Specialise in: e-commerce logistics
Covid-19 has forced rapid progress in how anyone can get their goods to market, with advancements in e-commerce logistics (e-logistics), or e-commerce order fulfilment, making it increasingly easy for even the smallest retailer to get their products into the hands of their customers, quickly and affordably.
E-logistics is the process underpinning e-commerce sales and marketplaces. It is effectively the supply chain for online retail – once shoppers have made an online purchase, the order is packed, shipped, delivered and, in some cases, returned.
E-logistics is a fast-paced, tech-forward growth sector – one in which finance professionals, such as Chang Lih Yen FCCA, CFO of EasyParcel, a regional e-commerce and parcel delivery business based in Malaysia, are in demand.
‘It’s been an exciting journey for me,’ says Lih Yen. ‘As a member of a market leader of Southeast Asia’s e-commerce delivery market, I get to participate in innovative work to forge closer integration of the e-commerce and logistics ecosystem.’
E-logistics companies will often be young and small to mid-sized, given the e-commerce sector’s relative youth, and reflected in the size of their finance functions. This might mean working in anything from a startup environment to companies going through more advanced rounds of funding, M&A and even IPOs.
Regardless, a flexible and can-do attitude will be expected, which can often mean working outside of your finance and accounting comfort zone, especially for more senior roles. Besides overseeing capital management, including equity and debt fundraising, financial planning, analysis and reporting, Lih Yen supports the team in driving growth strategy and cost optimisation initiatives. He also works with the founders in driving corporate development through strategic partnerships and M&A.
E-logistics companies will be expanding fast, which will present career opportunities and unique challenges. This can mean more new service offerings, fundraising to keep up with expansion, and growth of the finance team to include professionals with specialist skills and experience.
People are needed with an understanding of the following: the accounting needs of new revenue models and cost structures; FP&A analysis for tracking and performance measurement; assisting in active engagement with the investor community, including angel investors, venture capital, private equity and strategic investors; finance talent management; automation and ERM adoption.
Getting in and getting on
From a technical skills perspective, as well as a solid background in accounting standards and practical applications, knowledge and experience in areas such as financial modelling, data analytics (SQL/Python) and data visualisation are also important.
For soft skills, Lih Yen highlights grit, a positive attitude towards failure, an ability to articulate, humility, critical thinking and being resourceful.
Getting the right fit for these fast-growth companies is vital, so they can seem very particular about who they hire. In Lih Yen’s case it was a referral from an ex-colleague, followed by several rounds of interviews with the founders and company directors.
‘ACCA and CFA are definitely helpful,’ he says. ‘Apart from the knowledge gained from attaining both professional qualifications, which are useful in dealing with my day-to-day work, they were also a strong testament to my technical competency when I went for the job interviews.’
Having a varied background in finance and business, including investment, investor relations and business development, can be very supportive to a move into this sector.
‘Having ACCA, CFA and a mix of experience, ranging from audit, corporate finance, investment banking, private equity to business development, have equipped me adequately for the role of CFO for a fast-growing tech company,’ says Lih Yen.
‘I can leverage my expertise and experience in audit for financial reporting work; in corporate finance for capital management work; in investment banking and private equity for fundraising, merger and acquisition work; in business development for strategic matters.’
You can see your rise through seniority and added responsibility grow rapidly in such companies as you follow them along their growth journeys, though you need to be resilient to change and able to work well with new faces with more experience. The path to CFO might not be found in the same startup you helped grow, but the experience you gain can set you up to climb the ladder quickly in e-logistics or the broader tech sector.
You can aim for CFO, CEO and board member, or begin your own startup with all the market knowledge you’ve gained. ‘Being a CFO of a fast-growing tech company provides good exposure to how a tech company runs and networking opportunities with prominent investors and successful entrepreneurs, which will be useful for starting your own entrepreneurial journey,’ says Lih Yen.
E-commerce in numbers
- Online retail sales will reach $6.17 trillion by 2023
- E-commerce websites will account for 22.3% of total retail sales by 2023
- E-commerce grew by 25% in Latin America
- India’s e-commerce market is expected to grow to $111.4 billion by 2025, up from $46.2 billion in 2020
- Russia, the UK and the Philippines saw more than 20% e-commerce sales growth in 2021
- China leads the global e-commerce market, with 52.1% of all retail e-commerce sales globally. It has the world’s most digital buyers, 824.5 million, or 38.5% of the worldwide total
- The US e-commerce market is forecast to reach over $875 billion in 2022, a little over a third of China’s
Author: Neil Johnson, journalist
This article was first published in AB magazine May 2022