Celebrating innovation and creativity

Published: Jan 2020

2019 marked the sixth year of Treasury Today Group’s Adam Smith Awards Asia, and the standard has never been higher. The best of Asia Pacific’s financial talent was joined by their banking and technology partners at the renowned Raffles Hotel, Singapore for the annual Gala Presentation Lunch on November 14th.


The exceptionally high quality of the record-breaking 300 submissions for this year’s Adam Smith Awards Asia required an especially rigorous judging process. The decisions get harder every year as corporates across the APAC region come up with new innovative and creative solutions to help their firms against a backdrop of global macroeconomic uncertainty and rapid technological change. Winning an Adam Smith Award gives treasurers across the region the opportunity to raise the profile of themselves, their team and their organisations, and to demonstrate thought leadership and innovation.

As always, the award for Best Cash Management Solution was one of the most contested awards. Following close behind, however, were the awards for Best Trade/Supply Chain Finance Solution, Harnessing the Power of Technology, Best Liquidity Management/Short-term Investing Solution, and Best Working Capital Management/AP/AR Solution.

Following a busy networking reception, which gave attendees the opportunity to connect with new acquaintances and reconnect with old ones, Treasury Today Group’s Sophie Jackson, Publisher & Head of Strategic Content, opened the ceremony. “Today is the sixth Adam Smith Awards Asia event. This year’s programme received a record number of submissions,” she said. “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.”

Here are some of the winners’ stories.

The life sciences team with the successful business formula

Agilent Technologies Singapore scooped the top prize as Overall Winner of the Top Treasury Team 2019 award, led by Assistant Treasurer, Sally Shung. Following several acquisitions, the treasury team had a key role to play in making sure the company achieved the expected synergies and integration benefits – and in order to do this, the treasury team itself also underwent a series of considerable transitions.

For one thing, treasury roles were significantly expanded to cover more areas. This was achieved by diversifying and enhancing the skillsets of existing team members, thereby enabling the treasury to manage the increase in scale, complexity and scope of the treasury’s activities with no headcount increases or specialist hires.

Given the number of entities that the team manages through its Singapore treasury centre, the team also realised that it was not feasible to finance each entity manually. Agilent therefore developed a sophisticated, highly automated in-house bank (IHB).

The ultimate objective was to create a more dynamic and robust treasury team which could partner with the business to support expansion strategies while engaging with key strategic banks. The treasury team rose to the occasion and showed itself more than capable of achieving this objective – while also overcoming the enormous challenges brought by a period of major organisational change including multiple mergers and acquisitions.

Above all, Agilent’s treasury team is characterised by its focus on finding the perfect solution for any situation – making it a worthy winner of Treasury Today Asia’s Top Treasury Team 2019 award.

Working with what you’ve got

Merck KGaA was the Overall Winner for the competitive Best Cash Management Solution award, led by Jörg Bermüller, Head of Cash & Risk Management, Group Treasury. The team’s achievements in centralising Merck’s end-of-day liquidity in Korea with minimal resources and a limited budget were remarkable.

There is currently no similar solution in the market that is 100% automated, integrated and all-encompassing to include multiple solutions, ranging from virtual bank accounts to multi-bank sweeping. The outcome has been revolutionary, and Merck is a deserving winner.

Chinese start-up Guazi was the Overall Winner in the Best Short-Term Investing Solution category. Led by Jim Huang, Treasury Director and Zhaonjun Deng, Treasury Manager, the team adopted best practice credit and risk management processes, while also meeting international standards. Setting up internal investment guidelines and an investment policy in line with global standards has made Guazi a unicorn well ahead of its peers, allowing it to mature into a multinational corporate in its own right.

The future is technology

Harnessing the Power of Technology is always a popular category, and this year proved no different. UltraTech Cement Ltd, Grab, and Computer Age Management Services (CAMS) were the Highly Commended Winners in this category, with all three demonstrating innovative and effective solutions for their treasury challenges.

Saurabh Chakravarty, UltraTech Cement’s Jt President, aimed to transform the company’s treasury management function. The solution was to deploy a robust, scalable SAP-enabled treasury management platform which can be flexibly scaled in line with the company’s growth plans to consolidate its treasury functions.

Wilson Koh, Group Treasurer at Grab, also utilised an API to streamline payments systems for the company’s drivers and merchants – thereby allowing them to be paid instantly, access credit, move from cash to cashless payments and access seamless banking services.

