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CFO Panel Series – Developing Future Leaders 2019

This past summer, Ambition successfully hosted our 2019 CFO Panel Series – ‘Developing Tomorrow’s Finance Leaders’ in conjunction with our partner CPA Australia. 

 Over 75 Finance professionals attended the event as we explored topics including leadership, modern-day volatility, and technology. 

 We were delighted to have our distinguished guests, Gabriella Montandon – Strategic Business Advisor at the Lane Crawford Joyce Group, Joe Wan – CEO at Tricor Hong Kong, Donald Tong – Country CFO at FrieslandCampina Hong Kong, and Krishnaswamy Swaminathan – CFO of IBM Hong Kong, forming our panel.

 From leadership to modern-day volatility, our guests shared their thoughts on a diverse range of topics:

1.    How can leaders better prepare for modern-day volatility?

  • No one can predict the future, the most important aspect is to stay open-minded, review data to find the truth about the business before making any decisions

  • Execute on ideas because time is valuable in decision-making. Many organisations do not act quickly enough which eventually leads to more opportunity costs and disruptive competitors’ developing products and services first

  • As a business partner, you must understand the needs of different departments including those from cost and profit centres to execute business strategies that are best for the firm

  • Diversify revenue streams and look for opportunities in the market – challenges and adversity always come with potential opportunities

2.    Key emerging trends to look out for and how Finance professionals can be better equipped:

  • Automation, robots, and systems will replace operational staff doing data entry and reconciliation

  • Robots and AI have a significant advantage over humans in checking and matching data. However, interpreting and understanding the data have yet to catch up. Therefore, commercial business partners and data storytellers will still be in high demand

  • The future of cloud accounting and its ecosystems have arrived; we are seeing greater adaptation by major companies. The most critical factor will be the security of cloud servers

  •  It is important to research regulations, which often lag behind when managing new technologies such as data centres, bots, and AI

3.    How will the role of a CFO change in the coming 5 years?

  • A CFO will need to be a trusted advisor in every organisation. Traditionally, CFOs analyse the past and tell us ‘what happened’ but now CFOs are called on to contribute in forward-looking decision-making 

  • It will become more and more important for CFOs to understand all parts of the business and how the numbers affect different departments. Efficient resource allocation to business needs is critical and CFOs must become a trusted business partner to internal stakeholders

4.    Is it better for Finance professionals to be specialists (i.e. by industry, finance function or regions etc.) or generalists in their respective fields?  

  • Our panellists generally agree that CFOs must be generalists in their fields. They must know each function of the organisation to be able to see everything from a macro scale

  • However, to become a generalist it is good to be specialists for a period of time in different functions, whether it’s working in different countries or job functions to develop a broader understanding of the different business needs

 Final advice for finance professionals:

  • Finance professionals must be able to have insights – to be able to provide ideas and uncover findings on the organisation’s health and needs

  • Develop skills in change management in a rapidly developing world. Stay hungry and move forward alongside trends and markets

  • Have a people management mindset and be able to manage diverse cultural teams across geographical regions

  • Stay ambitious – ‘You are only as junior as you think you are'

Once again, thank you to our panellists for sharing their stories and thoughts. If you have any questions about our panel discussion and networking event, feel free to contact me at

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