Aubrey Joachim




Fare thee well Lal Wickrematunge – diplomat extraordinaire

By Aubrey Joachim

Mr-Lal-Wicrematunga Consul General Lal Wickrematunge

 

Aubrey Joachim

Diplomacy – the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and tactful way. Lal Wickrematunge epitomises this definition to the letter. It is for this reason that he is being felicitated by hundreds of Sri Lankans from multiple groups and social organisations in New South Wales leading up to his departure from Sydney mid-October.

His four year stint as Sri Lankan Consul General in Sydney has come to an end all too soon. There has not been a predecessor who has achieved as much as Lal has during his time in office. Perhaps the most important on the list of achievements has been his attempt to bring the whole community together and projecting a united Sri Lankan diaspora. Let’s hope that what he started will continue.

Lal had the uncanny ability to engage with every Sri Lankan group with ease. He even inculcated this mindset within the Consular staff. The Consul General’s choir – including himself – was a regular participant at the Sri Lanka Catholic Association Christmas Nativity play as well as the Wesak celebrations at the Buddhist temple. They sang Christmas carols with equal eloquence as they sang Bhakthi Gee. The choir comprised Buddhists, Christians as well as Muslims. He and his team also associated with the Hindu and Muslim communities. He made it a point to attend as many social events of Sri Lankan organisations – be they old school associations or other associations. He was equally comfortable at a ‘peduru party’ as he was at a Bell Birds dance party.

His ability to harness the community was unrivalled. Religious or ethnic background did not matter to Lal who as a Sinhalese Buddhist was the first non-Catholic to captain the cricket team of St. Benedict’s College in Colombo. His best friends included Tamils, Colombo Chetties, and Burghers – his neighbours in Kotahena. Even in his Consular role he knew whom he could call upon to get an outcome – a wealthy Australian Sri Lankan business person to fund an event or multi-ethnic Sri Lankan volunteers to contribute their trade skills at the Buddhist temple when needed.

The ultimate proof of his ability to bring all Sri Lankans together irrespective of religion or ethnicity was when he worked with the Sri Lankan Catholic Chaplain in Sydney and the Archbishop of the Sydney diocese to bring together the largest gathering of Australian Sri Lankans to a memorial service for the victims of the Easter Sunday bombings at the premier Catholic Shrine in Sydney – St. Mary’s Cathedral. He showed Australia what a united community the Sri Lankans can be.

Diplomacy is also – the profession, activity or skill of managing international relations, by a country’s representative abroad. Lal was not a professional diplomat, yet he could out-do those schooled in professional diplomacy by a mile. For a start his command of the English language was beyond excellent. Facing a TV camera or being grilled by journalists was not a challenge but an opportunity looked forward to. His media background was an advantage. He was not only articulate but able to critically unravel and address issues. Whenever he was required to bat for Sri Lanka he played a good innings. Lal however did not just talk – he walked the talk. His tenure as Consul General saw a number of innovative trade promotional events that portrayed Sri Lanka’s products and services as well as tourism opportunities. He thought outside the box.

Each February 4th Lal organised the Sri Lankan independence celebrations on a platform that demonstrated a perspective of the country that showed the wider Australian community as well as the diplomatic circle with whom he developed a rapport the rich historical and cultural tapestry of Sri Lanka and made the Sri Lankan diaspora proud of their homeland. He was able to use his influence and ingenuity in organising these events. He himself was a proud Sri Lankan.

Lal always put the development of the country front and centre not only in the promotion of trade or tourism but also in doing whatever he could to lift the competencies and educational standards in Sri Lanka. Perhaps his last demonstration of negotiation skill in this context was convincing a leading Australian university to open a campus in Colombo not only for the benefit of Sri Lankan students but also to attract regional students to an education hub in Colombo.

Lal Wickrematunge the man will also long be remembered for the selfless manner in which he carried out his role. He had no personal agendas. No long term diplomatic ambitions, no offspring to benefit from his posting. It can truly be said that he did it for his country and his countrymen. He treated all his consular staff with equal human dignity be they professional diplomats or mere minor staff and drivers. He was a genuine human being.

In concluding it will be fitting to ponder the words of the famous poet Rudyard Kipling in his poem ‘If’. It truly portrays all that is good and virtuous of the person that is Lal Wickrematunge.


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

Fare thee well Sir, in whatever you do and in whatever direction you go. Sri Lanka needs more of your ilk.



