CGMA insights: Leveraging external talent

CGMA insights: Leveraging external talent

We are interviewing finance leaders around the world to obtain their insights into future ways of working within organisations. 

Yvonne Chan is the CFO at the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore where she is increasingly turning to external sources to meet her skills needs. 

What are the key areas where external talent can boost your organisation?
External talent can help to augment the strength of our workforce for lower value-added transactional work, and provide expertise in niche specialised areas.

What is driving this?
This is due to the tight labour market conditions in Singapore. There is greater demand for good accountants than there is supply. Thus, it is necessary for all agencies and firms to share expert resources rather than to keep such expertise within any particular organisation. For example, with tax consultancy, it does not make sense for my organisation to keep somebody internal just to review the goods and services tax when the regime keeps changing. It makes more sense to procure external tax health check services when the need arises every three to five years.  

How do you ensure your external partners deliver high performance?
It is important to establish strict KPIs upon the award of the contracts and to ensure that both sides communicate and understand what services are to be delivered.  In such cases, we see that external providers may actually achieve better results than we could internally if the KPIs are met. 

How do you deal with contractors who underperform? 
We enter into fixed term contracts with any external providers and if KPIs are not met, after rounds of discussions, we reserve the right to terminate the contract and re-tender to another provider.

What role will management accountants play in managing the open workforce?
Management accountants will need to become more accomplished at linking financial information with other data sources such as structured operations data or unstructured web-based data. However, effective analysis of such data involves identifying the relevant databases to extract information from, cleansing the data, correlating it with common fields, charting the datasets in different configurations, and finally analysing it. Once this model is set up, I think management accountants will deliver valuable support to senior decision makers both in relation to the open workforce and in other strategic areas.

What are your biggest risks when working with external partners?
Sharing confidential information and managing external providers’ staff turnover are definitely the biggest risks. When we first outsource, we may be able to choose to some extent which staff are handling our data and perform some security checks but we cannot control turnover within an external company, so as people come and go there is a risk that confidentiality might be compromised.

What can you do to combat that risk?
We make all of our vendors sign a non-disclosure agreement so we can take legal action if any confidential information is leaked. Our staff can also teach external partners how to manage certain tasks in line with our policies of best practice, but it’s not entirely fool proof.

Will your management structures need to change in future?
Yes, with increasing outsourcing of certain activities, the internal staff will be elevated to take on project management and analytical roles.  Also, the time freed up allows them to concentrate on process improvements, enhance internal controls and focus on automation. 

How will you attract the new skills and talent you need?
As we move more processes onto electronic and mobile platforms, we are also coupling this with  HR policies to allow people to have more flexible working hours and also to enable more people to work away from a fixed office environment. This initiative will help us to attract and retain people with young families and to accommodate employees over the course of their careers as their family priorities change.