Opening Remarks at Business Foresight Forum (BFF 2020)
18 November 2020  |   By: Datuk Syed Zaid Albar, Chairman, Securities Commission Malaysia
Opening Remarks by
Datuk Syed Zaid Albar
Chairman, Securities Commission Malaysia
Business Foresight Forum (BFF 2020)
“Evolutionary Change to Revolutionary Impact - Reimagining a New World Post Covid-19”
18-19 November 2020

Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh and good morning.

1.

It gives me great pleasure to deliver the opening remarks for this virtual Business Foresight Forum 2020. I would like to express my appreciation to the SIDC for giving me the opportunity to kick off today’s programme.

2. This annual forum brings together thought leaders and experts to provide their insights and perspectives on three key themes, which are firstly, economic mega trends; second, corporate adaptability; and third, leadership agility.
3. This year features 25 esteemed speakers across a broad spectrum of businesses and professions. With prominent domestic and international personalities, we certainly look forward to the presentations and panel sessions for innovative ideas and a glimpse into what lies ahead.
4. The past nine months has been anything but business as usual. The overnight transformation and shifts in the business landscape we have witnessed usually takes years, sometimes decades. Without doubt, this rapid pace of change has created much uncertainty.
5. And in the face of an uncertain environment, individuals - and even corporations - will hold off on large, long-term commitments. However, we all know that such an approach is not sustainable and will have a detrimental effect on our growth prospects.
6. Therefore, as we prepare to bid goodbye to an unprecedented year and to welcome a new year, it is a good time to take stock. This period usually sees boardrooms review their plans and budgets.
7. So, how can we leverage an evolutionary change to deliver revolutionary impact? I believe this is an ideal forum to facilitate ideas and solutions towards these goals. And, in doing so, provide participants the opportunity to cultivate new strategies and mind sets to stay ahead.
8. Here, I would like to highlight two focal areas for us to move forward. First, we need to understand the implications of emerging trends, in particular, accelerating digitisation. Second, ensuring the long-term resilience and sustainability of our businesses and markets.

Ladies and gentlemen,

9. In investing, there is an oft-repeated phrase “The trend is your friend, until it bends”. This appears to be the case for companies as well. Most businesses were relying on prevailing sales and consumption patterns to continue this year. Unfortunately, many suffered when these trends were up-ended by the global pandemic.
10. While it is difficult to anticipate an outlier event, there are various other underlying trends to chart the way forward. This brings me to the ongoing acceleration of digitisation.
11. Technological change has been a mainstay topic for past editions of this forum, but it has taken on a new dimension after events of this year. Businesses have been forced to reposition themselves as heightened technology adoption transforms the economic landscape.
12. From the capital market’s perspective, containment measures and mobility restrictions forced industry to step up digitisation efforts to enhance their operational capability. Digitisation to facilitate market access played a part in the significant growth of retail participation and trading volumes this year.
13. Malaysian public listed companies (PLCs) have also benefited from the use of digital technology. More than 385 virtual or hybrid general meetings have been held; enabling PLCs to meet their corporate obligations in the face of physical challenges.
14. However, even as we discuss how businesses can better utilise technology to reinvent their business models, we must also consider the risks. The rise of digital businesses and growth in remote working has increased online security issues.
15. Moving forward, cybersecurity measures need to be an integral component of doing business to enable companies to create a safe and trustworthy environment.
16. Another important aspect of accelerated adoption of technology is its role in improving productivity. By automating tedious and time-consuming tasks and processes, technology frees up resources to generate better value for a company’s customers and stakeholders.
17. This brings me to the second part of my remarks. In terms of long-term resilience and business sustainability, companies will need to assess and build upon the value of their assets – physical as well as intangible. Increasingly, firms must pay attention to intangibles – such as human capital, goodwill and even ESG1 factors - to ensure sustainability.
18. There is a pressing need to address the skills gap that has arisen. Businesses and their employees require new skills to bridge a changed environment. In fact, the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) The Future of Jobs Report 2020 highlights that 40% of core skills in the average job will change in the next five years.
19. What is interesting about the WEF survey is that it is not technology or IT-related skills that are seen to be the top skills required. Instead, analytical thinking, learning and complex problem solving skills make up the top three skills of the future.
20. This year, treatment of employees and companies’ wider social impact have come to the spotlight as economic disruptions cause job losses and shrink incomes. The rallying cry for more responsible and sustainable businesses has grown louder.
21. As the SC positions the capital market and its supporting ecosystem for a sustainable future, we also hope that the ESG agenda can be entrenched into forums such as this and become part of the local business community’s DNA.
22. In closing, I would encourage you to participate actively in all the sessions and to freely voice your thoughts, ideas and challenge the norm to gain the maximum benefit.
23. Let me leave you with a quote from Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric. He is widely regarded as the father of ‘shareholder value’, but has clarified that management focus on short-term profits is misguided. Companies must also take into account employees and customers to improve their long-term value.
24. He said and I quote “An organisation’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action, rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage”.
25. We must learn the lessons of this year to put ourselves in a better position to face the challenges ahead. Only then can we determine the appropriate responses and strategies that will deliver a triple-bottom line. This means good financial performance that is kind to the environment and benefits the wider community as well.
26. Thank you and I wish all of you a productive conference ahead.

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