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OBITUARY: Claude Denzil Joachim

Claude Denzil Joachim

Claude Denzil Joachim, (Retd. P&T Dept. SL) Dearly beloved husband of late Emilda, loving father of Aubrey and Doyne Joachim and father-in-law of Nelum and Angela, much loved grandfather of Ryle and Dale, Nichole, Linda and Suzette and great grand-father of Zara and Hazel passed away peacefully on July 10th. Claude enjoyed 96 years of life in God’s great garden.

Viewing and prayers will take place at White Lady Funeral Home, Pennant Hills, NSW, on Thursday,18th July from 6 PM to 8 PM. Thanksgiving Mass at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church, Barnier Drive, Quakers Hill, NSW, on Friday, 19th July at 10 AM, followed by burial at Castlebrook Memorial Park, Rouse Hill NSW at 12 noon.

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Photos from The NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney

Click here or on the photos below to view the full album of photos on eLanka Facebook page

 

NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney  NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in SydneyNSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney

NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in SydneyNSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney

Community Watch – Engaging and intervening for a safer Sri Lanka

Aubrey JoachimBy Aubrey Joachim

To Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans terrorism is not a new experience. The country suffered a 30 year scourge where the intent of the perpetrators was achieving a specific political and demographic outcome. The country is now facing a type of terrorism driven by an entirely different global agenda – one of ideology and hate of a way of life that is alien to the warped beliefs of a particular minority group. How Sri Lanka became fertile ground for such ideology is a topic for another day. The immediate need is for a strategy to curb and eliminate the cancerous spread of this malice not just in Sri Lanka but wherever it may take root. It must also be recognised that an ideology cannot be confined to geographical or spatial boundaries. Its tentacles can permeate across physical borders – much like crypto currencies in the world of fintech. Major global terrorism incidents have been choreographed and managed via the dark web and often from locations far removed from the actual incidents. Welcome to the age of disruptive terrorism.

It is in this context that it was very fitting for the Sri Lanka Consulate in Sydney to organise a gathering of Sri Lankan diaspora to meet with NSW Police to understand some of the complexities and inter-relationships between the incidents back in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan community in New South Wales – just as it would be relevant to Sri Lankan diaspora anywhere in the world. Officers from various quarters of NSW Police as well as the Community engagement Manager of Multicultural New South Wales, addressed the 100-strong gathering representing different Sri Lankan community groups at the Redfern Town Hall last Wednesday.

NSW Police Bias Crime Coordinator Mark Dance and Liason Officer Jade Istanbouli set the tone for the rest of the evening. Their key message was that in order to tackle bias crime aka ‘hate crime’, engagement and intervention was the key. The multi-cultural liaison coordinator advised the audience that multi-cultural community liaison officers were spread across a number of local area Police Commands and could be communicated with in confidence should there be any cause for concern among the community in the context of suspicious activity. A detective inspector explained the processes adopted by the Police to pre-empt criminal activity. He even said that the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka had triggered processes where the Sri Lankan community at this end came under observation to prevent any fallout. He urged the community to be vigilant and observant. To a question from the floor regarding the context of vigilance he replied that anything unusual needed to be brought to the attention of the Police, no matter how trivial.

How should therefore the Sri Lankan community in Australia contribute to preventing hate crime at this end, in Sri Lanka or even further afield? While the fight against all forms of crime has kept abreast of technological evolution it now depends extensively on analytics and insight to prevent incidents. The data required to monitor and track such crime must be harvested from a number of sources. Crime agencies anywhere have significant access to publicly available data as well as specific data captured by various government agencies, financial institutions and the like. However, of significant importance in the current context of hate related terrorism is visual and sentiment data. Sentiments are at the heart of bias/ hate crime. Such data cannot easily be captured by sensors or devices. Humans are the best oracles for capturing such data. Do we observe suspicious behaviour? Do we notice objects that are out of place in particular surrounds? Do we notice a shift in attitude and mindset of persons? Are dress and personal appearances of individuals changing? Do we observe out-of-character comments made by individuals? Such data needs to be brought to the attention of the authorities. In this digital age anyone can contribute to prevention of biased crime. How often are radical comments or views on social media ignored? Can social media patterns be observed? Such observations are invaluable sources of sentiment data and in this day and age every concerned citizen must play their part in harvesting this data. This is a major role that the wider community can play in the current context.

