Last year, AFP announced the formation of its APAC FP&A Advisory Council (FPAAC). The networking and advisory group meets three to four times a year to discuss best practices, common challenges and innovative initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region. We’ll be profiling individual members of the council every month. This month we spoke with Douglas Yeung, FPAC, senior director of APAC Finance at Genesys.
AFP: Let’s begin with how you got into FP&A.
Yeung: My career in FP&A began by accident when I applied for a finance leadership program position with Nortel Networks a long time ago. The individuals in charge of the program decided that I should join the FP&A stream instead of the controllership stream, so they sent me to work in Dallas, where I worked in FP&A for the wireless business division.
Sometimes I wish I could have gone into accounting just to gain that experience, such as two or three years in a controllership role to be a more rounded financial professional; however, FP&A has always been more interesting to me. In FP&A, I can do more than closing books and performing controllership responsibilities.
AFP: Sometimes it seems that finance is trying to get a controller-like precision into a forward-looking forecast. Why is that?
Yeung: You often see FP&A individuals starting their career with training from the accounting side, so I am not surprised to hear that. People then take that accounting perspective and apply it to forecasting and budgeting to best replicate the numbers that would go into the accounting system. Instead, FP&A should focus on explaining what the financials mean and coming up with actions to drive change. This also means FP&A should take the perspective of a businessperson with a strong finance background, instead of a finance person trying to manage a business.
AFP: How do you see FP&A and controllership evolving?
Yeung: FP&A will continue to specialize, and controllership will still be mostly around compliance and making sure that the accounting side is taken care of. A lot of controllers handled transactional duties 10 years ago, whereas now it is all about robotics and how much can be automated by machines. However, people in controllership roles still need to make judgment calls and have strong business acumen, especially when it comes to the more complicated aspects such as revenue recognition and compliance issues.
AFP: What would you say to people who are trying to move their career from controllership and accounting into FP&A?
Yeung: For people trying to move their career from controllership and accounting into FP&A, the biggest shift is the need to understand the business side of things. I have seen a lot of controllership individuals trying to transition, but there is always some struggle if they are thinking about things from an accounting, debit/credit, or gap perspective. If you try to look at the commercial side wearing your accountant hat, you must be thinking about the flexibility that the commercial side needs in order to be successful in FP&A. It can be hard for people who have been in accounting for a long time to adjust.
AFP: What are your goals for being on AFP's Asia Pacific Advisory Council?
Yeung: It will be interesting to survey how AFP is growing in the Asia Pacific region. The coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into a lot of plans, but it is still important to lift the profile of the FP&A profession. I want to encourage more people to talk about FP&A and brainstorm ideas about how we can promote the function within Asia Pacific companies.
AFP: Do you think FP&A is done differently in a headquartered company in APAC versus a regional office in APAC? What would that mean for FP&A, being headquarters versus being regional?
Yeung: FP&A in the APAC region is fascinating. While there are a lot of large, Asian-based companies, there are also multinationals, U.S.- and European-based companies that operate in APAC. A regional view of a company’s FP&A is different than the view of FP&A when you are working for a company headquartered in Asia. However, the dynamic is exciting because it garners different perspectives.
As for my own experience being in the APAC region for a multinational company, I spent a lot more time trying to educate headquarters because there is less understanding when they do not live in Asia. It becomes more difficult to understand the nuances, how certain countries operate, how the different customers operate, and how FP&A needs to adjust to those environments. When you are not working in the APAC region, you complete global level analyses and cascade your decision without understanding the impact in the field — and that is the biggest challenge.
For more resources and information on FP&A in the APAC region, visit AFP’s Asia-Pacific FP&A page.