As vice-president of finance at the City Super Group in Hong Kong, Kim Tang CPA wants to deliver great financial results for the premium supermarket and retail chain, but not at the expense of ethics and integrity.
At a glance
- Joined City Super Group in 2013.
- Formerly at General Mills, a US Fortune 500 multinational food group, for 14 years, finishing as regional finance director for Asia; BP Chemical as an economic analyst; and GE and Cathay Pacific in finance roles.
- CFO team of about 40 in the direct finance team and more than 90 across the group.
My role: growth and governance
There are lots of moving pieces in our business – store operations, supply chains, logistics and IT among them. I work closely with the president to make sure all the elements are aligned and that everything is on track with the business’s strategic goals, while ensuring all our financial management, reporting and internal controls are in check.
Our chain operates in the fast-moving consumer goods space in the Greater China region, so we always need to act fast and be proactive, with finance playing a very important role.
I love the business side of my position – developing strategy on, say, a new store renovation or investing in the latest system to drive better customer insights. How do we measure the payback, and does it make a difference to business performance? It’s an exciting process going through these discussions, and equally intriguing to see how these will affect the business and, ultimately, the bottom line.
My other key responsibility is designing, implementing and enforcing governance systems, and that keeps me awake at night more than anything else. We have lots of activities in our stores, and something is always happening.
Any business with cash handling is always risky, while the security of data has never been more important than in today’s world. Overseeing IT is part of my job, and privacy concerns and customer data security are critical to ensuring we don’t breach the trust of our customers.
Game changers: food for thought
I started as an internal auditor with Cathay Pacific Airways, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier. During my time there, I completed my Australian CPA qualification, but I wanted to be more involved with business more generally. This prompted my move to join the GE Financial Management Program. This two-year program had six-month rotation assignments among various facets of finance.
It was then that I realised that my true passion lies with financial management.
After the program, I soon joined General Mills, a multinational branded consumer foods group, and fell in love with the sector.
In this business it is fast paced, and you can physically see your product on the shelf along with those of your competitors. I felt connected and I had found my niche – working with marketing and sales leaders and positioning how finance can make an impact. I spent 14 years with General Mills, where I held various positions in Hong Kong, Australia and Taiwan.
In 2013, I decided to try my hand at the retailing side of the industry and moved to City Super Group, a Hong Kong-born retailer affiliated with fast-moving consumer goods. At this new company, my responsibilities grew in line with my personal ambition to have an impact by overseeing business development, IT and e-commerce.
I’ve been on a journey. I know now that at a certain stage of your career, you need to understand where your passion and expertise lie and how you can add value to the team and company. When you discover that, your credibility and confidence grow.
My challenges: rental impost
Low growth and increasingly high costs – those are the big challenges for grocery retailers around the world. We need our stores to be located in prime retail locations to match our brand image, but, at the same time, we are competing against other branded retailers who have deep pockets. Our typical City Super lifestyle speciality store is 30,000sqf to 40,000sqf, which means rent represents a significant portion of our operating costs.
Then there is the task of managing a growing e-commerce platform, where the trend is moving towards online shopping, which is more apparent in China than anywhere else in the world.
How to stay relevant with bricks and mortar while managing the ever-increasing demands of higher rent is the biggest challenge that I’m working through, along with managing day-today operational challenges to ensure we are always “doing the right thing”.
CPA Library resource:
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Lessons learned and best advice
Prioritise ethics and integrity
Great company, great profits, great working environment – they are all desirable goals, but the company still needs to be ethical. As head of finance, you need to build that culture.
Ask questions and keep learning. Companies are always moving and evolving, so being curious lets you discover new opportunities and helps the company pursue its goals.
Learn how to communicate effectively
You can be a superb finance professional, but what story are you trying to tell your staff and peers? What do you see behind the numbers? Excellent communication is really important for a finance leader to connect with all stakeholders.
Focus on your team
Engage with and trust your team members, and give them a sense of why they should want to be on the journey with you.