In bringing the evening to a close, Consul General Mr. Lal Wickrematunge made some pertinent comments to the audience that perhaps sheds some light on how and why Sri Lanka finds itself in its present predicament and how the country and its people can rise above the setbacks. The major observation is that we must recognise that we are ‘one’ Sri Lanka. For far too long we have let language, religious and ethnic/ racial biases influence our collective thinking. This weakness has allowed fault lines to emerge and misdemeanours within groups go unchecked. If as a collective Sri Lankan diaspora in Australia we are to be the eyes and ears for preventing hate related incidents back home – irrespective of the perpetrator groups, then we have to be united as ‘one’ Sri Lankan diaspora shedding ethnic and religious differences and instead confronting good versus evil.

 




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Community Watch – Engaging and intervening for a safer Sri Lanka

Aubrey JoachimBy Aubrey Joachim

To Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans terrorism is not a new experience. The country suffered a 30 year scourge where the intent of the perpetrators was achieving a specific political and demographic outcome. The country is now facing a type of terrorism driven by an entirely different global agenda – one of ideology and hate of a way of life that is alien to the warped beliefs of a particular minority group. How Sri Lanka became fertile ground for such ideology is a topic for another day. The immediate need is for a strategy to curb and eliminate the cancerous spread of this malice not just in Sri Lanka but wherever it may take root. It must also be recognised that an ideology cannot be confined to geographical or spatial boundaries. Its tentacles can permeate across physical borders – much like crypto currencies in the world of fintech. Major global terrorism incidents have been choreographed and managed via the dark web and often from locations far removed from the actual incidents. Welcome to the age of disruptive terrorism.

It is in this context that it was very fitting for the Sri Lanka Consulate in Sydney to organise a gathering of Sri Lankan diaspora to meet with NSW Police to understand some of the complexities and inter-relationships between the incidents back in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan community in New South Wales – just as it would be relevant to Sri Lankan diaspora anywhere in the world. Officers from various quarters of NSW Police as well as the Community engagement Manager of Multicultural New South Wales, addressed the 100-strong gathering representing different Sri Lankan community groups at the Redfern Town Hall last Wednesday.

NSW Police Bias Crime Coordinator Mark Dance and Liason Officer Jade Istanbouli set the tone for the rest of the evening. Their key message was that in order to tackle bias crime aka ‘hate crime’, engagement and intervention was the key. The multi-cultural liaison coordinator advised the audience that multi-cultural community liaison officers were spread across a number of local area Police Commands and could be communicated with in confidence should there be any cause for concern among the community in the context of suspicious activity. A detective inspector explained the processes adopted by the Police to pre-empt criminal activity. He even said that the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka had triggered processes where the Sri Lankan community at this end came under observation to prevent any fallout. He urged the community to be vigilant and observant. To a question from the floor regarding the context of vigilance he replied that anything unusual needed to be brought to the attention of the Police, no matter how trivial.

How should therefore the Sri Lankan community in Australia contribute to preventing hate crime at this end, in Sri Lanka or even further afield? While the fight against all forms of crime has kept abreast of technological evolution it now depends extensively on analytics and insight to prevent incidents. The data required to monitor and track such crime must be harvested from a number of sources. Crime agencies anywhere have significant access to publicly available data as well as specific data captured by various government agencies, financial institutions and the like. However, of significant importance in the current context of hate related terrorism is visual and sentiment data. Sentiments are at the heart of bias/ hate crime. Such data cannot easily be captured by sensors or devices. Humans are the best oracles for capturing such data. Do we observe suspicious behaviour? Do we notice objects that are out of place in particular surrounds? Do we notice a shift in attitude and mindset of persons? Are dress and personal appearances of individuals changing? Do we observe out-of-character comments made by individuals? Such data needs to be brought to the attention of the authorities. In this digital age anyone can contribute to prevention of biased crime. How often are radical comments or views on social media ignored? Can social media patterns be observed? Such observations are invaluable sources of sentiment data and in this day and age every concerned citizen must play their part in harvesting this data. This is a major role that the wider community can play in the current context.

In bringing the evening to a close, Consul General Mr. Lal Wickrematunge made some pertinent comments to the audience that perhaps sheds some light on how and why Sri Lanka finds itself in its present predicament and how the country and its people can rise above the setbacks. The major observation is that we must recognise that we are ‘one’ Sri Lanka. For far too long we have let language, religious and ethnic/ racial biases influence our collective thinking. This weakness has allowed fault lines to emerge and misdemeanours within groups go unchecked. If as a collective Sri Lankan diaspora in Australia we are to be the eyes and ears for preventing hate related incidents back home – irrespective of the perpetrator groups, then we have to be united as ‘one’ Sri Lankan diaspora shedding ethnic and religious differences and instead confronting good versus evil.

