|For engineer by training Randy Sim, the holy grail of successful leadership involves cultivating the qualities of self-awareness and self-management.
“Understanding our own behaviours and motivations, taking ownership and responsibility for our actions, leading by example - these are some of the defining characteristics of self-leadership,” said the Group Chief Executive Officer of SGX-listed financing solutions provider IFS Capital Ltd.
“Self-leadership is essential for us to be able to take care of our families or run our organisations effectively. Those who manage themselves from the inside out tend to have greater focus and direction, and be successful leaders. It took me a long time to realise this, and it remains a continuous work-in-progress for me.”
Sim, a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours graduate from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, began his career with the Economic Development Board in 2004. In 2007, he joined Citibank, and over the next eight years, held various roles across its consumer and commercial banking businesses.
In 2016, the opportunity to join IFS Capital as Country Head of its Singapore operations emerged.
“I’ve had the privilege to work with talented and driven individuals - mostly entrepreneurs - throughout my career, and I became deeply curious about the world of business. So, when Eugene Tan, who was then Group CEO of IFS, gave me the opportunity to run IFS Singapore, it didn’t take me long to decide,” Sim recalled.
“What made the role even more interesting was its turnaround mandate - it felt like a good platform to implement the ideas that I have,” he added.
IFS Capital reported four consecutive years of net attributable losses between 2013 and 2016, before returning to the black in 2017. One particular strategy Sim and his team undertook early in the turnaround process was to “paint a smaller circle”.
“This meant we focused only on what we knew and could execute well, and dropped the other lines of businesses that diverted management bandwidth,” he said.
“When we forced ourselves to focus, the self-imposed limitations required us to build an all-weather portfolio that can perform well through cycles. That principle became the benchmark that we used to originate new business, and this approach continues to serve us well in the present environment,” he added.
In July 2020, Sim was promoted to Group CEO of IFS Capital after his predecessor retired.
Incorporated in Singapore in 1987, IFS Capital offers commercial financing services like factoring, hire-purchase/leasing, loans, government-assisted schemes and trade/export finance, to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), both in Singapore and across Southeast Asia.
The Group, which oversees a diverse portfolio of businesses ranging from insurance to fintech, is part of the PhillipCapital network of companies. IFS has been listed on SGX Mainboard since July 1993.
Boosting Liquidity Links
Since IFS Capital’s core expertise lies in underwriting credit, many of its new businesses are extensions of that, Sim said.
“Our interactions with micro-enterprises led us to form Friday Finance to serve the own-account worker/self-employed/entrepreneur segment, which may be small now, but which we feel will grow not only in Singapore, but across the region.”
-- Randy Sim
“We also created Lendingpot to inform and connect SMEs to different pockets of liquidity available in the market.”
Friday Finance, a licensed moneylender in Singapore, provides consumer loans via a digital portal with a focus on financial wellness, at an affordable and transparent pricing. Lendingpot operates an online Business Loan Marketplace, which allows small enterprise owners to instantly connect with relationship managers of up to 45 financial institutions in Singapore to find the best loan.
“Our financing businesses across ASEAN have also been actively exploring partnerships and bringing our solutions to new industries,” he added.
“These new initiatives will enable us to expand the segment of clients that we can serve, and diversify our revenue streams. More importantly, we get to leverage our expertise and technology to scale them across Asia.”
The Group’s most recent venture - IFS Asset Management - has received approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to start operating as a registered fund management company.
“This is another example of an extension of our core expertise in underwriting credit,” Sim said. “Private credit is a growing asset class, and from our experience in the past four years, we felt we could create a differentiated product that would have a place in investors’ portfolios.”
Additionally, the CEO of IFS Asset Management, Lui Tuck Wing, is a veteran who has navigated ASEAN-wide credit portfolios across multiple business cycles. “Our focus is on credit strategies, and we believe this to be a highly scalable business,” Sim pointed out.
And though growth opportunities abound, several challenges need to be addressed. “SMEs are perceived to be an underserved segment, and we expect increasing competition over the near to mid-term, resulting in tighter margins, looser covenants and structures,” he acknowledged.
“We will need to be conscious of the underlying shifts, and work even more closely with our clients to ensure we can support their business plans, now and post-pandemic. During periods when there is too much exuberance, we must exercise discipline, and refrain from chasing transactions that do not meet our risk-return requirements.”
There is also a gap between enterprise and consumer user experiences in most industries, including finance. “We see growing expectations within the SME space for products and services that combine enterprise-grade security and consumer-grade user experiences. This is an area where we have a lot of work to do,” he added.
Capitalising on Opportunities
As a smaller and nimbler organisation, IFS Capital aims to think differently and optimise for different parameters versus the competition, in order to capture opportunities at the edge.
“We’re constantly iterating our programs, processes and technology in order to remove friction in our user experiences, and we actively seek partnerships that can help us extend our reach and bring greater value to our clients,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic, while creating significant operational challenges, has also taught the Group many lessons.
“We’ve been operating with a distributed workforce since early 2020, and have transitioned to complete remote arrangements in some countries. We know now that it’s possible to operate our business with a level of flexibility that we did not think possible just a few years ago,” Sim said.
From a business perspective, the pandemic has also sped up digital transformation in the industries that the Group serves. “This has given us the chance to engage our stakeholders to adopt new technology and processes to improve the way we operate and serve our clients,” he noted.
New business avenues have also surfaced in segments that have grown fast over the past year, driven by increased digital adoption and time spent online. “We’ve observed greater interest in entrepreneurship and side hustles - our teams are working hard to capture these opportunities.”
Meanwhile, in terms of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals, the Group is focused on aligning its business practices in a way that reflects its vision of a sustainable future.
“This principle has guided us in focusing on productive financing, shifting away from fossil fuel-related industries, and exploring how we can support development of the electric vehicle supply chain in Thailand and Indonesia, as well national programs such as the 30-by-30 vision for food security in Singapore,” Sim said.
“Our approach is to think deeply about our business, the communities we operate within, and the future we hope to play a part in bringing about. Then we prioritise our objectives, communicate to our teams, and execute on our strategies. We’re still at an early stage in our ESG journey - there’s much more work that we need to do.”
|And when this 42-year-old is out of the office, his time is either spent reading, or with his family, which includes a son, five, and daughter, eight.
“There are many subjects that interest me, and I find I get good ideas from different fields that I can apply, in both business and life,” Sim said.
“What really inspires me are stories of how people have made the best of their resources and opportunities to achieve their goals. I am constantly awed by the possibilities within the human spirit.”
IFS Capital Ltd
Incorporated in Singapore in 1987, IFS Capital offers commercial financing services like factoring, hire-purchase/leasing, loans, government-assisted schemes and trade/export finance, to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), both in Singapore and across Southeast Asia. The Group, which oversees a diverse portfolio of businesses ranging from insurance to fintech, is part of the PhillipCapital network of companies. IFS has been listed on SGX Mainboard since July 1993.
The company website is: www.ifscapital.com.sg
Click here for the company's StockFacts page.
For the half year ended 30 June 2021 financial results, click here.
About kopi-C: the Company brew
Text: Jennifer Tan-Stanisic
Photo: Company file
This article was originally published in kopi-C, a regular column on the SGX Research website that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on Singapore Exchange. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.
For previous editions of kopi-C: the Company brew, please click here.