In this interview, Eddie Mak, Group Treasurer at Kerry Logistics talks about why he has decided to follow a career in corporate treasury and the challenges that he has faced in recent years.
Why did you decide to follow a career in treasury?
I wanted to follow a career path that would give me a holistic view of a financial transaction end-to-end. Before joining Kerry Logistics as Group Treasurer, I had worked in numerous multinationals in various corporate finance roles and before that I worked in project finance on the banking side.
In all of these roles I was very much at the front line of the transactions that I was involved in. Once the deal had been completed, the control and monitoring of the asset were passed onto somebody else.
In corporate treasury, however, you get to stay involved after the transaction. For instance, I have worked on numerous M&A deals since joining Kerry and have enjoyed integrating these new businesses into the existing set-up and extracting maximum value for the company in doing so.
What has been your biggest challenge since joining Kerry Logistics?
We are a very young treasury department. In fact, before I joined there wasn’t a standalone treasury department; it was handled by other finance disciplines. As a result, there have been lots of challenges building up the department and ensuring that we can add value to the business.
More specifically, the biggest challenge has been earning the trust of the business units around the world. Treasury can often come across as the bad guy, especially when we are chasing customers who have not paid us, potentially harming the relationship the sales team has with our customers.
We have therefore had to educate the business units and prove to them that we are on their side and that there is a negative impact on the company if customers pay late. It has been a gradual process, but I think that treasury is now well respected and listened to across the organisation.
A logistics business is very much driven by the health of the global economy, has the recent economic downturn caused any issues?
Yes, there have been a few issues because of this. One big thing that we have noticed is that some of our customers here in Asia are struggling and late payments have become more frequent.
As a result of this, we have been more prudent in analysing the creditworthiness of our customers and making sure that we are not exposing ourselves to any unnecessary risk.
How is the treasury leveraging technology?
Technology is very important to what we are doing. We are just installing TMS and this will give us more visibility over our accounts, a more accurate forecast and also highlight trends and anything that needs to be addressed.
It must be noted though that installing the TMS has been a painful experience, as we do not have the technical resources in the company. It is therefore taking a lot longer than I would like but I know once the project is finished that we will have a much more effective and robust treasury function. This is worth the short-term pain.