Photos from The NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney

Click here or on the photos below to view the full album of photos on eLanka Facebook page

 

NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney  NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in SydneyNSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney

NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney NSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in SydneyNSW Police Briefing for the Sri Lankan Community in Sydney

Community Watch – Engaging and intervening for a safer Sri Lanka

Aubrey JoachimBy Aubrey Joachim

To Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans terrorism is not a new experience. The country suffered a 30 year scourge where the intent of the perpetrators was achieving a specific political and demographic outcome. The country is now facing a type of terrorism driven by an entirely different global agenda – one of ideology and hate of a way of life that is alien to the warped beliefs of a particular minority group. How Sri Lanka became fertile ground for such ideology is a topic for another day. The immediate need is for a strategy to curb and eliminate the cancerous spread of this malice not just in Sri Lanka but wherever it may take root. It must also be recognised that an ideology cannot be confined to geographical or spatial boundaries. Its tentacles can permeate across physical borders – much like crypto currencies in the world of fintech. Major global terrorism incidents have been choreographed and managed via the dark web and often from locations far removed from the actual incidents. Welcome to the age of disruptive terrorism.

It is in this context that it was very fitting for the Sri Lanka Consulate in Sydney to organise a gathering of Sri Lankan diaspora to meet with NSW Police to understand some of the complexities and inter-relationships between the incidents back in Sri Lanka and the Sri Lankan community in New South Wales – just as it would be relevant to Sri Lankan diaspora anywhere in the world. Officers from various quarters of NSW Police as well as the Community engagement Manager of Multicultural New South Wales, addressed the 100-strong gathering representing different Sri Lankan community groups at the Redfern Town Hall last Wednesday.

NSW Police Bias Crime Coordinator Mark Dance and Liason Officer Jade Istanbouli set the tone for the rest of the evening. Their key message was that in order to tackle bias crime aka ‘hate crime’, engagement and intervention was the key. The multi-cultural liaison coordinator advised the audience that multi-cultural community liaison officers were spread across a number of local area Police Commands and could be communicated with in confidence should there be any cause for concern among the community in the context of suspicious activity. A detective inspector explained the processes adopted by the Police to pre-empt criminal activity. He even said that the Easter Sunday bombings in Sri Lanka had triggered processes where the Sri Lankan community at this end came under observation to prevent any fallout. He urged the community to be vigilant and observant. To a question from the floor regarding the context of vigilance he replied that anything unusual needed to be brought to the attention of the Police, no matter how trivial.

How should therefore the Sri Lankan community in Australia contribute to preventing hate crime at this end, in Sri Lanka or even further afield? While the fight against all forms of crime has kept abreast of technological evolution it now depends extensively on analytics and insight to prevent incidents. The data required to monitor and track such crime must be harvested from a number of sources. Crime agencies anywhere have significant access to publicly available data as well as specific data captured by various government agencies, financial institutions and the like. However, of significant importance in the current context of hate related terrorism is visual and sentiment data. Sentiments are at the heart of bias/ hate crime. Such data cannot easily be captured by sensors or devices. Humans are the best oracles for capturing such data. Do we observe suspicious behaviour? Do we notice objects that are out of place in particular surrounds? Do we notice a shift in attitude and mindset of persons? Are dress and personal appearances of individuals changing? Do we observe out-of-character comments made by individuals? Such data needs to be brought to the attention of the authorities. In this digital age anyone can contribute to prevention of biased crime. How often are radical comments or views on social media ignored? Can social media patterns be observed? Such observations are invaluable sources of sentiment data and in this day and age every concerned citizen must play their part in harvesting this data. This is a major role that the wider community can play in the current context.

In bringing the evening to a close, Consul General Mr. Lal Wickrematunge made some pertinent comments to the audience that perhaps sheds some light on how and why Sri Lanka finds itself in its present predicament and how the country and its people can rise above the setbacks. The major observation is that we must recognise that we are ‘one’ Sri Lanka. For far too long we have let language, religious and ethnic/ racial biases influence our collective thinking. This weakness has allowed fault lines to emerge and misdemeanours within groups go unchecked. If as a collective Sri Lankan diaspora in Australia we are to be the eyes and ears for preventing hate related incidents back home – irrespective of the perpetrator groups, then we have to be united as ‘one’ Sri Lankan diaspora shedding ethnic and religious differences and instead confronting good versus evil.




