A celebration of ingenuity and determination

Published: Jan 2019


The world of corporate treasury in the Asia Pacific region is hard to ignore when the solutions being implemented by departments are as innovative, collaborative and creative as those recognised by the Adam Smith Awards Asia 2018. The impressive feats of Asia Pacific treasurers were celebrated when award winners and their banking and service partners gathered for the award’s annual Gala Presentation Lunch at the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel in Singapore on November 15th.

As in recent years, APAC businesses during 2018 continued to battle major challenges, with corporate treasury departments across the region in the front line as they sought to help their firms cope with unprecedented geo-political events, market volatility, rapid technological change and rapidly evolving regulatory regimes. All of this took place against a backdrop of unprecedented cost pressures and an ever-expanding and critical role for the finance function. Considering the difficult trading and operational environment during 2018, this year’s winning solutions are especially impressive.

Our Adam Smith Awards Asia programme, now in its sixth year, continues to recognise the excellence of solutions being implemented by APAC treasurers. The awards have justifiably gained the reputation for being the leading corporate treasury awards in the region. In 2018 we received a record 221 submissions. Our panel of judges always has the difficult task of selecting the winners; 2018 proved particularly challenging due to the outstanding quality of the entries received. The innovation, determination, teamwork and creativity evident in the solutions implemented was extraordinary. Furthermore, as a sign of the award’s growing regional footprint, a broader range of companies in terms of size and industry sector participated, with every major country and territory represented. This included our first entry from Inner Mongolia, which was awarded Overall Winner in the Judges’ Choice category for 2018, demonstrating the sheer reach these awards now have.

The most popular categories were Best Cash Management Solution, Best Working Capital Management/AP/AR Solution, Harnessing the Power of Technology and Best Trade/Supply Chain Finance Solution. A new category, Harnessing the Power of Emerging Technology was also very well supported, as were the categories for the best treasury solutions in India and China. Single country solutions accounted for 48% of entries, regional APAC solutions 29% and global solutions 17%. The remainder were multi-country, but not fully regional, solutions.

A time to celebrate

This year’s Gala Presentation Lunch was held in the same week as the ASEAN Summit in Singapore so security was greatly heightened, but this didn’t prevent a record number of attendees, who had travelled from right across the region and beyond, filling the superb venue.

After a busy, vibrant and enthusiastic pre-lunch networking session, Angela Berry, Founder & Director of Treasury Today Group, formally opened the event with a passionate welcome to all attendees, commenting on the great work of the corporate winners, she said: “I am so proud to be standing here today. In 2018, our fifth year of the Adam Smith Awards Asia, we received a record number of submissions, more than we have ever received either here in Asia or for the EMEA and Americas programme, which is now in its 11th year. So, for all of the winners and partners in the room here today, you have accomplished something exceptional. The competition has never been greater. I am absolutely delighted to extend a really special welcome to all of you. The Adam Smith Awards Asia continue to challenge you to deliver better and more innovative solutions and you have once again risen to that challenge.”

Following lunch, it was time for the crystal awards to be presented by Richard Parkinson, Chair, and Sophie Jackson, Joint Publisher & Head of Strategic Content. The pride that such recognition brings was clearly visible on the faces of each winner and images of their awards were quickly being shared with colleagues, friends and family via social media.

Test, learn and grow – an exceptional team effort

The Treasury Today Asia Top Treasury Team 2018 accolade was awarded to Dell Technologies. In 2016, Dell completed the flagship acquisition of EMC, signalling the firm’s transition into a global technology leader. The expansion created both new opportunities and challenges for its treasury operations organisation. In addressing them, Dell’s treasury team set about delivering a global framework for the firm’s finance function to serve over 500 legal entities across 69 countries via treasury operations leadership in Singapore and regional hubs for Asia Pacific and Japan, EMEA and the Americas. By employing a ‘test, learn and grow’ strategy more usually associated with start-up operations rather than with mature multinational corporations, it has been able to fulfil its ambitions. The treasury transformation project was structured around three key pillars:

  • Operational efficiency.
  • Liquidity management.
  • Operational controls.

This was teamwork in action and here is what Ng Cheng Chang, VP, Global Treasury Operations at Dell had to say: “This is a testament to the outstanding work the team has consistently been doing over the years. We are humbled by the recognition; a significant part of our achievements can be attributed to the excellent advisory and innovative support provided by our global banking partners who taught us what we know.”

There are some key takeaways from this impressive programme:

  • Always challenge the status quo to drive for operational excellence.
  • Change is a constant, be prepared to adapt and adopt.
  • Embrace a culture of technology innovation.
  • Invest in human capital: cultivate employees, engage them in the company’s vision for the future – and the journey required to achieve that future state.

