CFO Perspectives on the Finance Function Journey: Maritime Singapore

November 14, 2018 |

Yvonne Chan, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Corporate Development, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and Vice President of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants shared her perspectives on the finance function transformation journey with IFAC’s Professional Accountants in Business Committee during their meeting in Singapore.

Maritime Singapore contributes to around 7 per cent of Singapore’s GDP and has over 170,000 employees. It is the world’s second busiest container port and world’s top bunkering port.

In her CFO and Director role, Yvonne has been involved as part of the senior management team in the development of an industry transformation roadmap. This industry strategy seeks to foster innovation by enabling enhanced port services through digital technologies, improved productivity, and new jobs requiring new and updated skills.

As a substantial public sector entity, it is crucial for the MPA to plan far ahead for its infrastructure. Key areas of focus include:

  • Facilitating the plans for new port design innovation, and helping the organization think long term, and beyond current constraints.
  • Retaining talent in the maritime accounting industry.

MPA emphasizes service excellence at its core and does not take its customers for granted recognizing that customers have choices and if they do not evolve fast enough, customers could divert to other newer, cheaper and more efficient ports.

The MPA Finance Transformation Agenda

The finance function supports the business in four key areas:

  • Business partnership to support various departments
  • Governance and control
  • Industry engagement
  • Business analytics.

“If you want transformation but are not willing to take a drastic measure, then you are not really up for transformation”

The change management journey has involved:

  • Providing a clear vision and expectation for the role of the finance function in supporting the organization’s objectives, based on:
    • The finance function and its professionals moving beyond a support role to being co-pilots in the organization.
    • Being champions of customer-centricity and innovation.
  • From a staff and behavioral perspective, change management has involved human and behavior-centric leadership to help ensure the finance function has the people and skills to deliver the vision. Key elements of the people approach include:
    • Attracting high quality finance and accounting staff.
    • Supporting current staff development and skills acquisition, enabling them to be competitive in the job market.
    • Aligning corporate and personal goals; for example, by ensuring process re-engineering and new systems and approaches lead to a better work-life balance.
    • Using team events to help establish employees’ preferences and skills.
    • Enabling those staff who have an aptitude for financial strategy, planning and analysis to focus on those roles in a dedicated “management accounting” team that is primarily forward-looking. This team is              also focused on providing business analytics on key data points that help manage and steer the organization.
    • Dedicated team for general accounting providing confidence in the financial governance of the organization.
  • A constant upgrade of the finance ERP systems architecture, and deploying specialist tools and applications for budgeting and business analytics.
  • Enabling effective business analytics delivered in real-time and in easily-consumable formats to mobile devices such as tablets.
  • Constant review of process and procedure design using process mapping, with the aim of reducing human touch points and replacing with system processing, when possible. This reduces risk as checkpoints and verification become increasingly embedded in the system. It also allows more time for the finance function to identify and evolve key performance indicators and review performance with a sense making capability. This requires close partnership with the business and wider skillsets and behaviors.
  • Implementation of an enterprise risk management framework to provide a structured approach to determining challenges and risks confronting the organization, including finance-related risks and subsequently adopting risk mitigation measures.

Finance’s Strategic Role in Sustainability and Integrated Reporting

  • Sustainability Reporting increasingly falls within the job roles of accountants – MPA has produced a 4-part series of Sustainability/Integrated Reports, beginning with the inaugural issue for 2014 (the MPA’s 2017 report is available here)
    • This report also maps MPA’s material issues and key initiatives to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs) to provide focus on those areas where the MPA is helping to fulfill societal goals. Please visit page 17 of the MPA report for further details.

The sustainability/integrated reporting process enables the finance function to re-orientate its focus to holistic performance covering all those key areas that are driving value creation.

 

Taken from the IFAC PAIB Committee report, Perspectives on the Finance Function Journey


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