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Does it take terror to unify Sri Lankans? – An opinion by Aubrey Joachim

Mass of Remembrance and Prayer Vigil for Sri Lanka from Archdiocese of Sydney on Vimeo.

Aubrey JoachimThe Cathedral was packed to capacity. In fact it was overflowing. The crowd was whispering in soft murmurs. Politicians of all hues, service personnel, diplomats, religious dignitaries, and thousands of ordinary men and women had gathered.  The ringing of bells signaled the beginning of proceedings. Silence. The scent of incense wafted over the congregation. The cast of clergy made their orderly entry into the sanctuary in carefully choreographed sequence – seminarians, deacons, priests, bishops and behind them all walked the Archbishop of Sydney, the reverend Dr. Anthony Fisher. The multiple TV cameras and their operators swung into action. The throng of photographers began clicking. The clergy ascended the high alter sanctuary.  It is not often that a Catholic service is presided over by as many as four bishops. But, this was a special occasion – a sombre one at that. Eight thousand seven hundred kilometers away some two hundred and fifty people had been brutally murdered. This occasion being celebrated was a memorial to these poor souls whose lives had been terminated by individuals with seriously warped ideological views.

It was the second time in Sri Lanka’s history that tragedy of this magnitude had visited the country on an Easter Sunday. On 5th April 1942 Colombo was bombed by the Japanese. That day some 120 aircraft of the Japanese Air Force dropped hundreds of bombs on various parts of Colombo killing and injuring many. On 21st April 2019 eight bearded men carrying backpacks calmly walked into churches celebrating Easter Masses and hotel restaurants where Easter eggs were being eaten and detonated their deadly weapons of mass destruction. The dead and the injured totaled more than that in 1942. The killing was indiscriminate. Men, women and children. The old and the young. Some of the world’s richest and some the poorest. Those of different religions and different nationalities. Whole families enjoying a holiday and sole individuals on business visits to the country. Hotel staff smilingly welcoming their guests. Even a young couple enjoying illicit sex unfortunately made it their last, having been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

On Friday April 26th between 2,500 to 3,000 people – mostly Sri Lankans living in New South Wales thronged St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney to mourn and grieve for the souls departed and to stand in candle-lit silence to ponder and contemplate the sad plight that had befallen their motherland. There were Sinhalese, Tamils, Moors and Burghers. Catholics, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and perhaps even atheists. They all stood in solidarity shoulder to shoulder as people of one nation. Sri Lankans have not been unfamiliar with terror. Until 10 years ago bombs were a regular phenomenon. However the difference then was the country was divided by ethnic split. This time it is an ideological split and thankfully those of the right ideology – irrespective of religion or ethnicity far outnumber those with a warped ideology. It was that majority that gathered in the Cathedral to pray for those departed and thereafter assembled on the forecourt of the Cathedral to silently send a message to the whole world.

It was reassuring to see all sections of Sydney’s Sri Lankan community flock together in a show of solidarity. This is not always the case. Despite being people from one country having breathed the same fresh air and enjoyed the blessings of one of the best places on earth we have perhaps not been thankful to God, the creator. We have let our human frailties interfere and divide us on various pretexts. This has been the case back home as is being clearly seen in the fallout of the Easter Sunday massacre. And, as Sri Lankans we have chosen to carry those divisions wherever we migrate. Why is this? Should it take terror to bring us together? It is only through togetherness that we can eliminate the hatred. Ironically through an act of evil, some good may eventuate.

 

View Photos from MEMORIAL MASS FOR THE VICTIMS OF THE BOMB BLAST IN SRI LANKA at St. Mary’s Cathedral Sydney – Photos thanks to RoyGrafix

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Data, data everywhere – where’s the analytics for insight ? by Aubrey Joachim

  • Are Sri Lankan organisations lagging behind?

Aubrey JoachimWe live in an era of ‘big data’. The volume of data in the world is doubling every five to six months and its growth is exponential. 

Every large organisation has around 200 terabytes of internal data – one terabyte is 1,000 gigabytes. In addition every organisation has access to significant amounts of external data. 

