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CFOs need to change to meet ASEAN competition, says DMCI Homes exec

July 21, 2014

Chief finance officers (CFOs) should expand their traditional role in the company to be able to face more competition expected under an integrated ASEAN economy next year, according to a DMCI Homes executive.

"The perceived CFO now cannot compete if they don't change their role and attitude towards how they operate the company," said Ramil B. Lombos, senior vice president and CFO of the Philippines' premier developer of resort-style residential communities, during the CFO Innovation Philippines Forum held at the Shangri-la Hotel in Makati on July 10.

Lombos said the ASEAN economic community (AEC) will result into more competition among the companies, so the CFO, as one of the key officers of a company, should step up and do other roles aside from just managing the balance sheet. 

Under the AEC, the 10 ASEAN member countries will freely trade goods, services, investment capital and skilled labor under a reduced tariff and streamlined procedure. Property developers from Singapore could enter the Philippines' real estate market and pose serious competition with local developers because they will be offering better products and better services. Lombos cited as example one development in Singapore he visited before the forum wherein everything is touchscreen.

"If we don't innovate, then we're going to lose," Lombos warned, referring to the change CFOs need to adopt. "The role can expand more, not only in just looking at the number but also being more sensitive to other needs of the company. So the challenge is really getting out of that comfort zone and being more people-skilled and people-centered."

A CFO is just a service provider, who serves the other groups of the company like the marketing department to make sure that they have the proper budget and money to do their job, explained Lombos.

"If you don't understand the other department's needs, the fiscal controls that you have set up might not be relevant or even limit their objectives," he said. "For marketing group, if I know their objectives, then I would not set up controls to limit their capabilities and resources. The company then becomes more flexible and can move faster and do other projects."

Lombos added that a CFO should not necessarily be an accountant.

"Normally, a CFO's background is accounting. But CFO can also be coming from the engineering side," said the engineering management graduate of the University of California Los Angeles and holder of a master's degree at the Asian Institute of Management.

Lombos was one of four speakers and panelists who discussed about the CFO's role now and in the next five years in the annual forum held in the Philippines for the first time. In his segment of the day-long forum, his co-panelists are non-CPE CFOs of their respective companies. He was chosen to be a panelist because most of his experience is really on operations with his skills in cash management comprising about 40 percent of his total working experience.

As part of the senior management of DMCI Homes, Lombos recommends financial management strategies which help the company achieve its financial goals and objectives.

His responsibility includes developing, implementing and maintaining the financial plans and policies of DMCI Homes, as well as establishing fiscal controls, maintaining relations with investment and banking communities, and advising the management on financial affairs.

Moreover, he oversees key departments as accounting, finance, treasury, credit and collection, budget and remedial accounts, customer care, information technology, internal audit, leasing, legal, permits and licenses, and project development.

Manila was one of the hosts in the series of CFO Innovation Forums held in different Asian cities this year. The forum brings together CFOs, financial controllers, treasurers and other finance executives to discuss and share ideas, experiences and insights with peers from large enterprises and multinationals, as well as business specialists and other experts. Lombos attended last year's edition of the forum held in Singapore, where he learned from a Microsoft executive a business processes solution that DMCI Homes eventually acquired to improve efficiency of finance and operation through automated sharing of accurate information and faster billing.

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