The Emerging Role Of The Chief Strategy Officer In Asia

A perspective from the Chief Strategy Officer Summit in Hong Kong


The CSO Summit Hong Kong 2015 and the highly interactive presentations and conversations among the 60+ strategy leaders revealed several trends in the key roles and responsibilities in Asia compared to previous studies of Europe and the US. Across the three major industry clusters represented—financial services, TMT and consumer products—the head strategy role in Asia is focused on accelerating regional and China growth through innovation, joint venture, M&A and national engagement strategies.

Growth through innovation was the primary theme. The strategy leaders at the Hong Kong Jockey Club and Sun Life told fascinating stories of re-thinking their company’s business model and the process of transforming executive thinking, organizational processes and resource allocations. eBay, BT Global Services and GSMA captivated the audience with innovative customer-focused strategic approaches to their sectors and GSMA with an unexpected high tech “wearables” fashion show video. Credit Suisse, RGA, ANZ shared success stories of integrating digital and analytics into financial services with Asurian, Whirlpool and Cisco involved in I0T.

Growth initiatives through M&A, Joint Ventures, Innovation Partners Networks and National Engagement Strategies were highlighted and masterfully detailed by Telstra Global (M&A), Whirlpool and Siemens (Joint Ventures in China), DHL (Innovation Partnerships) and Cisco (Government-Industry).

All of the presentations by these forward-thinking Asia-focused strategy leaders showed their successful strategic initiatives and best practices as a complex combination of Yin and Yang---that is, strategy formulation and implementation, internal and external focus. Strategy leaders in Asia tend to rely on their externally-focused “specialist” background, network and eco-systems to help them succeed as a strategic change agent for their organization. New growth initiatives can be viewed by business unit managers and functional groups -as a risk or opportunity.

In M&A, having a strong PE background and network, is an advantage in sourcing deals, due diligence and merger integration benchmarks. In JVs, deep operational and management experience in the local or regional context, provides an advantage in identifying complementarities as well as cultural, organizational and technological fit. In innovation, a range of experiences across industries and technologies, such as in consulting, provides a broad perspective and accelerates the transfer of best practices, KPIs and tacit innovation expertise. In national or regional engagement strategies and government-industry partnerships, expertise in regulatory, government affairs provides insight into areas of mutual stakeholder interest and economic priorities.

In conclusion, strategy leaders in Asia fit into three archetypes at once, not just one. This is in stark contrast to an influential academic article studying UK firms that concluded that UK strategy leaders typically fit into just one of four major archetypes—internal consultant, specialist, coach or change agent. See matrix below. The Asia head of strategy role typically requires three key roles and responsibilities (1) Specialist expertise in M&A, JV, Innovation or National engagement strategies, (2) Coach to other internal organizational groups as well as advisor to executive management and (3) Change Agent in “localizing” specialist domains and networks of expertise into best practices and successful growth initiatives tailored to the challenges of the Asia region.

References: (Invited Strategy Leaders and presentations given at CSO Summit Hong Kong 2015)

  1. Amy Shuen, CSO Summit 2015 Panel Moderator. Four Strategy Leader Archetypes Matrix modified from Powell and Angwin, ”Role of the CSO”, MIT Sloan Management Review Fall 2012.
  2. Gautam Bardoloi, Head of IT Strategy at Hong Kong Jockey Club, “Critical Checkpoints for Deploying New Strategies”
  3. Michael Wong, Head of Strategy at Sun Life Financial “Digital World: Risk or Opportunity for Insurers?”
  4. Vvivi Hu, CSO at eBay, “Connected Commerce-the Future of e-Commerce”
  5. Max Parry, Head of Strategy at BT, “Shaping the Art of Connecting”
  6. Leland Lai, Managing Director at GSMA, “Innovation in Asia Market”
  7. Joseph Toh, Head of Strategy, IT at Credit Suisse, “How to Overcome your Company’s Resistance

    to Change & Drive Digital Innovation in Asia”

  8. Benedict Ang, Ass. Dir. Risk Strategy at ANZ Bank, “Pragmatic Innovation in Big Data World”
  9. Jerome Matrundola, VP Biz Dev at RGA Reinsurance, “Redefining the Role of Strategy”
  10. Tim Bailey, VP, Product Strategy at Asurion, “IoT Strategy at Asurion”
  11. Kris Cudmore, Head of Strategy at Telstra, “International Expansion: M&A Strategy &


  12. Yang Xu, Director, Strategy at Whirlpool, “Growth in a Mature industry”
  13. Anna Choi, Head of Strategy at Siemens “Asia at a Cross-road: Time for a New Strategy?”
  14. Lucian Ion, Head of Strategy at Siemens, “East Meets West—A Story of Technology & Energy

    Strategy in China”

  15. Stephen Fung, Head of DHL Inhouse Consulting “DHL’s Approach to Innovation & China: Think

    “Inside” the Box”

  16. Dominic Scott, Managing Director at Cisco “Playing by Asian Rules Now: The Need for

    Innovative National Engagement Strategies” 


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