Financial officers 'future-proofing' local SMEs with innovation

Mr Nigel Fox, Vice President and General Manager of Global Corporate Payments, American Express Singapore. PHOTO: AMERICAN EXPRESS
Mr Nigel Fox, Vice President and General Manager of Global Corporate Payments, American Express Singapore. PHOTO: AMERICAN EXPRESS

SINGAPORE - Financial officers of local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are acknowledging significant risks of failure in the next five years and expanding their responsibilities to future-proof their organisations, a new survey has found.

The survey, by American Express, found that 67 per cent chief financial officers (CFOs) admit to the risks despite their businesses having a competitive edge today, expanding their responsibilities to that of Chief Future Officer to ensure long-term growth.

Key concerns of the CFOs include labour and government regulations (85 per cent), with changing economic conditions as the biggest macro concern (93 per cent).

"Our research shows CFOs are now taking the lead role in driving change in Singapore SMEs," said Mr Nigel Fox, Vice President and General Manager of Global Corporate Payments, AmEx. "The new roles and responsibilities include that of an innovator to trial fresh ideas, influencer with a bigger boardroom influence and, most of all, a visionary to look into the future to identify areas that will provide the greatest growth for their organizations for the next three to five years."

Called the American Express CFO Future- Proofing Survey, it finds that 65 per cent CFOs now have a bigger focus on future-proofing compared to 12 months ago and 67 percent take on a significant role in future-proofing strategies.

Majority of respondents say they are investing in innovations as a means for future-proofing their business, the survey found,adding that CFOs acknowledge that ean resources, outdated organisational structures and systems or processes hinder their abilities to innovate.

"More and more of the SMEs we work with are searching for tools, data and insights to help them make strategic and risk management decisions to be future-ready," Mr Fox said.

Singapore's 180,000 SMEs make up of 99 per cent of enterprise, contribute to nearly half of the GDP and employ 70 per cent of the workforce, according to Spring Singapore.

While 83 per cent of CFOs feel their businesses have a compelling competitive edge today, future-proofing tactics include implementation of new technology, changing strategic direction and recruiting people with new skill sets, among other things.

"With the slowing economy, intense competition and tight manpower conditions; innovation is key for the survival of Singapore SMEs. Standing still or looking the other way won't make the future go away," Mr Fox added.

rupsk@sph.com.sg