Leadership the No.1 focus for the year ahead
It has been a year like no other. COVID-19 has significantly disrupted businesses across the Australian landscape, and the finance function has not escaped unscathed.
Financial reporting has been seriously disrupted, data security jeopardised, office shutdowns have hindered third-party providers, supply chain snafus have proliferated, and business process outsourcing has often been thrown into disarray. And amid all these challenges, most finance team members have had to transition to remote working.
Early on in the pandemic, CFOs and finance leaders were called upon to make fundamental strategic decisions with their C-suite colleagues to enable organisations to continue to operate. There was no time to move existing strategic priorities to the backburner. This has had major consequences for the expectations of internal customers – let alone plans to strengthen data security, analytics, cloud applications, or other business improvements. All these issues have had to be addressed while managing the inevitable crisis-related responses elevated by the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Protiviti surveys more than 1,000 CFOs and finance leaders annually for the Protiviti Finance Trends Report. This year the survey was conducted in the middle of COVID-19 and led to some interesting findings.
The pandemic has tested leadership like never before. It is unsurprising that this survey places leadership as the number one staff skill that financial organisations will focus on over the next 12 months. It ranks number one both in Australia and globally.
Leadership is particularly relevant given that the majority of staff are working remotely. This is a time of rapid organisational change and most companies have experienced significant disruption, which has challenged existing business models and, in many cases, financial viability.
Australian respondents said changing customer demands and expectations were the most important finance priorities – whereas global respondents were more inclined to prioritise cloud-based applications that support finance.
With an increased number of staff working from home, 35% of Australian respondents said their level of concern had increased when it came to utilising existing security measures to protect finance-related data security and privacy issues. A further 23% said it had significantly increased. Only 3% of Australian respondents said their level of concern was the same (interestingly, significantly lower than the 8% who said this globally).
According to Willis Towers Watson’s latest cyber claims data, 63% of cyber incidents are caused directly by employees through accidental disclosure, social engineering scams, inadvertent ransomware infection, and even malicious intentional behaviour. The lack of direct physical oversight over remote employees only compounds these problems.
There have no doubt been significant challenges for finance functions in the work from home environment. In particular they have stated that challenges in preparing reliable financial reports and statements under required timelines has been significantly impacted, which is exacerbated by additional challenges in reporting on the impacts of COVID-19 and changes in reporting standards.
Looking ahead, more than half of all Australian CFOs and finance leaders are planning on hiring new permanent employees in next six months: 32% in the next 3-6 months, and 22% in the next three months.
With temporary employees and contractors, 42% of CFOs and finance leaders are planning to hire in the next 1-3 months. This may be heavily skewed in Victoria, where lockdowns remain a substantial impediment to restarting the economy.
In the short term, finance organisations may look more towards short-term fixed contracts. However, any further lockdowns are likely to impact the confidence of finance leaders when it comes to filling these kinds of roles.
Seo JungJin: Who is EY’s World Entrepreneur of 2021?
Seo JungJin, founder of biopharma firm Celltrion, which most recently developed an antibody treatment for COVID-19, has been named the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year 2021, becoming the first South Korean in the award’s 21-year history.
Regarded as one of the world’s most prestigious business awards program for entrepreneurs, the EY Entrepreneur of the Year celebrates visionary and innovative leaders from across 60 countries who are transforming the world and fostering growth.
JungJin, who is now honoroary chairman of Celltrion Group, was up against a worthy cast of entrepreneurial competitors, taking the crown from among 45 award winners across 38 countries and territories.
Speaking during the virtual event, JungJin described his own interpretation of entrepreneurship as something that brings together “a group of people toward a common vision, embracing challenges as opportunities and committing oneself to contribute to the greater good”.
Why was JungJin crowned King Entrepreneur?
A South Korean native and now 63 years of age, JungJin founded biopharmaceutical firm Celltrion in 2003. In the nearly two decades since its founding, Celltrion has lived up to its goal of advancing health and welfare for all by developing ground-breaking drugs to treat autoimmune disease, various forms of cancer and, most recently, COVID-19.
The company, which JungJin started with just US$45,000 and five of his colleagues, has since growth to more than 2,1000 employees with sales permits in more than 90 countries and revenues exceeding US$1.69bn.
According to the panel, JungJin’s story is a shining example of the power of an unstoppable entrepreneur to change the world with the pandel moved by both his incredible story and his purpose-driven leadership, innovative mindset and entrepreneurial spirit.
Described by the chair of the EY judging panel Rosaleen Blair as “representing everything an unstoppable should be” from taking on the world’s biggest health care challenges to consistently creating long-term value for his company, JungJin’s story is one of incredible tenacity and perseverance that the judging panel felt most represented the entrepreneurial spirit.
“He’s taken breathtaking risks, both personal and professional, to found Celltrion and grow it into one of the world’s leading biopharmaceutical companies,” says Stasia Mitchell, EY Global Entrepreneurship Leader. “His passion for creating affordable, life-saving health care and flair for tackling global problems has led to many treatments that have helped millions of people worldwide and was especially evident this past year through the creation of a COVID-19 antibody treatment.”
How did JungJin get there?
JungJin's entrepreneurial journey started at an early age when he worked as a taxi driver to get himself through Konkuk University in Seoul, South Korea. After studying industrial engineering, he rose through the ranks of Daewoo Motor Co. before losing his job amid the carmaker’s financial troubles following the 1997 Asian economic crisis.
Following this, JungJin started collaborating with colleagues to explore business opportunities in different industries, though none delivered lasting success. The turning point came after he attended a talk hosted by renowned scholars, which inspired him to focus on the biopharmaceutical sector.
And so he founded Celltrion with just US$45,000 of his savings. The launch of Remsima, credited with being the world's first antibody biosimilar, quickly moved Celltrion up the ranks of the country's fairly underdeveloped pharmaceutical sector. Celltrion followed this success with the launch of drugs for breast cancer and lymphoma that today are being used worldwide.
With ambitions to be the world’s first in different areas, Celltrion has pioneered numerous uncharted areas to great success over the past two decades, most recently responding to the global pandemic by successfully developing an antibody treatment for COVID-19 and working to ensure a timely supply of the safe and effective treatment.
“When I first started, my vision was to help patients gain access to safe, effective and affordable medicines and thereby enhance the quality of people’s lives,” explains JungJin. “The success of Celltrion has enabled me to expand on this while finding new ways to fuel my entrepreneurial drive.”