Business moves often hinge on what the finance team thinks, so Tan Wee Ko avoids being a defensive gatekeeper.
I’m the executive director and CFO at Challenger, in charge of finance and accounting, human resources, retail development, business development and facilities management functions within the group. Six managers/directors report directly to me. We have about 500 staff and our group revenue for the past financial year was more than S$355 million.
Getting the job
It happened around Chinese New Year in 2005. I told a friend I was looking to leave my previous company. The next day he called to tell me Challenger was looking for a financial controller. I thought he was pulling my leg! I was asked to interview with the chief executive, Mr Loo (Loo Leong Thye), one day at 5.30pm. The interview lasted four hours and I was offered the job that night. That’s a good thing about working for an entrepreneur – decisions can be made instantaneously.
A Career at Challenger
Challenger operates the largest chain of IT retail stores in Singapore. I joined the company in 2005 as a financial controller, doing basic compliance, accounting and finance work. I was promoted to CFO in May 2007 and then to executive director in April 2013.
Why it’s good to be CFO
Finance is a powerful function. Business decisions often hinge on what finance thinks is do-able. I am mindful of this when looking into situations and deals, and try not to be a defensive gatekeeper. I look forward to turning up for work every day. My job provides me with the platform to excel, produce results and bring the best out of my staff and me.
During my first day at work at Challenger, I told my then accountant Sebas I would groom her to take over my role within five years. My rationale was simple: I felt I should not hog the position if the company’s business didn’t grow or if my role didn’t get expanded. She is still working with me today as the director of finance.
Have a positive mindset and attitude – and never wait for your boss to give you instructions. Be proactive as it’s always easier to set the pace rather than run after another person, especially if it’s the boss. Never be insecure or defensive. Be sincere, gracious, patient and confident. Never give up or take short cuts. When faced with adversity, I usually do a situational analysis to come up with a practical, achievable solution.
This article is from the October issue of INTHEBLACK