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Articles

FP&A in Southeast Asia: The Right Tools, Talent Needed

  • By Brian Kalish, FP&A
  • Published: 11/20/2014

Brian Kalish, FP&A, director of the FP&A practice for AFP, is on the road every month, meeting with financial planning and analysis professionals about the Corporate FP&A Professional Certification. Kalish recently traveled to Southeast Asia, where practitioners stressed the need for better tools and talent in financial planning and analysis. He filed this report:

In October, I had the opportunity to share the advances AFP has made on the Corporate FP&A Professional Certification with practitioners in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In addition, we discussed the educational and networking opportunities AFP has to offer the worldwide FP&A community.

Singapore

Working in conjunction with the CFO Innovation group, AFP held an FP&A roundtable breakfast discussion entitled, “Finding the Right Talent and Other Challenges”. The goal of the roundtable was to answer the question of how companies in Singapore are progressing in the task of embedding analytics and business intelligence in the finance function, and the role that technology and professional FP&A qualifications can play in reaching this objective. Companies are becoming more and more reliant on analytics for forecasting and planning because of trends such as increased volatility in economic and business environments, intensified competition from globalization, huge volumes of data available due to  automation and e-commerce, and demands on finance to supply the rest of the business with clarity on the way forward.

The topics the participants were most interested in addressing included:

  1. The shallow bench of FP&A talent
  2. Inadequate technical tools and knowledge
  3. “Gaming” of forecasts to align with arbitrary targets
  4. Lack of timeliness in forecasting
  5. Resistance to change.

We also secured a bit of a coup, by having Liew Hsiao Yun, FP&A, financial planning and analysis manager at Wood Mackenzie in Singapore, join the roundtable. Hsiaso Yun is the first person in Singapore to earn the FP&A designation (Kah Mun Hoi, FP&A, of Tognum Asia has since become the second). As far as highlighting the importance and the global nature of the certification, nothing emphasizes the point more than having a local credential-holder.

Two of my favorite points from the conversation:

  • I was asked how my professional background made me qualified to write the FP&A exam. While flattered that someone thought I could write the exam, it provided me the opportunity to explain how the exam was the collaborative effort of many, many FP&A professionals from around the world, from the original focus group to the item writers and the reviewers.
  • A practitioner who works for a major pharmaceutical company mentioned that to better help his FP&A team  understand what the company actually does, not only does he have staff spend time in the manufacturing facilities, he actually has them observe surgeries.  

Kuala Lumpur

I attended and spoke at the first Asian Beyond Budgeting Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This one-day event included representatives from Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, New Zealand, the UK, the U.S. and Norway.

Tenaga Nasional Berhad

After the conference, I had an excellent meeting with Tenaga Nasional Berhad, the largest electric utility company in Malaysia. Their CFO was truly excited to learn about the FP&A designation, and thought that this type of credential would be greatly beneficial to both individuals and companies. He was pleased to learn that someone from Malaysia has already earned the designation (Charlene Lee, FP&A, vice president of finance at Proserv) as well as there being candidates from Singapore and other parts of Asia.

Ericsson

I also met with Swedish communications giant Ericsson while in Kuala Lumpur. They were also very excited to learn about the developments on the FP&A Certification front, as well as the educational and networking opportunities AFP has been working on.

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