Even before the Asean Economic Community was officially established last year, Deloitte member firms in Southeast Asia had been working closely with one another in recognition of the region’s enormous potential and our shared goals and ambition. One of the ways we’ve collaborated is in developing talent, not just within our organization but also among the next generation of professionals, our future colleagues.
In 2013, Deloitte launched the Risk Intelligence Challenge (RIC), an inter-university competition—or, more accurately, “co-opetition” since it encourages collaborative and cooperative competition—aimed at nurturing entrepreneurial skills while sharpening the risk intelligence of undergraduate students. This year, the Philippines was invited to participate for the first time and field a group of students that would go up against groups from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.
For the Philippine leg of the competition, we reached out to some of the country’s top universities in Metro Manila so they could invite their students to take on the challenge: develop a five-page business case on an innovative new service or product, and identify solutions to the relevant risk management issues.
In our work as business advisers, we at Deloitte have noticed that risk awareness and proactive risk management are more often than not absent in start-ups. The RIC is one of the ways we’re addressing that gap, by working with future business leaders early on, exposing them to the practice of risk management, and giving them the opportunity to work directly with Deloitte’s risk professionals in Southeast Asia.
Ten groups of four students presented their business cases, which were then evaluated and screened by members of Deloitte Philippines’ Risk Advisory team in preparation for the semi-finals. We then assigned one mentor for each short-listed group to help the students fine-tune their business cases and even the way they would eventually present their ideas to the panel of judges.
It was a rich learning experience both for the student competitors and those of us from Deloitte Philippineswho served as mentors and judges.
The students, all in their final year in university, were able to experience firsthand what it’s like to “pitch” a new service or product—to explain its market appeal, justify their business model, and discuss how they would address attendant risks. They also had the opportunity to learn from some of the Deloitte partners, who served as judges during the semi-finals and who grilled the students about their respective business cases.
For us, it was a welcome opportunity to learn more about these millennials—how they think, how they work, how they see the world. Their unique perspective on what makes for a successful business gave us fresh insights into our roles as risk advisers. And acting as their mentors allowed us to relearn some of the risk concepts and frameworks we’ve been using on client engagements.
Team Ohana from the University of the Philippines, Diliman, made up of Angelica Chong, Isabel Victoria Salcedo, John Alexander Soriano, and Rafael Tanpho—all business administration and accountancy seniors—emerged as the winner for the Philippine leg of the competition. They pitched a home-cleaning service targeted at the growing number of condominium dwellers in the Asean region. What distinguished their concept from other similar services is the built-in CSR component: their business model has them partnering with Gawad Kalinga (GK) and other similar organizations so they can tap the low-skilled, unemployed women in these communities to be part of their cleaning crew.
Accompanied by a team from Deloitte Philippines’ Risk Advisory group, the four members of Team Ohana then went on an all-expenses-paid trip to Singapore for the RIC Finals. The two-day event involved the presentation of the business cases by each team before a panel of judges, which included Caprica International Chair and CEO Paul William Bradley; National University of Singapore’s management and organization associate p,rofessor Dr. Sarah Cheah Lai Yin; and Deloitte’s risk advisory director of business innovation and lead of smart governance, Roy Peng; and an “expo” day where the teams set up booths and presented ways to promote their respective products or services.
It was a grueling, but exciting, days for all the students and their mentors, who were determined to bag the championship even as they learned from, and collaborated with, each other. In the end, Team Ananda from Thailand won the top prize, with first-timer Philippines coming in a strong second.
Asked about what they learned from the competition, members of Team Ohana talked about having a new appreciation for the relationship between risk and reward, and acknowledging that while there are always uncertainties in setting up a business, it is important to understand those uncertainties in order to make sound decisions.
As Rafael Tanpho said in his post-event interview, “Every time you say ‘yes’ to something, you take a risk.” Hopefully after participating in the Asean RIC, these students from the Asean-5 countries will see those risks as opportunities to make something positive happen, especially as they begin their careers in a more open, more integrated, more dynamic region.
The author is a senior manager with the Risk Advisory group of Navarro Amper & Co., the local member firm of Deloitte Southeast Asia Ltd., a member firm of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited—comprising Deloitte practices operating in Brunei, Cambodia, Guam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.