, Singapore

Deloitte's Jiak See guides SMEs on their “Respond-Recover-Thrive” journeys

She states that issues centre on business continuity, financing, digital transformation, supply chain, and customer engagement.

Ng Jiak See, Asia Pacific financial advisory leader for Deloitte, is an expert in mergers and acquisitions, fund raising, business strategy, corporate and shareholder restructuring, debt restructuring, and post-merger integration.

With over 25 years of professional experience, Jiak See has undertaken and managed a wide spectrum of assignments across a variety of industries.

Given her expertise, she was chosen as one of the judges at this year’s SBR Awards. When Jiak See was asked about the lessons small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic, she suggests that businesses should reflect on their business models and make realistic assessments based on their finances, as well as invest time in understanding their customers’ evolving needs.

“One of the biggest lessons that resonates with me, is to constantly learn from experiences. Periods of instabilities can trigger some of the most progressive movements and marvelous intentions, and that’s where our focus should lie,” she added.

In an interview with Singapore Business Review, Jiak See shares her insights on what SMEs should consider in their ‘Respond-Recover-Thrive’ journey as well as international companies relocating their operations and how Singapore fares in this.

Q: Which particular markets or sectors are your main focus? Can you share with us your work experience or any backstory that has contributed to your professional career?

My career in this field has given me the opportunity to undertake and manage a wide spectrum of assignments across a variety of industries including industrial products, food and beverage, retail, logistics, insurance, property, education, contracting, hotels and services.

I am privileged to have many mentors who share their network, knowledge and experiences with me throughout my career. I would also attribute my success to the strong support of my team, clients and warm relationships developed in the ecosystem.

I strongly believe in developing trusted collaborative relationships. It is important to stay focused, be passionate in whatever we are doing and be resilient, especially in an uncertain business environment like today.

Q: What can SMEs and other homegrown businesses learn from the crisis? For those who have been badly hit, what do owners need to consider on the road to recovery?

Globally, businesses are cautiously reopening and many would be required to reimagine their workforce, assess the potential impact of COVID-19 on their businesses while continuing to manage liquidity, gauge their readiness to emerge stronger post-crisis, and manage relevant stakeholders’ expectations. SMEs face some of these problems and undoubtedly, some, especially those that were vulnerable even before the pandemic, are being hit the hardest. Having supported a myriad of clients through their “Respond-Recover-Thrive” journey over the past few months, the resonating issues across the board have centred on business continuity, financing, digital transformation, supply chain, and customer engagement.

Some of the biggest unknowns are how long and how the pandemic will pan out. While an ideal scenario could entail clear guidance from policymakers about what to expect in the months to come, along with a commitment to providing economic aid, what businesses could channel their efforts towards, is preparing detailed contingency plans, thinking beyond COVID-19 and building a sustainable and profitable business model.

In parallel, invest time to understand what the face of the “now customer” looks like. Their needs have evolved exponentially in recent months and it is imperative for businesses to reassess how and where you will compete. Reflect on your business model and make realistic assessments with the cash or credit lifeline you may have.

Q: What’s your take on international companies moving their operations out of the Mainland? Where are the opportunities and how does Singapore fare in all these?

We live in a hyper-connected world today, one that extends beyond a company’s supply chain to a large number of complex global interdependencies. The transformation of supply chains, including a shift of the operational base, is an inevitable and continuous process that has been ongoing for decades, at times accelerated by ‘black swan’ events. It is always pertinent for any businesses to have multiple supply chain options in order to address the huge challenges brought about by uncertainties and disruptions.

Due to its strong economy, strategic location and favourable regulatory environment, Singapore has always offered attractive opportunities to foreign companies. It has developed a reputation as a hub for technology and biotech firms, a meaningful option for financial services firms, along with the value-adding manufacturing and services sectors being key industry clusters contributing to the overall GDP—the opportunities and options are endless.

Q: Whilst we thought that investments were redirecting to other hubs, MTI reported that investments have already exceeded the full-year target in the first four months. What’s your take on this?

Amidst current uncertainties, this is great news. I believe these investments have come from sectors such as electronics and info-communications, which is not surprising. As stated previously by the Ministry of Trade and Industry, “there are pockets of resilience in the Singapore economy”, and this is a great example.

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