Bank (UOB)


Best Provider of Trade Credit Insurance


Coface (Partner of the Year)

Euler Hermes

Hays’ Chris Meade (left) and Coface’s Eric Malterre

Best Insurance Broker


Jardine  Lloyd Thompson

Marsh (Partner of the Year)

Best Treasury Management System (TMS) Solution


SAP (Partner of the Year)


Best Analytics/Business Intelligence (BI) Solution

IBM (Cognos)


SAP Business Objects (Partner of the Year)

Jurong Town Corp.’s CFO Tuck Chuen Ho and SAP’s Thomas Zipperle


Best Cloud Services Provider (Platform/Infrastructure)


Google Cloud (Partner of the Year)


Best Cloud Services Provider (Enterprise Software)

Infosys Cloud Services


SAP Cloud Solutions (Partner of the Year)

Best in IT Outsourcing


IBM (Partner of the Year)


Best in Telco Services


SingTel (Partner of the Year)


Best in Managed Services

Cisco (Partner of the Year)

Nokia Siemens


Best in Finance and Accounting Recruitment

HAYS Recruiting Experts Worldwide (Partner of the Year)

Michael Page

Robert Walters

Best in Finance and Accounting Outsourcing

Accenture (Partner of the Year)



Singapore Airlines CFO Stephen Barnes (left) and Accenture’s Paul Prendergast

Best in Payroll Outsourcing

Accenture (Partner of the Year)

Aon Hewitt


Best in Document Solutions

Fuji Xerox (Partner of the Year)



Best in Factoring

Capital Business Credit

Excellence Singapore

IFS Capital (Partner of the Year)


About the Author

Cesar Bacani is Editor-in-Chief of CFO Innovation.


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