INTHEBLACK September 2021 - Flipbook - Page 38
// M E E T T H E C F O
Regional CFO Asia,
FCM Travel Solutions,
Multiple senior finance,
strategy and risk roles in
Singapore, the US, the Middle
East, the UK and Australia.
London in 2007.
In charge of 59 people
planning and analysis,
product, data and
AS TOLD TO ADAM COURTENAY PHOTOGRAPHY LUKE MARSDEN
FOR TIMOTHY WILLIAMS CPA, ONE OF THE GREATEST LESSONS THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY SHOULD LEARN
FROM DISRUPTION IS THE VALUE OF THINKING OUTSIDE OF THE BOX WHILE REACTING AND ADAPTING
QUICKLY TO CHANGE.
BR E A K I NG T H E MOU L D
I have been told before I shouldn’t have been
a CFO – I would make a much better chief
commercial officer. I’ve always been
entrepreneurial, and my role at FCM Travel
Solutions, especially in this COVID-19 period,
has been to break the mould and think
differently. Having that mindset, coupled with
my CFO and COO experience, has allowed me
to understand the importance of taking
charge of the business while continuing to
keep an eye out for potential opportunities.
As an industry, what we did in the past is
not what we need to do in the future. The
foundational aspects of getting someone from
point A to point B is the minimum expectation
of a client. What clients need today is all the
additional value add. They see value
differently, and we must adapt our business
model. You may have to look outside of our
traditional sphere and partner with industries
that will enhance that offering to the client.
I prefer not to use the term “strategic
transformation”, because all businesses must
evolve to remain competitive. A business that
can’t, or won’t, will not be successful for long.
In the end, it’s about capital allocation and
how we use that to drive the business. This
could be investing in our sales engine, talent
pool, M&A, new markets, new products,
technology or strategic partnerships. My role
is to work with the rest of our leadership
group in making those decisions, which not
only brings value to our clients, but also,
ultimately brings a return to our shareholders.
38 ITB September 2021
TOUG H DECI SI O N S
COVID-19 is not the only challenge we have
had to face in recent times. Broader political
and trade challenges abound. With the
sharp curtailment of global travel, we had to
act fast to secure and stabilise our business,
so that, as things evolved, we would guide
ourselves through the current pandemic.
We had to make tough decisions for the
business to survive and remain stable.
Corporates tend to be very poor at reacting
to situations because, when times are good,
discipline can sometimes wane. Those who
adapt quicker to economic cycles, or have
planned for it, tend to do better. The
decisions that we took had been about
ensuring that we would be in a position to
ride through COVID-19 and out the other
Cash flow is the biggest financial
challenge. When you see business virtually
evaporate overnight, you need to react and
model out what you can do to preserve
cash. This has involved tough negotiations
with suppliers, when they also are doing it
tough. It also means prioritising where you
The other big challenge is forecasting.
Australia is a prime example. Unless you are
in New South Wales, you slam the borders
shut in the blink of an eye to any state with
a case of COVID-19. Ultimately, you are
dealing with daily moving pieces. We have
built extensive models to try and adapt to
I N T ERN AT I O N A L E X P O S U R E
When I was in my early 20s, my
manager asked me, “What do you want
to do?”. I told her I wanted to be a
regional CFO by the time I was 28. She
replied, “OK, so how do we make that
happen?”. We talked about what that
would look like, but ultimately – and this
is a lesson I give to my staff all the time
– it’s your life and your career. I got there
when I became the regional CFO and
COO with Aon in the Middle East.
I am an Aussie and British expat who
came from an expat family. I was
always going to move to spend a vast
majority of my time overseas. I moved
to London when I was 26 and started
working for insurance broker Mitsui
Sumitomo UK and EMEA. It was the
start of the acceleration of my career.
London is one of the true global
financial services hubs. You will not
beat working in what is the heart of
the global financial centre.
After London, I moved to the Middle
East (Bahrain, Dubai), the US
(Chicago) and finally Singapore. Each
has brought its own challenges.
Having this exposure allows you to
integrate and better understand how
to be a regional or global leader. I
have been fortunate to end up in an
industry that not only fulfils one of my
passions, but is also one where
I can really drive aggressive growth.