Cloud Talk: Gearing Up For The Next Black Swan Event

By Chong Seow Wei

At the October 20 edition of Cloud Talk, four industry experts discuss about the post-pandemic priorities for businesses and leaders

Tatler Asia

The outbreak of Covid-19 has caused widespread devastation to lives and livelihoods, and has shown how unprepared the world was for the pandemic. Of course, it may never be possible to be fully prepared for a global epidemic, but measures can be taken to mitigate its effects. 

For businesses who have made it through the multiple lockdowns, restrictions, disruptions and pivots of this pandemic, there are many lessons to learn that can inform their future crisis management strategies. What areas or decisions should businesses prioritise in order to prepare them and their employees for the next crisis? How can companies rebuild or improve themselves so that they are more resilient and adaptable to external changes? And why should they invest more in sustainable practices moving forward?

In our October 20 edition of Cloud Talk, we discussed these questions and more with a panel of entrepreneurs and corporate leaders.

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Our panel comprised four speakers from the finance, travel and sustainability sectors. 

Chibo Tang, managing partner at Gobi Partners, is an experienced investor in early-stage startups. As head of the venture capital firm’s Hong Kong office, Tang has led investments in companies such as Airwallex, Prenetics and WeLab.

Patricia Dwyer is the founder and director of The Purpose Business, which has worked with more than 70 companies, including Jardine Matheson and Swire Properties, to incorporate more responsible practices into their strategies and operations. She was previously the first global head of CSR and sustainability for Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts.

Fan Cheuk Wan oversees the development of investment strategies for Asia at HSBC Global Private Banking and Wealth Management as its chief investment officer. Armed with over 25 years of industry experience, she is regularly quoted in both local and international media.

As Klook’s chief financial officer, Shang Chuang spearheads the unicorn startup’s financial strategy and functions. Prior to joining the travel and leisure activities booking platform, he held several roles at the Hong Kong office of listed wealth management company Noah Holdings, including group CFO and CEO. 

Here are some key takeaways from the discussion.

See also: Download Gen.T's Intelligence Report On Sustainability In Asia

Rehearse your business continuity plan regularly

According to Chuang, businesses who have not only planned but practised how they will navigate unexpected times will bounce back faster. "Firstly, have the mentality that [a crisis] will definitely come again," he says. "It's also important to put what you think into action." He cited the example of business continuity plans and shares that when businesses grow, leaders often talk about them and put in place the right policies and procedures, but not many test run them. "You have to rehearse, so you know that you're ready for [a crisis] when it comes."

Focusing on the 'S' in ESG 

"It is leaders we need to evolve when we want to evolve a business," says Dwyer. She adds that leaders commonly place less importance on the social aspect of running a business, but the pandemic is changing that.

"The S [in ESG] has taken so long to push because it's traditionally seen as 'soft'; it's cultural, it's subjective, which makes you sort of accept that [matters like] social welfare, community development, diversity and inclusion can wait. But the pandemic has surfaced that there are issues you can't separate from running a supply chain. You can't not talk about executive pay when you're furloughing thousands of people. That's just not socially equitable. The companies that have succeeded are the ones who've put their people first, and not just as a statement on the annual report." 

Look beyond the negative stuff to see the opportunities

Risk mitigation is essential to surviving any crisis, but to propel your business forward, Tang believes entrepreneurs and business leaders should also actively look out for new opportunities. "From a venture capitalist perspective, I tend to look more at the opportunities," he says. "And so when events like [the Covid-19 pandemic] happen, they do create new problems that need to be solved. So for entrepreneurs, maintain a mindset that allows you to adapt quickly to changing environments and shift resources to capture new opportunities."

Asia's growing appetite for green financing and investment solutions

According to Fan, the pandemic has accelerated HSBC's development of innovative green financing and investment solutions for its clients. "The pandemic has catalysed the development of new growth industries, and our clients want to capture the opportunities from this new global economic landscape. For example, according to our own economic research estimates, China is expected to invest RMB$200 trillion into green infrastructure to drive energy transition in the next decade. This brings new opportunities and at HSBC, we will develop innovative green solutions to address our clients' needs and expectations."

This session is co-organised with HSBC Global Private Banking. See past and upcoming Cloud Talk editions.

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