Erwin Debaere: An Industry Expert Fuelling Expansion With Financial Expertise

Erwin Debaere: An Industry Expert Fuelling Expansion With Financial Expertise

Erwin Debaere , Group CFO

Erwin Debaere

Group CFO

In Vietnam's dynamic business environment, numerous CFOs have emerged as influential figures driving financial excellence and stra­tegic decision-making. As Vietnam's economic landscape continues to thrive, these visionary CFOs from various sectors play a crucial role in strengthening the financial future of their organi­zations and contributing to the overall prosperity of the country.

One such CFO making great strides in Vietnam is Erwin Debaere with his contributions to Hoan My Medical Corporation’s growth and success. As the Group CFO, he holds a critical role in the fi­nancial management and strategic decision-making processes to ensure financial stability and support implementation of growth opportunities.

In this interview with CEO Insights Asia, Erwin Debaere shares insights into his professional jour­ney and advises budding entrepreneurs on how to achieve success.

Can you walk us through your professional journey in Vietnam?

I moved to Vietnam for an assignment as Finance Director for a multinational FMCG manufacturing company. However, I had always been intrigued by healthcare economics, so when I was contacted to become the Group CFO of Hoan My, I felt it was a unique opportunity. I wanted to understand the industry’s functioning and I could contribute to ef­ficiency, growth, and better outcomes, within the context of private healthcare.

In Vietnam, the public healthcare sector is domi­nant, but there are major players in the private sec­tor. The role has allowed me to delve into health­care economics and make a meaningful impact. It provides professional development opportunities, and a sense of purpose by improving healthcare standards in the country.

There is no other way to practice business partnering than through joint work on the ground with a keen interest in the details of the work & challenges of one’s peers

Could you please explain how you plan to maintain and enhance its legacy from a finan­cial perspective?

Currently, we operate 21 healthcare units. While integrating the network, we aim to bring in talent from outside the country or industry to enhance professionalism across the system. Instead of func­tioning as separate units, we strive to work more cohesively as a unified group.

As a finance professional, I see two primary areas to support the growth. Firstly, given the ex­panding healthcare sector in Vietnam, we look at favorable opportunities for investments and re­turns. Evaluating these investment prospects from multiple angles, including financial, is crucial, and the finance function plays a significant role in this aspect. Secondly, organic growth initiatives require securing funding and financial evaluation of invest­ment proposals.

Please mention some of your key milestones in your professional journey.

The two most important milestones were when I relocated to different countries. In the early stages of my career, I was based in Belgium and involved in project-based work throughout Central Europe. Then, in 2011, I made the decision to move to Po­land. Eight years later, my family and I made anoth­er expatriation choice, this time to Vietnam. These two moments marked pivotal points in my career. Not only did they provide professional growth and new job responsibilities, but they also presented personal challenges as I immersed myself in new cultures, get­ting to know the people and their work practices.

Furthermore, these experiences instilled in me the invaluable skill of adaptability. In various profes­sional contexts, being flexible and adapting to differ­ent ways of working, interacting with diverse stake­holders, both internal and external, became essential. The ability to quickly adjust to different settings, ef­fectively communicate my messages, and understand the unique perspectives of different stakeholders is a skill I acquired in an accelerated manner through these country and culture transitions.

Can you shed light on your financial strategies for advancing the organization?

We have a growth strategy until 2030, encompass­ing organic and non-organic avenues. As Group CFO, I contribute to this growth in multiple ways. For or­ganic expansion, we focus on developing new special­ties and Centers of Excellence, requiring substantial capital expenditure. We also aim to develop strategic value partnerships with suppliers and international healthcare players, going beyond pure transactional relationships. We consider the hard benefits of part­nerships such as warranties, payment terms, cost benefits resulting from the leveraging of our scale, but also opportunities to attract foreign experts and access to knowhow. These partnerships are very im­portant contributors to our accelerated growth.

As CFO, I define areas to improve our cash flow. One example is to collaborate with our partners to look at diversified channels of cash flow optimization, e.g. by integrating relationships with financial insti­tutions and suppliers. With enhancement of planning skills and working capital improvement initiatives based on detailed targets set for receivables, paya­bles and inventory, we focus also on internal cash generation to fund our growth. We optimize work­ing capital through innovative payment instruments for patients and customers by building relationships with private insurers, and by exploring consumer fi­nancing products for elective procedures.

What advice would you give to upcoming leaders?

Upcoming finance leaders should move beyond ac­counting, transactional support and reporting, em­bracing finance business partnering. Much has been written about this topic, but it always remains a bit magic how to put this into practice. According to me this involves working closely with the other functions to understanding the needs. There is no other way to practice business partnering than through joint work on the ground with a keen interest in the details of the work and challenges of one’s peers.

Secondly, I recommend to embrace digitalization by exploring a.o. AI to enhance internal finance processes and improve efficiency. However, we need to consider risks associated with new technologies and stay updated on the digital landscape. Cybersecurity definitely requires also the CFO’s attention in this transition.

In summary, own the details, allocate time for on-site engagement and embrace digital advance­ments.

Erwin Debaere, Group CFO, Hoan My Medical Corporation

Erwin Debaere is the Group CFO of Hoan My Medical Corporation. He holds a critical role in the financial management and strategic decision-making processes of the organization. With his expertise and experience in finance, Erwin Debaere ensures the financial stability and growth of Hoan My.

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