These are challenging times for treasury and finance executives—especially those in the Asia Pacific. There are country trade disputes to navigate, currency fluctuations to juggle, and digital disruptions in payments and e-commerce.
To better understand how one Asia Pacific finance leader handles today's challenges, AFP’s Ira Apfel spoke to Stephen Hogan, Vice President Regional Treasury Asia Pacific at Deutsche Post DHL.
AFP: Tell me a little bit about the scope of your duties.
Stephen Hogan: I'm part of the Deutsche Post AG corporate finance department. I'm based in Singapore, and my role encompasses 41 countries in Asia Pacific, stretching from Pakistan to the Pacific Islands. We have probably in the region of about 140 legal entities across four core divisions, operating in those countries. That is the geographical footprint my team and I cover.
We're only a small team. We're a team of four people, but having said that, we're part of a larger group. Our main team is based in Bonn, Germany and so we have a large part of our technical support comes from there. We work very closely with those four business divisions that we support in this region.
AFP: What would you say is your biggest challenge right now?
Stephen Hogan: Well, I think when you cover such a diverse geography, there can be a various amount of challenges. You know, we're looking at everything from cash management to risk management, so on one hand we have to monitor the ethics risk positions across all those diverse currencies.
But also a challenge is, how do we handle the growth in new payment technologies? As consumers wish to use, maybe, mobile wallets and digital wallets, it's how do we best position ourselves to be able to allow our business units to offer those solutions in the markets in which we're trying to grow?
The world is, as many people know, there's a lot of those payment solutions now developing and when you're trying to offer it over multiple countries, it can be difficult to link up all those payment technologies. But it's also an opportunity because it allows us to deliver to our customers the payment methods they most want.
AFP: How do you go about hiring? Do you hire them right out of university, or are you looking for a particular set of skills in finance and banking? How does that work for you?
Stephen Hogan: It’s important to know that the Deutsche Post DHL Group is an employer of in excess of 500,000 people worldwide. I've always been of the view that, when you have that kind of employee base, you have a lot of talent internally.
For me personally, I've always thought it's best to give opportunities internally and overall, many of my staff have come from the finance background. They are coming from the traditional finance, the controlling areas. They typically may have professional qualifications in finance or accountancy.
One of the things I've been always very focused on is about nurturing internal talent. Because we have a finance organization globally of about 10 thousand people. I think, therefore, there's always talent within that group.
AFP: How did you end up at Deutsche Post DHL, and what did you learn in your previous roles that helped prepare you for where you are today?
Stephen Hogan: I started in UK Civil Service, and then I moved into the National Health Service. You're talking a different kind of environment, public service, but at the same time, I was studying for accountancy exams.
But actually, within the National Health Service, where I was working in a hospital, as many people know, you're talking large amounts of money are flowing through the system. That was really my first introduction to treasury because I used to, one of the main roles as a financial accountant in that job was to safeguard and protect the financial, the cash resources of the hospital.
That then introduced me to money market activity and dealing directly with banks in the City of London on large money market transactions.
Then of course I decided the opportunity to move into the private sector, and that's when I moved to DHL and what attracted me to DHL was the knowledge that this was a company that was working in 220 countries and territories in the world. There was a far greater opportunity, from a financial professional's perspective, to broaden their wings.
When I was in the UK, yes, it was a country environment but very quickly it was a treasury role, it was a treasury accountant role. I was involved in money market activity, and then it was involved in projects related to cash management.
AFP: What would you most like to work on in terms of your own skills development right now, if you had the time?
Stephen Hogan: One of my goals is to be better at facilitating and delivering knowledge to others. This is something I find of most interest. It's not necessarily technical skills, because over the years, you've built that up through qualifications and through your experience in the role.
Now I think it's about being a facilitator, helping others, helping them to understand the purpose of our organization, what we're here to do. That's a skill that in the last year or so, I've been very keen to develop.
AFP: How difficult is it for you to navigate all the growth in regulations and regulatory uncertainty?
Stephen Hogan: I think we've always had regulations and regulations come and go and it's part and parcel of the job. I mean, you can have a scenario when you cover such a region like Asia Pacific, you can have some countries who are doing a lot of liberalization and removing regulation, where others, for their own reasons, are tightening. I would say it's part of what you do.
I think what's interesting for treasurers is, as we move into this digital world, and the growth of digitalization and the opportunities that exist out there to not just change the way we work but change the value-add that we deliver to our colleagues in the business.
I think that is a great opportunity. I think we all have to deal with regulation, but I think the opportunities are, particularly in the area of digitalization, are great ones.
The adoption of RPA or machine learning into treasury processes, streamlining what we do so that we start to do more value-added predictive analytics, et cetera, I think is a great opportunity.
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