Editor’s Note: Raymond Yeo, CFO at Epsilon, is the CFO of the Year of the 7th CFO Innovation Awards. All finalists of the CFO of the Year categories were ranked independently by a board of judges. This year, members of the board of judges include: Jacqueline Chan, CFO, DBS Bank (Hong Kong) Limited; Adri Kwee, Managing Partner of KCG, Group CFO of VIP Plaza Pte Ltd; and Dennis Tan, EVP &CFO, Asia Pacific, DHL Express Asia Pacific
The CFO role has seen enormous change, which is partly driven by technology and corporations’ use of it to stay relevant.
Raymond Yeo (pictured) joined his current employer Epsilon—a connectivity provider— in 2016, According to him, it was the time when the firm's finance team started its transformation journey.
Outside the more traditional duties of the finance function, the 18-strong team also acts as an enabler and needs to create value, Yeo said. As a result, being the leader of the function, Yeo also plays a changed role. “CFOs have become strategic partners who are expected to help achieve goals set by their organizations,” he pointed out.
Managing changes, managing Millennials
Ensuring that finance’s mindset changes to align with changes in the company’s business model is part of Yeo’s job.
Though humans by default resist changes, the Singapore-based CFO said his team—of which 40% are Millennials—are not so change-resistant.
“While this team wants challenges, the company has a “collaboration model” which works well with these younger people who want to be part of the decision-making process,” he said.
He appreciates much of these younger executives’ technology savviness as well. They are strong in programming languages such as SQL, which facilitates finance in improving revenue forecast and order booking model, dashboard, and analytics, Yeo pointed out.
As finance has rebuilt models to improve reliability and transparency on forecast, a more realistic view and appropriate basis is available as a validation against sales input and expectations, he said.
“As a result, Information for decision making among C-level executives has improved significantly,” Yeo noted.
Change is tough, but we must accept that it’s the only constant
Tech and finance
When it comes to finance’s deployment of technology, his team has introduced expense claim procedures in Oracle and implemented direct billing interface between in-house customer care and ordering system to Oracle ERP.
According to him, automation has improved staff efficiency by 25%.
“We’re also in the process of implementing a procure-to-pay function, which will benefit not only finance but also procurement and other related functions in the company,” Yeo said.
He expects the procure-to-pay function—when successfully deployed—can help improve cost efficiency by 33%.
While all these projects sound exciting, 2018 is a challenging year at Epsilon, Yeo observed.
“As a business focused on delivering cloud-centric networking solutions, it’s important to have finance functions that match the agility of the services we offer to customers,” he said. “We also need a robust finance model that can support all business units across the organization.”
In addition, the move from manual processes to fully automated finance management means the need to re-skill employees, hire new people and ensure that the system aligns with the overall business strategy, he added.
“Change is tough, but we must accept that it’s the only constant,” Yeo said.
“Change is the constant” is also true of finance talent retention today in Singapore.
In addition, 98% of CFOs in the country admit they have made a miscalculated hiring decision, with almost one in four (24%) taking only two weeks to discover that they have hired the wrong person, another Robert Half survey reveals.
Yeo said his team’s turnover is about 5%in these two years.
According to him, he has introduced succession planning and a key talent framework that helps improve job grading of existing human capital and ensures a low attrition rate of below 10%.
To address issues related to hiring efficiency and cultural fit, the company has set up a hiring committee this year, he noted.
2019: Another year of change
Looking into 2019, the CFO said it’ll be another year of change.
“I’m sure there will be new challenges but I’m confident in overcoming them together with an amazing team of people at Epsilon,” he said.
“The role of CFO is transforming, and I think it’s important for CFOs to learn to embrace flexibility to better support business transformation and enable innovation,” he noted. “Be curious and continue to explore new ways of doing things beyond our traditional functions."