Driving Organizational Change with Sabrina Ng

In this episode of Business Beyond Borders, we are excited to have Sabrina Ng, a seasoned industry professional with a diverse background in both startups and multinational corporations, where she has played a pivotal role in driving organizational change and facilitating growth.

Over her extensive career of more than 15 years, Sabrina has advised companies on transformative transactions and projects as an investment banker and strategy consultant. Notably, she served as the Synergy Director at HSBC Life, overseeing the integration of AXA Singapore into HSBC Life.

Now, Sabrina is an angel investor and a limited partner, engaging in both direct and indirect investments into startups.

*The responses provided here have been rephrased for brevity and clarity. For the exact answers and a comprehensive understanding, we strongly recommend watching the full video podcast or tuning into the audio podcast.

Q: Could you share a bit about your background and professional journey?

Certainly. I have a diverse background, having worked in both startups and multinational corporations across various countries and corporate cultures. My experience spans roles in investment banking, strategy consulting, and more recently, as the Synergy Director at HSBC Life following the acquisition of AXA Singapore.

At HSBC Life, my role as the Synergy Director involved leading the integration efforts post-acquisition. We had to navigate merging insurance businesses, aligning organizational structures, and presenting a unified brand externally while managing backend differences. It was a complex process with multiple layers of integration.

Q: How did your background in investment banking and strategy consulting prepare you for these advisory roles?

My background provided me with a broad toolkit, essential for addressing the multifaceted challenges of transformational projects. It allowed me to quickly adapt to new industries and situations, identifying potential solutions and implications across different contexts.

Q: You mentioned driving change across different corporate cultures. What were some of the key similarities and differences you observed?

One underrated similarity across cultures is the importance of people in driving change. However, the approach to managing change varies significantly. For instance, communication styles and feedback mechanisms differ between regions like New York, London, and Southeast Asia, influencing how change initiatives are received and implemented.

Q: Moving on to your current focus, what are you currently involved in within your career?

Presently, I'm advising startups and engaging in angel investing. I'm passionate about supporting startups through their high-growth stages, addressing challenges such as sustainability, talent acquisition, and founder roles as the company scales.

Q: In your experience with startups, what were some of the key challenges you encountered, particularly during high-growth stages?

One significant challenge in startups is balancing growth aspirations with sustainability. This involves addressing issues like talent acquisition, retaining early talent, and reassessing founder roles as the company evolves. Additionally, navigating funding dynamics, especially in today's high-interest rate environment, presents its own set of challenges.

Q: You mentioned the importance of hiring the right people for startups, particularly CFOs. What qualities do you believe make a good CFO, especially in the startup environment?

A good CFO in a startup needs to be comfortable with ambiguity and willing to roll up their sleeves to tackle various tasks. They should have a broad understanding of how different aspects of the business function and be proactive in addressing challenges as they arise.

Q: Let's talk about funding. In today's high-interest rate environment, what advice do you have for founders seeking funding?

It's crucial for startups to focus on sustainability and show a clear path to profitability when seeking funding. Additionally, founders should evaluate whether raising funds is truly necessary and consider self-funding options to maintain control and avoid unnecessary dilution.

When seeking international investments, startups should assess whether their industry and business model resonate with these international investors. It's essential to understand the investor's background and expertise in the relevant market to gauge their potential contribution beyond funding.

Q: Lastly, what upcoming trends or developments in the startup scene do you find particularly exciting or insightful?

Climate-related innovations are gaining traction, and this is presenting numerous opportunities for startups. The breadth of possibilities within the climate space, from food tech to climate mitigation and adaptation, is truly exciting as it opens up new avenues for innovation and impact.

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