The Next CFOs by Bizzi Vietnam
“Since my early Vietnam experience in 2009, organizations have evolved considerably and many banks joined the stockmarket, hence the CFO role has become more demanding accordingly”. Rahn Wood – President of TDB Mongolia told Vietnam Insider in an interview last week. “Nowadays new technologies evolves every single day to support Financial people especially AI and Blockchain in which requires CFOs have to leverage technology to drive business growth and streamline financial processes.”
Could you share your career highlights?
I was fortunate to start my career during the initial period of computerization of manual processes and development of management information. Actually my first department at ANZ’s headquarters was Finance & Planning of Commercial Banking and I learned very early to extract & manipulate data files to extract meaningful insights. With the development of software and processing power my simple analyses evolved into more complex relationship pricing and portfolio.
I am forever grateful to ANZ allowing me to developing my banking experience through job rotation between planning, commercial lending, analytics, acquiring and electronic banking. Subsequently I moved into product management, card issuing and ultimately launching Australia’s first internet banking in 1995 at Advance Bank. The rest as they say was history as internet and later mobile banking became ‘de rigueur ‘ and incredibly popular with BPay (national bill payment) being the killer app that led to mass adoption. Ultimately physical banking channels became more focused on complex and higher value customer interactions.
In the second half of my career I decided to work abroad and am grateful to HSBC for opportunities to work in digital and retail banking focused roles across several markets – Australia, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Singapore & Hong Kong – which allowed me to learn about how different cultures and stages of economic development may impact on the demand for financial services.
Opportunity and Challenges that impact most importantly your career?
As previously mentioned, it was a conscious direction for me to seek to continuously develop my technical and business knowledge of various banking spheres. Whenever there was a strategic initiative or opportunity to extend myself I was a willing participant.
The biggest challenges in my career relate to changes in corporate strategy. For example when a Bank moved from a growth orientation to a compliance focus (with less appetite for expansion). At different times this resulted in a change of roles or even organization for me.
The Covid crisis also represented a huge challenge for me as I was CEO of a very large transport provider at that time with about 20,000 staff and a national reputation for public service. In hindsight that was an incredible leadership experience in a time of great uncertainty.
Any difference between a CFO in Mongolia / Australia to a CFO in Vietnam?
The role of the CFO has evolved over the course of my career. From something akin to Chief Accountant (controlling payments and budgets) to Chief Investment Officer with more of a focus on the triple bottom line, efficient allocation of capital and strategic development. In terms of comparisons it is self-evident that the expectation of CFOs in a developed market such as Australia is very high and demands an experienced, articulate professional with both the technical finance skills and ability to communicate with all stakeholders. Since my early Vietnam experience in 2009, organizations have evolved considerably and many banks joined the stockmarket, hence the CFO role has become more demanding accordingly. Perhaps the element that is comparatively underdeveloped is the ESG aspect but it will surely come to focus in the medium term.
Although Mongolia is quite a globalized economy the CFO role is at an early stage of development relative to Vietnam. The exception to this would be in the mining sector which has relatively high level of international investment.
Could you share with us one of your financial projects which impact strongly to your business? What do you think about the importance of Technology to Finance?
I believe the Transformation projects that I led have had the largest financial impacts during my career:- both on the top line (improving revenues through sales productivity); bottom line (service productivity and channel migration); and customer value (optimized solutions and timely contact). All of these innovations have been enabled through data-driven insights, tools such as CRM and workflows that are technology-dependent. Especially in banking there is a massive focus on compliance and risk control which must be satisfactorily managed in order to grow profitably and sustainably.
The importance of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for the role of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) is very significant. With a large volume of financial data, RPA can automate many accounting and financial
processes, reducing reliance on staff and reducing errors caused by human factors. This helps CFOs save time and enhance their ability to predict financial analysis, making more effective business decisions. Additionally, RPA also helps reduce operating costs, enhance safety, and increase the accuracy of financial data. Therefore, using RPA will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the CFO’s work
How do you manage to keep updated about changes in Finance and Technology when a lot of new things come up every day such as ChatGPT?
I am an insatiable reader of online resources and physical books. I find that the early morning 5am to 6am is an ideal time of day to scan my technology-related subscriptions, emails and extract any items for deeper investigation.
I also maximize the amount of time that I have to meet other business leaders and government representatives to understand trends that are likely to become part of the technology landscape rather than ephemeral. Trends such as AI and Analytics are sector-agnostic with many experiences that can be shared across industries.
Your advice to CFO in Vietnam to improve the business financial system?
I hesitate to advise CFOs but recommend a holistic view of the business:- strategy; process; technology; human resources; customer strategy; ESG; and risk management are all important to sustainable development. The CFO is in a unique position to understand the key levers from time-to-time and to influence internal and external stakeholders when it is appropriate to adjust these. Financial service is an important sector as it has an important role in promoting the development of the economy and private wealth so the CFO role is doubly important in the that context.