Having served Jardine Matheson of Hong Kong for 9 years, Max Sunarcia, Group Treasurer, is a relative newcomer to the nearly 200-year-old company. An Asian-based conglomerate mainly operating in, you guessed it, Asia, the company is focused on China and South-East Asia.
“The nature of the business is a diversified business group focused principally on Asia, essentially multi-industry conglomerate. The Group’s interests include businesses across a variety of sectors including property investment and development, luxury hotels, retailing, restaurants, construction and engineering, motor vehicles and related activities, financial services, heavy machinery, mining and agribusiness” said Max.
As the Group Treasurer, he looks after the head office treasury function in Hong Kong, which includes the operational treasury handling of head office cash, banking facilities and raising finance at the group-holding company level. On top of that, he covers investor relations, group insurance programs and looks after the investments of the group pension plan.
Treasury inside and outside the head office
There are 10 treasury staff altogether, five of which focus primarily on treasury, while the others support insurance, analysis and administration. And, interestingly enough, their functional currency is U.S. dollars.
Given how much territory the company covers, we wondered how Jardine’s treasury function was focused — centralized, regional or decentralized. “We are kind of regional and decentralized at the same time,” said Max. What does that mean?
Jardine has listed subsidiaries within the structure, and each subsidiary runs its own treasury function. For example, one of their subsidiaries is a property developer in Hong Kong and Singapore; they have their own treasury function. The group itself is present in most of the Asian countries outside of Japan and Korea, so from China all the way down to Indonesia, including Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar.
TMS and digitalization
Jardine is in the process of reviewing its treasury management systems. While they are currently using SunGard, some of their treasury colleagues in the listed subsidiaries are using different systems. Max
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A big part of the work of Jardine’s treasury department is reporting. Because of that, digitalization of the treasury function and reliance on technology to make the processes and data collection a lot more efficient is something they are actively focusing on. Along with this comes the challenge of getting the team to adopt digital technologies. “It's something that requires time to embed into the culture and the working processes,” he said.
Managing banking relationships is a full-time job
How many banking relationships does he manage? “A lot,” said Max. One of their key approaches is diversification because of the size of the group. Jardine relies on its network of key-relationship banks, and those include most of the top international, Chinese , Japanese banks and Singaporean banks.
“We rely on our broad network of key relationship banks to manage counterparty and credit exposures, and liquidity risk from a financing perspective” said Max. “Being a regional conglomerate, we rely on different banks who may be strong in different parts of the region. So the products and services they can offer vary depending on the market in which we operate in.”
What we can learn from each other
Networking and learning about the different challenges other council members face from a treasury point of view are the two things Max is most looking forward as he embarks on his time serving as member of the AFP APAC Treasury Advisory Council (TAC). “I’m excited to share and learn as much as possible from each other,” he said. “We all have tools in our back pocket, things we've accumulated over time through our experiences and training that could be invaluable to someone else.”
Add this to your must-read list
As part of our profiles of the APAC TAC, we’re asking each person to name a book they’ve read recently and would recommend. Max named “Eat, Sleep, Innovate: How to Make Creativity an Everyday Habit Inside Your Organization.” In it, “innovation experts use groundbreaking research in behavioral science to provide a first-of-its-kind playbook for empowering individuals and teams to be their most curious and creative.”
“It’s a very good book,” said Max. He said it talks about how companies embed a culture of innovation that is not only a mindset culture shift, but includes visible behavior enablers, artifacts and nudges — something most companies with an innovative culture rely on. “I found it to be quite fascinating on how the most innovative companies successfully embed these techniques in their culture and working environment,” he said.