Treasurers and CFO Driving Transformation

It’s no longer just the preserve of nerdy tech teams or breathlessly big picture chief executive officers. Digital transformation in the Asia Pacific region is now increasingly being driven by the chief financial officer and corporate treasurers.
According to a survey of 1,304 CFOs and corporate treasurers from an even mix of middle market companies and corporations in the $1bn revenue bracket, 29.5% see themselves as responsible for pushing the digital strategy of their company.
Commissioned by DBS and conducted by East & Partners Asia in May this year, the survey still found that a majority of CFOs and treasurers - 43.6% - saw digital strategy as the responsibility of their technology colleagues. However, only 11.3% of respondents across APAC said that driving digital transformation was the responsibility of their CEOs.
A large number of the CFO and corporate treasurer respondents (44.1%) also noted that along with leading the agenda they are partnering heavily with their business units to drive digital execution.


Digital Readiness
In terms of digital readiness, the survey also showed that seven in 10 companies in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region risk being left behind by a lack of digital strategy and execution plan. Singapore companies fared better with 41% having a digital transformation strategy in place. Australian businesses appeared to be the least mature of the developed markets surveyed with under 10% having a clearly defined digital strategy.

“More and more, companies have come to understand that digital transformation involves a complete transformation across their organisation - from front-end sales engagement to back-end operations,” said John Laurens, group head of Global Transaction Services at DBS. He said that digital transformation is pervasive and disrupting industries across the globe.

“We are seeing more and more CFOs and Treasurers being called upon to drive this change because they have broad oversight and in-depth understanding of key business drivers and organisational challenges,” he said.

Speed of Change
CFOs and corporate treasurers said that the top three risks to digital adoption were: 1. The speed of change and complexity of the enabling technologies (86.4%) 2. Execution challenges and delivery of outcomes (78.8%) 3.

The availability of talent to help execute digital transformation efforts (67.6%) Laurens said companies were increasingly seeking out banks’ advice on the suitability and safety of new technologies for business use. “It is interesting to see CFOs and treasurers deal with some of the new fintech risks emerging as a result of the digital push by business leading to reliance on banks to help mitigate such risks,” he said. “What’s more, they are demanding new ways to connect to banks such as through APIs (application programming interfaces) where the connection is both direct and instantaneous.”

APIs Gain Ground
The increasing adoption of APIs for integration with banks and third parties was a particular highlight in the Index, with 32.3% of CFOs and treasurers now using APIs to connect with banks and other third parties. This is set to grow to 40% over the next 12 months.

“It’s all about APIs for us; they are quick to deploy and tend not to require major rework around our ERP platforms. We are finding the approach especially useful as well across our supply chain partners,” according to one large Hong Kong-based exporter.

When addressing the greatest advantages they see from digital transformation, CFOs and corporate treasurers ranked reducing costs and improving efficiencies as a top return on investment. However, improved customer experience and lower market engagement barriers followed very closely, illustrating the growing realisation that digital transformation is critical to driving competitive advantage and future revenue generation for their businesses.

The survey conducted by East & Partners Asia took in 13 markets: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

This Research is jointly brought to you by DBS, East & Partners and The Corporate Treasurer, and this article was first published on The Corporate Treasurer on 31 July 2019.

The information herein is published by DBS Bank Ltd. (“DBS Bank”) and is for information only. 

The information is not directed to, or intended for distribution to or use by, any person or entity who is a citizen or resident of or located in any locality, state, country or other jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, availability or use would be contrary to law or regulation 

DBS Bank Ltd. All rights reserved. All services are subject to applicable laws and regulations and service terms. Not all products and services are available in all geographic areas. Eligibility for particular products and services is subject to final determination by DBS Bank Ltd and/or its affiliates/subsidiaries.