Chee Kiong Mak: Thriving In The World Of Explosive Growth By Providing Realistic Financial Strategic Solutions

Chee Kiong Mak: Thriving In The World Of Explosive Growth By Providing Realistic Financial Strategic Solutions

Chee Kiong Mak , Chief Financial Officer

Chee Kiong Mak

Chief Financial Officer

Given the speed at which market conditions and operational structures are changing, the role of CFOs has become more crucial than ever in shaping and driving a company’s strategic direction. From integrating advanced analytics tools to aligning strategy and financial risk, great CFOs have the unique capacity to lead to make their companies deliver value. CEO Insights exclusive team engages in a conversation with one such highly accomplished strategic and result-driven finance leader with over 25 years of progressive experience in finance and operations management within startups and multi-billion-dollar organizations. Chee Kiong Mak, Chief Financial Officer, Circles Life has a demonstrated ability to integrate and streamline business operations that drive growth and increase efficiency and bottom-line profit. He possesses solid leadership, communication, and interpersonal skills to establish rapport with internal and external stakeholders.

Prior to Circles Life, Chee Kiong has been associated with various reputed organizations like Singtel, Amobee, Cisco Systems, and many more in leadership positions. In each organization, he has been driving the company’s financial planning and using financial data to influence operational decision-making and strategy. He has led efforts to educate key shareholders, investors, and research analysts of organizations on business operations and their contribution to future performance.

At Circles Life, Chee Kiong has been instrumental in re-building the finance team from scratch within six months, with the right shoring of the entire accounting function in the Philippines. He elevated biz analysis and performance benchmarking supporting faster leadership, decision-making, autonomy, and empowerment without sacrificing the quality of biz oversights. Moreover, he has been able to put in place the appropriate level of governance, controls, and processes, to protect and safeguard the interests of the company. With his real-world operational and significant highlevel financial experience, Chee Kiong has been participating in and raising equity and debt, and proactively managing relationships with current and potential investors and bankers to drive the direction and success of the organization.

Let’s hear it from him as he talks about his journey and more.

As a CFO, I put my efforts into providing the business with the best estimate of the potential returns, considering the associated risks of a decision

You possess over twenty-eight years of experience. How has your path to success been and what is your success mantra?

My career path has never been linear; I have my fair share of euphoria and disappointments as well.

I remember a time when I was at crossroads where I had to push the agenda to wind up an investment painstakingly built over three years. It is not easy to know when to call it to quit, especially when our society holds grit, perseverance, and resiliency in such high esteem. However, in every challenging phase, my mantra has always been to take decisions led by principles. I believe in having a consistent approach guided by principles towards decisionmaking not swayed by emotions.

How would you define Circles Life as an organization and its current position in the market? What is the unique proposition that your organization offers to clients?

Circles is an organization at the forefront of digital transformation for Telco operators. Telcos today face challenges from new digital players that are disrupting the industry. Revenue is declining coupled with the ever-increasing cost to serve given the multiple generations of technologies (3G, 4G, 5G). The industry is due for radical transformation. Circles are in a unique position where our proprietary technology (which we operate in our branded markets in Singapore, Australia, and Taiwan) has been tested and proven to expedite this change. We pride ourselves on building a solution for operators, by operators.

As the CFO, how do you determine the profitability of the investment of the company?

For me, profitability is what a company can return to its shareholders for capital. The latter comes up to fund an investment. While the measured outcomes from each investment can be different, they ultimately can be distilled down to cash, be it generating higher revenue from a new product or lower cost structure from efficiencies. In my role as a CFO, I put my efforts into providing the business with the best estimate of the potential returns, considering the associated risks of a decision.

Going forward, what are the changes in market behavior that you anticipate and what are the opportunities that you foresee?

In my opinion, market behavior is constantly changing due to the growing demand for connected/digital services for daily needs. The world’s population is becoming extremely digital, and our workforce is being replaced by a generation of digital natives. Hence, companies will have to evolve and come up with digital engagement models to address this wave of consumer demands.

In light of your strong industry experience, what advice would you give to budding leaders?

My advice to my fellow peers will be to not be afraid to try new approaches and fail along the way. It is also important to have a set of principles as a guide; they must not hesitate to give their 100 percent in their work but at the same time know when to pull the plug.

Chee Kiong Mak, Chief Financial Officer, Circles Life

Having a Master in Business Administration (Dean’s Honor) from NTU Singapore, a Bachelor of Accountancy (Honors) from NTU Singapore, and a Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountant, Chee Kiong is leveraging his rich financial experience in accelerating revenue growth for Circles Life and setting sights on expanding its operations into global markets

• Hobbies: Solo drive with good music in the background

• Favorite Cuisine: Food prepared by my mother

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