Programme Aims to Transform Asia's CFOs into Business Leaders

ICAEW and INSEAD recently welcomed the inaugural cohort of Financial Talent Executive Network (F-TEN) Asia Pacific (APAC) delegates, who will undergo an elite training programme to prepare them to become C-Suite executives.


The F-TEN combines external mentorship and peer-to-peer networking with business leadership workshops and technical sessions, to ensure that delegates learn the necessary soft business skills and strategic thinking that will enable them to be effective senior executives.


“The F-TEN fills a massive gap in leadership training today,” says Gerard Ee, Chairman, Council for Third Age and a F-TEN mentor. “The big issue has always been: who trains the CFO? The answer is that nobody seriously trains one. Most learn on the job and in many cases - especially in smaller companies and listed companies - they have very competent accountants who are good at their job and are named CFOs, but they are not one in truth.”


The programme, adapted from ICAEW’s highly successful F-TEN programme and localised through its partnership with INSEAD, draws delegates from across South East Asia who are paired with senior business leaders acting as mentors throughout the programme.


The mentors provide impartial guidance on practical business issues and advice on managing boardroom dynamics.ICAEW, which has over 140,000 members across the world, has a pool of talent and expertise in the region, including CFOs and CEOs, from which the mentors are drawn.


Mentors of the 2013 F-TEN APAC programme include Vivek Ahuja, Deputy CEO of Standard Chartered Bank; Dato CY Lee, President and Chief Operating Officer of Genting Malaysia; Gautam Banerjee, Chairman of Blackstone Singapore and past Executive Chairman of PwC.


“To be a fully functioning CFO, you need to have worked across a number of sectors with many years of experience," says Gautam Banerjee. "Large companies certainly have good CFOs but a number of mid-sized and smaller companies want to attract the right level of talent for the job as well. Some of these companies have people who are more like controllers, so while they are good accountants, they may not necessarily be CFOs. A CFO is more than an accountant. A CFO is someone who needs to understand the business, and be able to function across all business areas – and many CFOs go on to be CEOs.”


Delegates for the F-TEN APAC programme come from a range of sectors, with the majority of delegates from Malaysia and Singapore.


“It is hard to find something quite like this programme,” says Shariza Sharis, F-TEN delegate and Financial Controller, PETRONAS Chemicals Group Berhad. “While we do have similar programmes in PETRONAS, they do not have the added advantage of tapping upon external experiences and knowledge, in terms of participants and mentors. This helps us avoid groupthink. With most internal programmes, you are with the same people who you may progress with and who are in the same environment as you. Having an external mentor who has already “been there” can offer an entirely different point of view, opening up a whole new perspective."


“F-TEN is a very successful programme because it uses mentoring and peer-to-peer networking to help senior finance professionals develop the leadership skills required of today’s CFOs,” says Mark Billington, Regional Director, ICAEW South East Asia. “It provides companies, from Multi-National Corporations to small-and-mid-sized firms, a platform for succession planning, career development and ultimately, business growth and performance.”

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