* Editor's note: This article is co-produced by Sukhpreet Kaur
During the first quarter of 2020, while China, the UN World Health Organisation and the United States were arguing about the origins of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus, some countries in Asia, and likely in other parts of the world, were oblivious to the disruption that was coming. It was for many in the Philippines business as usual.
The Philippines confirmed its first COVID-19 local transmission on 7 March 2020, with community quarantines being imposed from 15 March 2020. Arguably it was the introduction of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and subsequent measures to contain the spread that eventually hit home to businesses the severity of the pandemic.
Joweehlyn Liao, financial director & head of business transformation at Watsons Personal Care Stores (Philippines) acknowledged surprise at the speed of the contagion, and the countermeasures imposed by the government to curtail the further spread.
“In the first few months, we took a step back and just focused on the essentials such as supplier payments, closing accounts and reporting. As we adjusted, we picked up the pace and further evolved by transforming our processes, system, and strategies to add value to the business,” she recalled.
As variants of the virus continue to evolve, some normalcy has returned as the Philippines Department of Health shifts towards the endemic phase of COVID-19. As consumers take back control of their lives, businesses have begun the journey toward recovery and resilience.
The evolving role of finance
While her responsibilities are localised to the country, Liao conceded that the shift in business models brought about by the global disruption produced new opportunities for businesses. It was all new and they had to identify the actual needs of the company, so they looked up to finance leaders for quantitative reasoning.
“The (CFO) role has evolved and will continue to evolve. In 2023, I would see finance as a side-by-side driver and strategist of the business. We already co-lead, co-drive and co-strategize but as we do that, we need to make sure the followers are also keeping up to pace,” she continued.
Recommendation for future finance leaders
Recalling conversations with her team, “If you do not keep up to the speed of change, your value and expertise will go down.” Her team agree that the value of finance will continue to increase as long as the team is able to keep up with the business demands.
She confided that it is essential to be aware of one’s capabilities and expertise, do regular self-assessments of one’s competency and build business acumen.
“Trust your capabilities and keep yourself abreast with what is happening worldwide. There are many professionals out there so go beyond what is expected of you and focus on delivering the best,” she concluded.
Click on the video above to hear the full context of her dialogue with FutureCFO.