Driving Business Growth with Internal Controls
As a Financial Planning & Analysis Manager with a global e-commerce company, Kelvin Leong is something of a financial whiz. He looks at “Big-Data” on a day-to-day basis and translates this into meaningful strategies for the sales and marketing team. Their mission? To grow the business together.
Partnering to Drive Business Growth
Kelvin works directly with the Sales and Marketing team to develop strategies that drive the company’s revenue. “One simple strategy to drive revenue means we have to be the customer ourselves and use the company’s online payments’ platform whenever we can,” he adds. “In fact, this is one of the shared behaviours the company embraces. Without being the customer, we would not be able to understand customer pain points and improve customer experience.” At the same time, his Finance business partnering role involves him ensuring that internal controls and business ethics are not compromised in any way.
“As an online payments’ platform, we deal with millions of e-commerce transactions, which may potentially expose us to fraud and significant financial risks. Hence, we put in place robust systems of internal control and risk management to ensure fraudulent activities are kept to a minimum and customer data is not compromised,” he says.
This is where his CIA credentials come in handy. “I have always been interested in the governance, risk and compliance part of business, hence taking the CIA exams was a natural decision as part of my career development. My employers were supportive of my professional development and paid my exam fees,” he said.
“I felt that preparing for the CIA exams helped marry business acumen with the internal control mind-set every well-rounded Finance professional should have, especially if he or she aspires to become a Chief Financial Officer someday,” he shared. He also recently attained the Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) -The IIA’s latest certification - joining the ranks of more than 10,000 professionals around the world who are involved in providing assurance that adequate and effective risk management processes are in place.
What impact has being a member of The IIA had on you personally and professionally?
Being a member of a global professional body like The IIA has helped open doors to many career opportunities. At the same time, I am able to network with like-minded professionals through the local chapter, IIA Singapore. This has helped me develop professionally and keep abreast of the latest changes in the world of audit and compliance.
Having the CIA credential on my name card also earns respect from finance professionals across the globe. The CIA designation is definitely an asset to have in Singapore and globally!
What study material did you use to prepare for the CIA?
I revised for the CIA using the GLEIM study guides. I also did the practice questions. Those came in very useful.
How many hours did you spend preparing for the exam?
About 80 hours per Part, that’s 240 hours in total for all three Parts of the CIA.
What advice do you have for others who are seeking certification?
Buy the study materials, read them once (at least) and attempt as many practice questions as you can (it was the practice questions that helped me pass all three parts on one attempt each).
Internal Control Focus
Having previously worked for technology companies such as IBM, Adobe, Kelvin has gained an array of experience ranging from financial analysis and business partnering, to deal reviews and SOX compliance. He firmly believes a strong corporate culture of business ethics drives successful internal control implementation. In his current role, he has also participated in deal reviews to ensure pricing strategies are aligned with the overall corporate strategy and drive the right behaviours. Hard work and commitment are values that have helped make Kelvin stand out in his workplace. When an opportunity to perform a short-term assignment in Sydney came up recently, Kelvin put up his hand, and got the job.
Enhancing Skill-Sets beyond Compliance
Kelvin holds fast to the credo that one should never stop learning. His message to internal auditors, finance, and other assurance professionals out there: ”Expand your skill-sets beyond controls and compliance and learn how to partner with the business to drive visible results through internal control expertise, rather than be seen as a roadblock.”
He adds, “Business acumen, effective communication and leadership skills will take us forward in the next decade. As CIAs, we must be viewed as partners to the business, essential to the success of any organisation.”
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I love running, cycling and swimming. I also make time to read business/investment magazines regularly.
How many languages do you speak?
English, Mandarin and Conversational Japanese (JLPT L3).
Japanese? Really? Why?
I have always liked the Japanese culture since young (this was way before J-Pop became popular) and studied the language for a while (but always forgot most of it after lessons). Some years ago, I decided to invest time and effort into a more structured learning regime. I blocked out my weekends and self-studied for six months before passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) Level 3. This was totally done out of self-actualisation and a love for the Japanese language and culture. よろしくお願いします！
How many cups of coffee do you drink a day?
I drink 2 Soy Lattes a day. And not the skinny versions!
What was your most interesting travel experience?
Having the opportunity to be on a short-term assignment in Sydney right now, I am able to view Sydney through a different lens (as opposed to experiencing Sydney as a tourist).
I am grateful for the opportunity to grow professionally and personally, and, am making the best of my stay here (Think Darling Harbour, Bondi, Hunter Valley and Blue Mountains on the weekends!). I have also lived and worked in the Bay Area before, so I am fortunate to have lived and worked in two of the most livable cities in the world.
Kelvin Leong is a member of IIA Singapore and is currently based in Sydney on a short-term assignment with his company as an FP&A Manager. When he isn’t juggling financial stewardship responsibilities with Big-Data analytics, he goes running and cycling to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Kelvin aspires to be a CFO of a listed firm one day.