Vasanth Jeyapaul Emmanuel, Senior Vice President & Business Head at CAMS, meanwhile, had two main challenges to solve. One involved beneficiary validation, ie validating the bank account numbers of the Mutual Fund investors associated in their account portfolios. The second related to National Automated Clearing House (NACH) debits, as CAMS uses the NACH platform to route about eight million transactions per month. For both areas, CAMS managed to build suitable add-ons to its existing platform in an extremely short timeframe, leading to improved customer experience, increased straight through processing, and the opportunity to attract additional business.


Openness, trust and a good sense of humour

These are the qualities that have been key to Rashmi Joshi’s success, according to a previous manager. Rashmi, CFO and Whole Time Director, Castrol India Ltd, was awarded Overall Winner of the Woman of the Year award, and her story is one of innovative leadership and championing of women.

Rashmi’s expertise has seen her play a key role in creating and implementing a five-year growth strategy and vision for India and South Asia for Castrol India, whilst leading the India finance team and working to develop talent for India and the wider BP company, of which Castrol is a subsidiary. Her experience and open-mindedness to new ideas and technological solutions has revolutionised Castrol’s collections, with 98% of them now being electronic – an impressive achievement in an industry where cheque payments generally prevail.

Alongside this, Rashmi is a member of the National CFO Council of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), as well as an independent director for both Thirdware Solution Ltd and Godrej Industries Ltd. She has often taken on additional responsibilities, including being an Ethics and Compliance Leader for Castrol India from 2014-2015, and from 2015-2017 she was the Presiding Officer of the Internal Complaints Committee under the POSH Act (the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act – India’s first piece of legislation that dealt specifically with workplace sexual harassment of women). She has also become a much in-demand mentor for people inside and outside of Castrol India’s workforce, helping them to navigate issues both in their careers and in their personal lives.

Rashmi has always been a champion for women in the workplace. Her achievements in this area date back to 2009 when she took an active role in a Women Development Programme in Asia and Pacific, hosting sessions to mentor women. Due to her positive intervention and support from the organisation, the female talent pool in finance has increased significantly at Castrol India. Rashmi has also spent the past five years developing the potential of women in her team and successfully building a female leadership talent pipeline.

“I hope that this recognition will inspire other fellow women professionals to continue to strive for more,” said Rashmi on winning the award.

Our Highly Commended Winner award for Woman of the Year went to Latifah Mohamed Yusof, Group Treasurer, Astro Malaysia Holdings Berhad, who has this to say about the award: “This recognition is a great honour for Malaysia and Astro. I would like to dedicate the award to my bosses – my direct and indirect mentors – as well as my team at Astro who continue to inspire me to drive forward innovation in treasury. A sincere thank you to all who have supported me in my journey.”

Digitalisation champion

The Rising Star award went to Jason Weiguang Han, AVP Regional Liquidity and Banking, APAC, General Electric in Singapore. Jason is making a name for himself as a thought leader and an inspiration to the next generation of treasurers, owing to his dedication and enthusiasm when spearheading key projects.

In his current role he is the digitalisation champion and his enthusiasm and willingness to embrace technology has helped to establish the culture of innovation across the businesses. Jason is becoming a true industry leader and setting a great example for those thinking of following in his footsteps. It’s his ability to juggle work, family life, and his sense of civic duty to the wider society that sets him apart from the rest and makes him a worthy winner of Treasury Today Asia’s 2019 A Rising Star award.

On winning, Jason said: “Winning this prestigious Adam Smith Award is a great honour and certainly a great milestone in my life. It is an industry-wide recognition for my hard work and achievements in treasury. I would like to take this opportunity to appreciate and thank all my bosses – past and present – and banking partners for their excellent advisory and kind support. Last but definitely not least, well done Treasury Today Asia for this excellent programme, now in its sixth year!”

Adam Smith Awards Asia 2020

We’d like to offer our congratulations to all 2019’s fantastic winners. You can view the full list of 2019 winners online. Keep an eye out for all the case studies in the Adam Smith Awards Asia 2019 Yearbook, which is available both in print and online.

The Adam Smith Awards Asia continues to challenge the region’s treasury community to develop even better solutions. Recognising the creativity and ingenuity of the treasury community, and inspiring treasurers (and their solution partners) to create ground-breaking solutions, is what the Adam Smith Awards Asia are all about.

Nominations for the Adam Smith Awards Asia 2020 open on June 8th. 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. Once again, congratulations to our 2019 winners and good luck for 2020.

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