Eighty per cent of data is unstructured or semi-structured. Blogs, tweets, Instagram pictures, human movements, etc. are all extremely valuable sources of data that are captured today by a plethora of digital-enabled devices such as sensors, point-of-sale scanners, digital cameras and the like. The proliferation of data in today’s world is a huge opportunity that organisations must exploit. Easier said than done!

This is the big challenge facing most organisations; firstly do they have the required data, and secondly do they know how to employ analytics to derive the insights that will help them gain a competitive advantage. 

Many organisations lack the ambition, sophistication and leadership to use big data. A recent study of Australian organisations indicated that 90% are lagging in their use of data to improve their bottom line. Fifty-six per cent of such organisations have the opportunity to improve their bottom lines by over 50%. It was only in less than 10% of organisations that data and analytics were integrated into all business decisions, including real-time information. 

If this is the Australian finding what then would be the Sri Lankan situation? A cursory observation of Lankan organisations is sufficient to indicate that the opportunities exploiting big data and analytics are significant.

Big data by itself does not deliver outcomes. Something must be done to the data in order to derive insight and generate value. Analytics is what enables data to produce insights. This is why one cannot talk of big data in isolation. Big data AND analytics is the combined formula for success.

Understanding big data is easy. Organisations have had some form and quantum of data for centuries. As we now recognise, the quantum and type of data has increased exponentially. While the basics – financial data, customer data, product data, etc. have always been available, today there are other forms of data such as sentiment data, location data, weather data, etc. that organisations are able to have access to. 

How much and what type of data organisations have depend on their ability to capture such data and more importantly recognising what data they need in order to derive value and competitive advantage. What then should they do? This is where analytics comes into play.

Analytics is about the extensive use of data for identifying trends, patterns and projections based on analysing different types and categories of disparate data that should be used in fact based decision making. 

For example, what will be the uptake of a new product? Which customers are likely to leave? How can external drivers be exploited to deliver value? These are vital questions that business leaders are seeking answers to for strategic decision making. The age of backward looking historic information is gone. Today is the era of forward looking insights. Predictive analytics is the need of the day.

There are a number of analytic tools and techniques, and today there are powerful software platforms that enable insights to be churned out at speed. It is these aspects that most organisations are struggling with; what analytic tool to use and what software platforms are best to use. 

Of course there is the secondary challenge – do employees have the skills and competencies to understand the organisation’s business model, harness the data and identify the relevant analytic tool to use and then the competence to use the software?

How then do organisations go about transitioning to a data driven organisation? The first step is to recognise where they are positioned on the journey – in other words what is their analytical capability? Organisations go through various phases on their big data and analytics journey. An organisation is analytically impaired when it does not recognise the opportunities or does not have the data to progress. 

The next level is where there are pockets of localised analytics across the organisation that may be driven by individuals who recognise what they can do in isolation. An organisation is at the stage of having analytic aspirations when it has begun to recognise the opportunities from going down the data and analytics journey on an enterprise scale and take steps to do so. 

Organisations at the top of the pyramid are those that are analytical companies and analytical competitors. This is the world of the FAANG organisations – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google.

Therefore, where do Sri Lankan organisations position themselves on the big data and analytics journey? Have business leaders recognised the huge opportunities they are missing out? Do they have a data strategy for their organisations? Are they encouraging their staff to develop skills and competencies in data and analytics? What investment are they making in technology to be ahead of the curve and beat the competition? These are strategic questions that senior leaders should be considering.

In an era where it is the survival of the fittest in the age of business disruption exploring the benefits of big data and analytics is not an option it is a must. This is where smart organisations – large or small – are moving towards. Smart managers are leading the way. Are Sri Lankan managers ready for the challenge?

[The writer, FCMA, CGMA, is a past Global President of CIMA (UK). He is a global trainer and presenter and works with large organisations on finance transformation initiatives. He also runs public and in-house workshops in Sri Lanka.]

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The strategic role of the finance function: The path to relevance –
by Aubrey Joachim

Aubrey Joachim

During my term as Global President of CIMA nearly a decade ago, the theme I chose for my year of leadership was a single word – ‘relevance’. The word relevance is perpetual. It is contextual to when it is used. It is extremely applicable to the finance function and the finance professional of the day. They must be relevant to the audience they engage with.

