Deloitte’s Siah Weng Yew: Digital transformation demands shift in business models, mindset, and proactive approach

Weng Yew also emphasises the critical balance between digital innovation and maintaining robust internal controls.

Businesses across Asia are grappling with the accelerating pace of digital transformation. This shift has not only propelled the adoption of emerging technologies, but has also necessitated a reevaluation of traditional business processes. In this climate of change, companies seek to redefine their competitive advantage and reshape their very DNA.

Siah Weng Yew, Risk Advisory Leader at Deloitte Singapore, has over 28 years of audit and advisory experience. His diverse expertise spans information technology audits, corporate governance, security assessments, and more. As the head of the Accounting and Internal Controls service line in Singapore and Southeast Asia, Weng Yew brings a wealth of knowledge and experiences from projects across a multitude of industries and sizes on a global scale.

Being one of the judges in the SBR International Business Awards and National Business Awards, Weng Yew’s insights illuminate the evolving trends in the industry.

Digital transformation demands not only a reshaping of business and operating models but also a fundamental shift in the organisational mindset. Weng Yew underscored the importance of a proactive approach in anticipating disruptions, urging businesses to consider risks broadly to build operational resilience.

With over 28 years of experience in audit and advisory, can you share some of the most significant trends and changes you've observed in the industry and how these developments are impacting businesses?

The pace of digital transformation is accelerating. The COVID-19 pandemic may have played a part in this by advancing the removal of manual and inefficient processes, urging businesses to adopt emerging technologies and rethink traditional business processes. Digital transformation will mean that critical changes are needed in business and operating models and businesses’ “DNA” to create a differential and unique competitive advantage.

However, none of these opportunities can be realised without managing the associated risks. It is crucial to consider risk areas beyond traditional risks. The ability of an organisation to be prepared for severe disruption, shocks, and stresses in the digital age is coming under intense scrutiny. The new context we are in requires a mindset and culture change, and boards need to play a leading role to ensure that operational resilience is a priority. Additionally, organisations should consider risks more broadly and be able to anticipate the occurrence of any possible disruptions.

Your background includes expertise in information technology audits and security assessments. How can organisations effectively balance the need for digital innovation with the importance of maintaining robust internal controls and data security in an increasingly digital world?

As companies transform digitally, one of the key areas of focus would be the data and information on their systems. Organisations should take proactive measures to reinforce the operational resilience of their systems alongside the security of this data.

In your role as the Risk Advisory Leader at Deloitte Singapore, what are the most common challenges that businesses face when it comes to managing risks, and what strategies do you recommend to address these challenges effectively?

The converging risks of a global pandemic, climate change, economic downturn, isolationism, authoritarianism, and social unrest – which are amongst the most prominent concerns facing the world today – mean that boards must stay on top of the aggregate risks that their organisations face. The traditional roles of internal audit, be it reactive or rotational, are no longer adequate to provide boards with the assurance that ever-evolving strategic, reputational, operational, financial, regulatory, and cyber risks are properly addressed. 

The strategy must therefore be to focus on both real-time and integrated assurance across the organisation. To this end, data and technology play a big part in strengthening these capabilities. Where data is available, technology is almost certainly available as well to leverage that data, ranging from one-time post-event analytics to continuous monitoring and real-time predictive analytics.

You have experience with the COSO Framework and Sarbanes Oxley Consulting. Can you explain the significance of these frameworks in today's regulatory landscape and how businesses can ensure compliance and transparency?

These frameworks help organisations benchmark their maturity of internal controls and security against an international standard. 

As someone who works in both Singapore and Southeast Asia, how do regional differences affect the approach to accounting and internal controls, and what best practices can organisations apply to adapt to these variations effectively?

Accounting standards and the implementation of internal controls vary in pace across Southeast Asia (SEA). We also need to consider the nuances of each geography. Ideally, these should be benchmarked against international standards to give a maturity level which can be compared across SEA. We continue to see organisations across the region wanting to benchmark themselves against these standards to further improve.

What specific criteria and attributes do you prioritise when evaluating businesses for recognition at the SBR National Business Awards and International Business Awards?

I will proritise the pace of a business’s digital transformation and how they compare against international standards.

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