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Closing Address By Mrs Josephine Teo, Minister of State for Finance and Transport, At the CFO Connect

19 Sep 2011


1. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

Background – Professional Needs of the Modern Day CFOs

2. I would touch on two points as a way of closing to today's event. The first is on the establishment of the CFO Institute. The second is on the Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council. As we have heard today, the roles of a CFO are ever evolving. CFOs now need to go beyond their traditional roles of being a steward and financial controller. They need to be a strategist, catalyst and in the words of Mr Yap Chee Keong, a business advisor too. And so they are a real value adding partner in some sense to the CEO. I think you would agree with me that it is a very important role today.

3. Over the past year, the Pro-Tem Singapore Accountancy Council, or "Pro-Tem SAC" for short, has discussed the issues confronting CFOs, and deliberated on how to better meet the professional development needs of modern day CFOs. They agreed that there is no universal definition of the role of a CFO. Depending on the nature of the business, the size of the company, its direction and at which stage of development the company is, the roles will differ. For instance, the CFO of a large diversified corporate group may need to frequently assess opportunities for mergers and acquisitions. In contrast, the CFO of a small, rapidly growing start up is likely to focus on raising growth capital instead. Right at the beginning of today's session, Mr Peter Seah also shared that there is a growing importance of risk management, and the ability to deploy information technology (IT) for the purposes of gathering real and important data that will help not only the CEO, but the entire board in decision making. So those are the very different hats that a CFO has to put on at different times of a company's growth cycle.

Establishment of the CFO Institute

4. All of these things were discussed by the CFO Sub-Committee of the Pro-Tem SAC chaired by Ms Leong Wai Leng. In addition to the importance in investing in the professional development of the CFOs in Singapore today, the committee has also identified that there is a significant opportunity for Singapore to develop thought leadership in the whole role and practice of a CFO. And there are several reasons of why this opportunity arises. The first is the fact that Singapore is in the heart of the Asia, which has got many emerging growth opportunities. This means that for businesses that are based in Singapore, these opportunities present themselves and it is up to the companies to be able to capture them. In such a context, where the businesses are well supported and able to gather the right resources, it will have the opportunity to expand its scope of options and make a real difference in the growth trajectory. This is where a CFO who plays his role well can play a very important part.

5. Therefore, for us in Singapore, having the capabilities to chart the development path for CFOs will not only benefit the CFO community in Singapore, but also in the region. More importantly, this will strengthen Singapore's reputation as a Global-Asia hub and enhance our attractiveness to businesses setting up their regional and global headquarters here. I really think this is another significant opportunity and it is up to us to find ways to build on it.

6. I am pleased to note the launch of the CFO Institute by the Pro-Tem SAC to take on these important roles. The CFO Institute aims to be a premier association of CFOs and aspiring CFOs, for the business communities in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific. An Advisory Council will provide strategic direction and oversight to a full-time executive team that supports the CFO Institute. As we talk about the setting up of the CFO Institute and Advisory Council, I would like to pay tribute to Ms Leong Wai Leng for so ably chairing the sub-committee this past year and giving the Institute a firm direction from which we pursue. The Advisory Council will be chaired by Mr Olivier Lim, former Group CFO and now Head of Strategic Corporate Development of CapitaLand Limited. I have no doubts that Mr Olivier Lim will be able to undertake the challenges that comes with this position. Other members of the Advisory Council will include industry leaders from various sectors.

7. For a start, the CFO Institute will focus on two key objectives. The first is to support the professional development of CFOs and aspiring CFOs through the conduct of training programmes and seminars. The second is to establish a forum for networking and professional exchange between CFOs. Beyond these first two objectives, are to find ways to uplift the professional standing of Singapore, and as a way of positioning Singapore more strongly as a Global-Asia hub.

8. Today's event marks the launch of the CFO Institute's first networking event, the CFO Connect. It is envisaged as a unique networking platform where CFOs can engage each other on business issues of mutual interests. It is quite clear that these networking opportunities fill the gap that is present in our community today. On relevant occasions, CFOs may also have the opportunity to meet with regulators and policy makers on issues affecting their business or industry. On the part of the Ministry Of Finance ("MOF"), we are ready and happy to engage with you on this platform. The CFO Institute will not work independently. It will collaborate with the industry to invite top business leaders and CFOs from multinational corporations, SGX-listed companies and large privately-held companies to this regular event. Today's collaboration with the Singapore Business Federation and Singapore Exchange is one example. I believe that these networking sessions will be a valuable platform that can foster thought leadership on issues affecting CFOs in the region and globally.

Other Ongoing Initiatives

9. For the second part, I would like to touch on the Pro-Tem SAC. The CFO Institute is just one of the Pro-Tem SAC's many initiatives. The Pro-Tem SAC is also developing a new Singapore-branded qualification programme for accountants that will raise the quality and professional standard of accountancy sector professionals. It is also working on a new Accountancy Services Research Centre, which will undertake rigorous accounting related research that is relevant to the market. I understand that good progress has been made on these initiatives and the Pro-Tem SAC will share the details when ready.

Appointment of New Chairman of the Pro-Tem SAC

10. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Pro-Tem SAC in driving these initiatives over the past year. The progress made would not have been possible without the dedication and support from Council members. Without the ability to infuse the whole exercise with their energy and enthusiasm, we would not have come so far.

11. In particular, I would like to thank Mr Bobby Chin, Chairman of the Pro-Tem SAC for his leadership of the Pro-Tem SAC. Mr Bobby Chin, as many of you would recall, also chaired the Committee to Develop the Accountancy Sector or "CDAS" for short. The recommendations of CDAS were the basis for the formation of the Singapore Accountancy Council. His passion and enthusiasm to build a more vibrant accountancy sector has inspired many whom he has worked with. In particular, he has put in significant amount of time and effort to secure the commitment from industry players and professionals for them to also come on board the vision of Singapore as a leading global accountancy hub.

12. Mr Bobby Chin had earlier agreed to lead the Pro-Tem SAC as a carry-over of his work chairing CDAS. Having laid the necessary ground work for the SAC, he will be stepping down as Chairman of the Pro-Tem SAC. Mr Michael Lim, who is currently the Chairman of the Land Transport Authority and a member of the Public Service Commission, will be appointed as Chairman of the Pro-Tem SAC with effect from 1 October 2011. Many of you will know Michael as a leader in the accountancy profession even before his retirement from practice. I am confident that he will lead the Pro-Tem SAC to achieve many more milestones in transforming Singapore into a global accountancy hub.


13. Today's inaugural CFO Connect marks the first step in the right direction for the professional development of CFOs. I believe that the CFO Institute will further refine its programmes offering. And at the appropriate time, we will have more to say to the CFO community.

14. All of your involvement and support is needed to help make the CFO Institute a success. I look forward to you participating actively in future, fora of this nature. If you would also provide your ideas and suggestions, I am sure that the new Advisory Council will take it on board as they strengthen Singapore's positioning as a Global-Asia hub through raising and uplifting of the professionalism of our CFOs.

15. Thank you.