At the time I flaunted the word it was clear that the role finance played in organisations was shifting from one of being passive and reactive to
one that was more proactive. Management accountants had to shift their focus from just historical financial statement preparation to participating in actively managing their organisations. Today that expectation has jumped many notches.

Every major global accounting body is boldly promoting their members as ‘business leaders’ who can strategically take organisations forward. The challenge is for finance professionals to live up to this high expectation placed upon them when they are employed in industry and commerce. In an attempt to force this realisation professional accounting bodies have not only enhanced the learning of strategy related subject matter in their syllabi but also included strategic case studies in examining the competence of their students. CIMA (UK) was one of
the first global accounting bodies to introduce strategic case studies into their examinations to ‘roadtest’ students’ ability to think strategically.
Today, most professional accounting bodies do so.

Finance professionals are the best placed in their organisations to provide strategic decision support and lead from within. While strategic outcomes are the responsibility of every function in an organisation finance is able to recognise and coordinate the entire sequence from strategy formulation to planning, budgeting, forecasting, and performance management. This role is crucial in driving strategic outcomes and tangible wealth creation in organisations. In effect finance professionals play a key role in strategy execution.

With robotisation and automation relieving finance of the transaction processing and other bottom end tasks that it once performed, finance professionals are increasingly being called upon to add strategic value.

Many finance professionals do not recognise this opportunity to step up to a more important role. Finance professionals do not realise that unless they play an active role in organisational strategy their involvement in budgeting, forecasting and management reporting is merely
mechanical and could also easily be robotised. It is only through contribution to strategic thinking that they can really contribute to tangible
value creation.

What therefore constitutes strategic involvement for finance? There is much ambiguity around the meaning of strategy in organisations. Strategy really is a set of decisions and actions taken by an organisation to achieve an outcome. In commercial organisations
the ultimate outcome is almost always value creation – for two parties; a customer to whom value is delivered by way of a product
or service, and the organisation that hopefully derives profit.

Critical strategic thinking is what enables an organisation to deliver customer outcomes and shareholder wealth. It is in this space that finance professionals can exert the biggest clout. At the heart of any organisation is a business model that enables the delivery of value. Such business
models must be strategically nurtured and managed. Today every business model is being disrupted. The basic business model of bringing
together a buyer and a seller at a village market has evolved into what is now the giant online platforms such as Amazon and Alibaba where almost anything is bought and sold. The business model of radio and television has been disrupted by the digital platforms of Spotify and YouTube.

What do such shifts in business models mean to the customer value proposition and the organisational cost structures? This is where smart
finance professionals must work alongside business managers to innovate new business models, commercialise the outcomes and optimise
the organisation’s financial position. This requires a high level of commercial curiosity and critical thinking.

The complexity of managing 
organisations is increasing. Managers across the entire business require significant strategic decision support in their quest to achieve the strategic outcomes required of them in their respective roles. This is the opportunity for finance professionals to step in, lift their game and play a key role in working alongside such managers in jointly delivering business value. Traditionally finance professionals have helped manage organisations in the context of a rear view mirror providing after the fact information to these managers.

Those days are long past. In today’s dynamic business environment managers must be provided with forward looking insight that will support their decision making to best effect. This is a major mindset shift for finance professionals. It is however opening up new opportunities for them to excel in.

The shifting landscape of the finance function is driving the next generation finance professional into new and exciting areas. While the accepted domains of traditional finance such as regulatory reporting and governance controls have their place, the new playing fields for the finance professionals are in the areas of strategy, business performance, big data and analytics as well as the use of leading management
accounting tools such as activity based methods, balanced scorecards and dynamic budgeting and forecasting.

These new pursuits are supported by powerful technology both in the hardware and software space. In addition the proliferation of huge amounts of data must be harnessed. Finance professionals do not have an excuse for not playing a strategic role in their organisations.
This is the only way for them to be relevant.

[The writer, FCMA, CGMA, is a past Global President of CIMA (UK). He is a global trainer and presenter and works with large organisations on finance transformation initiatives. He also runs public and in-house workshops in Sri Lanka.]

Source: FT Sri Lanka

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Future of the finance function is business partnering –
By Aubrey Joachim

Source: FT Sri Lanka

Aubrey JoachimEvery facet of business and commerce is being disrupted. Technology is changing how products are manufactured and how services are being delivered. Social media, digital transformation and drone technology are influencing news cycles and the procurement cycle. New business models are emerging – Uber, Airbnb and Netflix. The finance function is no exception – it is being disrupted. Finance professionals must respond.

