Sie Eddy Kurniawan: Propelling Financial Success As A Visionary & Action Taker

Sie Eddy Kurniawan: Propelling Financial Success As A Visionary & Action Taker

Sie Eddy Kurniawan , Chief Financial Officer

Sie Eddy Kurniawan

Chief Financial Officer

With the rise of the global business economy, today's Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) should be well-rounded and versatile leaders, equipped with expertise in areas beyond traditional finance. These experts must be able to provide insightful guidance on business strategy, macroeconomics, analytics, technology, risk management, and talent acquisition, while also serving as the steward of governance for the organization.

As CFOs continue to play a vital role in the success of modern businesses, we are proud to showcase the achievements of one such leader in the industry: Sie Eddy Kurniawan, Chief Financial Officer of Bumitama Agri in Singapore. With over three decades of experience in finance and operations, Eddy has demonstrated his ability to navigate the challenges and opportunities of today's business landscape with exceptional skill and efficiency. In this feature of CEO Insights Asia, we will delve into Eddy's unique approach to finance and his impact, exploring the critical role he plays in shaping the vision and strategy of Bumitama Agri.

Brief us on your professional journey and what inspired you to build a career in the financial services domain

I developed a passion for physics and mathematics as a child. My interest in logical thinking and number crunching led me to pursue a degree in economics with a summa cum-laude grade. My career began in financial advisory firms like Arthur Andersen and PricewaterhouseCoopers, where I developed my data analysis skills and honed my expertise in raising capital, M&A, and financial restructuring. Later, recruited as a Business Development Executive by the Sampoerna Group, one of Indonesia’s prominent business conglomerates; for identifying and developing new business ventures.

One of these ventures was a palm oil business, which I helped to acquire and restructure. After acquiring the first oil palm company, the Group assigned me to become the Company’s CFO. We later consolidated all acquired plantation companies and successfully listed the holding plantation company on Indonesian Stock Exchange. Further joined Bumitama Agri, part of the Harita Group, which is a publicly listed palm oil company on the Singapore Stock Exchange, and raised close to USD 1 billion in funding to support its expansion of planted surface which now stands at 188,000 hectares, all the while maintaining financial leverage of less than 1.0 in a dynamic and unpredictable palm oil industry.

Describe your leadership approach. What is your success mantra?

Leadership is about creating a supportive and empowering work environment where team members are given the chance to make mistakes, learn, and grow. This is achieved by giving trust and space to capable individuals to work independently and take ownership of their tasks. Rather than micromanaging, open and honest discussions about challenges and brainstorming of ideas are encouraged, with team members encouraged to propose and execute their own solutions. An open and inclusive atmosphere is also prioritized to ensure team members feel comfortable approaching their leader with concerns or ideas. By fostering this type of supportive and collaborative atmosphere, the team is able to grow and excel in their roles.

Your future depends on what you do today, & your today has already started

What are the key elements you take into account for successful financial planning? What are the measures you take to assess an organization's financial performance?

As CFO of Bumitama, I closely monitored the leverage and liquidity ratios, which are critical financial metrics. The reasons for this were: Firstly, Bumitama had an average capital spending of USD 70 million per year to expand its plantation size from 11,000 hectares to 160,000 hectares. Secondly, the oil palm plantation business requires a long-term investment commitment, with a seven-year break-even period, and further, the operating cash flow is subject to fluctuations due to commodity price swings and unpredictable weather. Despite these challenges, I maintained a relatively low net gearing ratio of below 0.8x, while still providing a reasonable dividend payout for shareholders. This ratio declined even further to a record low of 0.2x during H2 of 2022, despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In recent years, I have shifted my focus to enhancing the productivity and cost efficiency of the plantation and mill operations. This has been achieved through digitalization and automation of agronomy and milling practices, as we move towards intensification and adopt the latest technology in plantation practices.

How do you guide your team to draw meaningful insights and identify opportunities in the market?

The key strategic direction is to continuously look for ways to sustain competitive advantage in a highly fragmented palm oil industry. Aside from various intensification initiatives through estate management practices, digitalization, and automation, it is also important to build, integrate, and maintain a continuous improvement of our corporate culture by ensuring its implementation in our daily operational activities.

The main function of the commercial role is to stay up-to-date on market dynamics by actively engaging in the commodity market to obtain the latest industry trends and continuous analysis of relevant factors that could influence the market prices of today and the next several months.

Sie Eddy, Kurniawan Chief, Financial Officer, Bumitama Agri

Sie Eddy holds a Bachelor of Economics from Parahyangan Catholic University. He joined the Group as the Chief Financial Officer in 2013, supervising finance, accounting, and ICT departments as well as overseeing strategic and commercial activities. He began as a Financial Auditor and worked his way up to Vice President in Financial Advisory Services at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Before joining the Group, he served as the CFO of PT Sampoerna Agro Tbk.

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