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The pandemic is seen as a gamechanger for industries, says EY Malaysia’s Leslie Koh

Logistics and e-commerce players are major benefactors from the change in consumer behaviours.

Leslie Koh is a Senior Executive Director of Strategy and Transactions at EY Malaysia, with more than 17 years of experience with the firm, including 4 years in the Assurance practice.

He provides strategic corporate advisory to both private and public listed companies in several industries, notably the power and utilities, government and public sectors, as well as conglomerates. He has also provided buy and sell-side advice to corporates and entrepreneurs on several mergers & acquisitions.  

In his role as a member of the panel of judges of the Malaysia International and National Business Awards, Koh shares his insights on how business organisations can enjoy post- COVID-19 recovery, including developing business continuity and crisis plans and reframing their business direction and strategy to become more resilient.

What are your career milestones from your experience as a strategy and transaction professional and what advice would you give to aspiring personnel?

My admission to partnership at EY was a significant career milestone for me. It was a culmination of the support that I had received from my team, the investment that the firm had made in me and guidance from the different leaders within EY, from the time I started my career in EY as a bright-eyed associate. What made the journey more fulfilling and purposeful was to see myself learn and develop over the years into a trusted advisor to my clients, advising them on some of their most strategic and pressing issues. My advice to aspiring professionals would be to embrace the journey: seize the opportunities and leverage the invaluable experiences that your organisation provides to you to continuously learn and develop.  Yes, there will be tough times, but what’s important is coming out of those challenges wiser, stronger, and better equipped.  

How can companies better approach business transformation amidst a recovering economy? What strategies would you advise them?

Transformation for some businesses is not an option, but a necessity. However, given that some businesses have not yet recovered from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would view it in three phases:

The first phase requires a focus on business continuity and crisis planning to get the business on a better footing. This includes building resiliency in the organisation through financial management as organisations face huge liquidity issues in the short term. In parallel, businesses will need to look at cost containment or cost-cutting activities.

Once the business is stabilised, organisations can shift from crisis mode to reframing their business direction and strategy as they navigate the ongoing business disruption. During this phase, it is important to identify what and how to transform in order to prepare for the potential opportunities and challenges that will come beyond the crisis.

The third phase is the activation of these transformations to bounce back from the challenges as a more resilient enterprise. Depending on the business and industry, the duration of each of the three phases could be shorter for some companies than others, so, speed of execution is also critical.

In what ways can the government help companies bounce back from the pandemic?

Collaboration is vital in helping the economy and business ecosystem sustain recovery, build resilience, and leverage future and new growth opportunities. In this regard, robust communication and cooperation between all stakeholders, including the public and private sectors, are key.   

Which industries are foreseen to do well in the near future? Why do you think so?

There are clearly industry winners coming out of the pandemic such as the technology sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has emerged as a game-changer for digital transformation.  Where previous initiatives and programmes to go digital may have been met with lukewarm responses within organisations, particularly from the SMEs, COVID-19 has spurred and accelerated digital transformation. The new normal has also changed the way we see retailers. Many of them have or are adopting digitalisation as the way forward, with logistics and e-commerce players being the major benefactors from the change in consumer behaviours.

As a judge in the Malaysia International and National Business Awards, what projects or innovations are you expecting to find amongst the entries?

As we gradually transition to emerge from the pandemic, I look forward to seeing how businesses have or are reframing their future and strategy for the new normal and beyond. This includes the demonstration of dynamism, innovativeness and out-of-the-box thinking, and how businesses have successfully strengthened their core whilst transforming to seize opportunities and thrive in the future. 

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