What therefore is the future for finance professionals whose traditional roles of recording and reporting financial information in organisations are being robotised and automated? Or the future of auditors when blockchain technology is widely used? A third of the audit graduate intake of an Australian BIG4 firm last year did not even have an accounting background! When machine learning takes over, the displaced human accountants must transform their roles to provide a different value proposition if they are to remain relevant. What does this new transformed role look like?

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Sri Lankan flag flies at lofty heights –
By Aubrey Joachim

A migrant becomes the first woman CEO of a top 20 Australian Corporate. That’s not all – she enters the exclusive domain of white males. Of some 238 giant global financial institutions she becomes one of perhaps half a dozen female CEO’s ever and one of only 2 women of colour. She deals in billions of dollars – a sharp contrast to her petite physique.  She is Sri Lankan.

 

Shemara Wickramanayake deserves all the accolades she is receiving across the globe and from the highest levels. Bankers, financial analysts and commentators at the highest levels are demonstrating extreme confidence in her appointment. She drove Macquarie Bank’s share price eight fold since 2009, playing in a field that few would dare to – infrastructure investments.

 

This is not the first time nor will it be the last when Sri Lankans punch above their weight on the global stage. Yet, while individual performances reach great heights, as a nation we are found sadly wanting. Even within the many expat enclaves across the globe that Sri Lankan diaspora has settled in they are unable to collectively leverage their rich heritage and intellect. Is it not time that we sit down and settle differences such as cast, creed and ethnicity? We are a one people from one country even though we are dispersed across the globe. Surely if Ms Wickramanayake can break glass ceilings and barriers of colour in a multi-cultural Australia, all Sri Lankans could do the same.

 

Sri Lankans across the globe should come together in congratulating Shemara Wickramanayake and wish her all the best at the helm of Macquarie Bank. May her tenure be long and propel Macquarie to even greater market capitalization. It certainly is a proud moment for Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans in Australia. I am sure Shemara will not mind us all basking in the reflected glory.

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A World Cup lesson in multi-culturalism –
An opinion piece by Aubrey Joachim

 

While the Australian politicians, media shock-jocks and the north-shore and Turak types argue the down sides of migration, multi-culturalism and refugees, the world was given a world cup lesson in why and how these perceived negativities can be turned into a positive and how countries can benefit at a stadium in Moscow when the French national team played Croatia in the FIFA 2018 World Cup final.

Seventeen members of the 2018 cup-winning French football team were either born overseas or have parents born overseas. They come from Congo, Cameroon, Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, Algeria, Morocco and DR Congo – all former French colonies. It is being said that France spent half the nineteenth century conquering Africa so they could build their 2018 team. Of course as seen by the Western world today it is wrong for a country like China to exercise its influence!

At the start of each game one saw every one of these proud French players have their hands on their hearts as they sang the La Marseillaise – the French national anthem. Some of the background stories are astounding. Paul Pogba from Guinea lived in a Paris ghetto and played his early football on the streets when he was discovered. He is a superstar. And Kylian Mbappe one of their leading goal scorers – and young players in the tournament, still in his teens is today the most expensive player in the world. I wonder how France’s migration and refugee debate will shape from now on.

The French team is not alone in harnessing the benefits of migrant, refugee multi-culturalism. Beligium, Denmark, Portugal, Switzerland, England and even the might Germany had such diverse multi-cultural talent in their ranks. And, we are not even taking into consideration the other European football giants such as Italy, Spain, The Netherlands who did not make it to the final 32 in Russia.

Even the Socceroos it must be said enjoy the benefits of multi-culturalism. Most of the players have recent migrant roots. The youngest player of the entire 2018 tournament was Socceroo Daniel Arzani of Iranian descent. Will he be another Mbappe? Would Australia even have had a world cup team if not for multi-culturalism? And what about the lovely Lucy Zelic the SBS host who stood by her philosophy of giving the highest respect to every player with her perfect name pronunciations.

While the 2018 World Cup tournament would perhaps be the greatest and most exciting of the 21 previous events, which was condemned by some countries because it was perceived to be a ‘Putin-Russia’ show, it has also shown the world that even a country as young as two decades and a population of less than Sydney – Croatia can be finalists, the most important lesson the world-game has taught the world is how humans from any part of the planet can integrate for a better outcome. Surely this is a message for the politicians and anti-migrant/ refugee lobby anywhere on the globe.

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