Treasury Insights hears from Patrick Tai, Finance Director at CNOOC and Shell Petrochemicals Company Limited, who documents his career and some of his proudest achievements to date.
Tell us about your career
Prior to working in corporate treasury, I spent most of my career in various infrastructure and project finance roles. I began at Hopewell Holdings Ltd and after that moved to the Project Finance desk at ANZ in Hong Kong and Singapore, where I was largely responsible for the execution and origination of advisory, with a primary focus on China.
Whilst working at the bank I gained a reputation as a China structured finance expert and Shell approached me to run a short-term project in 2001 that would see me lead the financing negotiations with banks in China for the private sector financing in Asia at that time. After completing the short-term assignment, I stayed on with Shell, working in Beijing and then London as a Senior Advisor in the global M&A and Financing team. I then moved back to Hong Kong, managing the group’s M&A and portfolio projects in the region as Shell’s Asia Downstream Portfolio General Manager.
This desire to learn about the business was one of the catalysts for assuming the corporate treasury role at CNOOC and Shell Petrochemicals Company (CSPC) when it became available in 2008. Having been largely focused on transactions my whole career, the move to treasury was appealing because it gave me the opportunity to see the real business and the impact my work was having directly on the bottom line.
What did you enjoy most about working in corporate treasury?
I most enjoyed the fact that my role in corporate treasury went beyond day-to-day cash management and exposed me to areas such as insurance and risk management. Whilst I was working in treasury, I looked for opportunities to participate in several cross-functional projects unrelated to finance. For example, I worked on a special project on people strategy and I found that others in the business were pleasantly surprised to see ‘finance people’ taking an enterprise-first mindset to deliver value to the business as a whole, not just to one department.
I believe that the time I spent in this role expanding my skill-set helped me make the step up to finance director. Indeed, any role in finance requires strong fundamentals. However, to be considered for those strategic finance roles you have to think beyond your departmental boundaries and transcend the business.
What professional achievements are you most proud of?
I am extremely proud of the work the finance team has done over the past few years to fund the expansion of CSPC’s business. This work has not only seen CSPC achieve the most competitive commercial terms amongst any corporate in China but has also seen it receive external recognition, in the form of an Adam Smith Award Asia from Treasury Today Asia.
To do this we have been pragmatic and created optionality by diversifying funding sources. It would be very risky for us to rely on one tranche of funding. We have therefore worked hard to make sure that we have several competitively priced debt facilities at our fingertips when we need them.
Given that CSPC is extremely capital-intensive, we continue to work hard in this area. Indeed, the cost of borrowing can be the difference between boom and bust, so we continue to benchmark ourselves against our peers to ensure we are staying competitive. There is also still plenty of room to optimise internally and ensure that we are getting value for every dollar.