Our Highly Commended Winner award in the Top Treasury Team category went to Rio Tinto in Singapore and Abel Martins Alexandre, Head of Commercial Treasury, had this to say about the award:

“The Rio Tinto Commercial Treasury team feel grateful and humbled by the recognition given by this prestigious award. The team are passionate about partnering with the business for value creation and driving the technology transformation of treasury. This award provides the team with confidence to deliver on our vision of a strategic partner to the business anchored into an intrinsic financial supply chain.”

Harnessing technology

The technology categories are always hotly contested and this year’s overall winner of the Harnessing the Power of Technology award, Kulicke & Soffa contemplated a few banking options before deciding to go with its bank’s host-to-host ERP Global Adapter (ERP Adapter). Based on K&S’ overall assessment, the ERP Adapter is a ‘first-of-its-kind’ cutting-edge technology solution in the market for Oracle ERP that adopts ISO 20022 XML industry standard and can support K&S’s coverage globally while catering for local regulatory and technical requirements in different markets.

In the new category, Harnessing the Power of Emerging Technology, Hindustan Unilever in India implemented an intelligent receivables solution using AI and other software to help achieve improved straight through reconciliation.

Prudential Corporation Asia, based in Hong Kong, was awarded Highly Commended Winner in this category for embracing cloud technology to completely transform its treasury into a model of best practice throughout a de-centralised treasury function.

Commenting on the award at the event, Richard Shaw, Director Treasury at Prudential, said: “The Adam Smith Awards are the most well-regarded awards in the industry. Winning such an award provides corroboration of the quality and scope of the work that we have carried out and most importantly gives my team and Prudential recognition and credibility amongst our peers.”

Volvo goes with SWIFT

In the Best SWIFT Solution category, Volvo Cars edged the competition with a project that sought to simplify treasury operations in India, Thailand and Taiwan and incorporate best in class solutions and practices to drive greater efficiencies, modernise its cash management processes, and enable the company to transact through its global ERP platform using ISO 20022 XML standards. By combining the SWIFT and virtual branch solutions, Volvo Cars was able to immediately optimise processes while meeting regulatory requirements.

Commenting on their Overall Winner award, Volvo’s Johan Larsson, Senior Cash Manager, Group Treasury and Anna Löfstedt, Director and Head of Treasury APAC said, “We are very pleased to have won this award in the Adam Smith Awards Asia. It is great recognition for the hard work we as a treasury team and the wider Volvo Cars finance team have put into this specific project. It also represents a wider acknowledgement of our overall cash management strategy, which we have been actively implementing for the last few years. Standardisation and automation of payments, collections and reconciliation with the help of ISO 20022 XML formats have been important building blocks in the strategy.”

Individuals recognised

The Rising Star was awarded to Amit Grover, AP, Regional Cash and Banking, APAC at General Electric in Singapore. Maturity, perseverance and focus proved the perfect combination for Amit and he is a deserved winner. When interviewed during the event this is what he had to say; “I feel sincerely honoured to receive this prestigious award which has industry-wide recognition. It is my pride to be part of a well-established organisation and team, which entrusts me with quality work. It has always been my pleasure to contribute towards the organisational goals and now, with this recognition of my efforts, I am charged with renewed energy and enthusiasm.”

The Overall Winner of the Adam Smith Awards Asia Woman of the Year was awarded to Catherine Yu, Regional Controller APAC, Herbalife Nutrition. Catherine is a fine example of a senior finance professional, with 25 years of experience in Asia Pacific and China, and a strong track record of delivering strategic and significant commercial results. She is experienced in direct investment and the pharmaceutical and supplements sectors across Hong Kong and US listed companies and highly skilled in finance, tax, treasury and business transformation. She is a natural leader of large finance organisations and a strong business partner for internal and external stakeholders.

Commenting on the award, Catherine said: “The award is a recognition of my business achievement and my contribution to society to groom future successful women. It also has a special meaning for business women like me. It means that, nowadays, the business world appreciates women’s contributions. I’m very glad to see more positive development of gender equality. More opportunities are offered to women. Women can surely hold up half of the sky and contribute to industry and society. Lastly, I’m rewarded by the satisfaction of work achievements, the enjoyment of interacting with smart and high potential young ladies through mentorship and coaching during my volunteer work. As a mother of two daughters, this is a good example for them to be positive and have good values.”

Another chance to shine in 2019

Our Adam Smith Awards Asia will continue to challenge the treasury community to develop even better solutions. This is what the Adam Smith Awards are all about: recognising the creativity and ingenuity of the treasury community, and in doing so, inspiring treasurers (and their solution partners) to work together to create even better, ground-breaking solutions.

The Adam Smith Awards Asia will be running again in 2019, with nominations opening on June 10th. We once again invite companies of all shapes and sizes from across the region to take part and we look forward to receiving your submissions. In the meantime, you can read case studies of the Overall Winners and Highly Commended Winners in our yearbook and on our website.

Once again, many congratulations to our 2018 winners and good luck for 2019.

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