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Meet a certified ERP

ERP_headshot_Charleneng

Charlene Ng

Singapore

Job at time of interview: Finance Manager, Shell Eastern LNG

ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE WAY YOU APPROACHED UNIVERSITY?

There is nothing I would have done differently, as I planned to go into the Faculty of Business at the Chinese University of Hong Kong to prepare for a career in international business. The People's Republic of China market had just opened up, and many multinational corporations were doing China trade through their offices in Hong Kong. In the first year, I quickly realized my strength was in accounting and chose that as my professional concentration, while minoring in economics with a focus in macroeconomics and monetary policy. I also took elective courses to improve my spoken Chinese in Putonghua and, because of my interests in Western arts and culture, chose French as my third language. I am most glad that I actively participated in charitable work whenever I had spare time. I assisted in organizing volunteers in the university to visit orphanages or elderly homes, which gave me experience in the type of help required by different groups of people in society. This also helped me to develop my people skills when working with a team.

FOR THOSE CONSIDERING A CAREER IN RISK MANAGEMENT, WHAT DO YOU THINK IT MEANS TO BE A GLOBAL RISK MANAGER TODAY?

In the past, risk management focused on reporting of internal controls, performing checks and audits. The external environment is now more volatile and less predictable, so today's global risk managers are required to be more externally focused, with a deep understanding of how the organization interacts with the rest of the world. A successful global risk manager should be able to get his or her views considered during management's decision-making process and participate in strategic development, to make an impact on the organization.

WHAT SHOULD EDUCATORS BE TEACHING STUDENTS ABOUT RISK MANAGEMENT?

Teaching risk management is not just about constructing models, analyzing data and performing calculations but also understanding human behavior. Organizations are run by people and anyone can and will make errors--assumptions may be flawed and judgment can go wrong. I think success is when students can take a holistic view of the subject and communicate to others how to apply risk management in the decision-making process.

ARE NEW GRADUATES LACKING ANYTHING WHEN THEY ENTER THE WORK FORCE?

Today's graduates generally have stronger IT skills than the existing work force and make progress in technical areas much more quickly. However, I have seen where this strength has been diminished by a lack of communication skills. It is interesting that technology has developed in recent years to improve the speed of getting and sharing information without face-to-face contact. In the business world, if you need to persuade others, some face-to-face contact is still required. The top performing graduates are usually those who have strong people skills and are effective in engaging stakeholders.

AS A CERTIFIED ERP, CAN YOU OFFER SOME ADVICE TO THOSE WHO ARE CURRENTLY ENROLLED IN THE PROGRAM?

There will be many new areas to explore, and it is worthwhile covering all the modules when going through the study pack. Even though I work in the energy industry, there are many ERP modules which helped me to understand the business better. For example, in the area of alternative energy sources, there are a lot of new developments in the United States and all over the world.

WAS EARNING THE ERP DESIGNATION A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE?

I really enjoyed the learning process. Some of the quantitative materials were really intellectually stimulating and helped me to understand the challenges in constructing models and making improvements to align with the reality. It was also an opportunity for me to understand various energy markets, especially in the power business. The electricity market is not yet open in most Asian countries, so learning the way trading works in the United States really broadened my horizon. It also helped me to understand how different market dynamics work, and the importance of regulatory bodies which set up policies and rules that will bring changes to various parts of the value chain.

WHAT DOES THE ERP DESIGNATION OFFER TO SOMEONE WHO, LIKE YOURSELF, HAS ALSO EARNED THE FCCA AND HKICPA DESIGNATIONS?

Earning the ERP designation helps us to be more valuable partners; it complements our accountancy background, enabling us to deliver professional advice in areas like risk management, performance appraisal, and financial accounting to the corporation or clients we are working with.

IN A LARGE, GLOBAL CORPORATION, HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS ARE VISIBLE, RECOGNIZED AND REWARDED?

It is important to work in cross-functional teams to gain exposure and work with colleagues from various departments. Sometimes it is an opportunity arising from an urgent need to find a solution to a business issue, or a new product launch or implementation of a new activity in the company. This may mean taking additional responsibilities beyond the original job description and spending extra time, but the time and effort are worthwhile in building up work experience and developing connections with other managers to let one's contribution be known within the corporation.

YOU WERE SENT TO TAIPEI IN THE LATE 1990S TO BUILD A NEW TEAM. HOW WOULD THAT PROCESS DIFFER TODAY, GIVEN THE MANY CHANGES IN THE INDUSTRY?

If I had to do it again today, there would be more focus on identifying routine tasks that can be performed offshore in a globalized process. This would enable economies of scale and contribute towards the standardization and simplification of the company's finance operations. On the other hand, I might be able to design finance jobs in the business that are interesting, with more commercial focus to attract and retain local staff. Matching the right people to fit the team and keeping them motivated is a key success factor.

WHEN YOU HIRE NOW, WHAT IS THE TRAIT YOU VALUE MOST?

I look for a person who is eager to learn and keen to look for ways to improve the organization. Leadership traits are also valued highly--for example, the ability to challenge the team's performance, and building trust to inspire others to contribute their best.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE PERCEPTION OUT THERE THAT FINANCE IS A MAN'S WORLD?

I would rather say that the energy industry is a man's world, because senior management in the vast majority of such corporations is dominated by men. However, in the finance communities that I worked with there were more female staff in the total population and many senior leaders were female. This may be specific to the Greater China region and Singapore, where the number of female graduates is about the same as male. As people make career progression, there seem to be more women workers choosing to leave their full-time job due to family reasons, or to maintain a comfortable level of job responsibilities to match their preferences. I firmly believe that the contributions from all workers are equally important in an organization. Talents should be identified and groomed into future leaders, no matter if they are male or female.

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