, Singapore

Auditing and the challenge of adapting

Jumping over the hurdles put by the pandemic can mean life or death for retailers and F&B, says RSM Singapore Partner.

Almost three decades of experience in the auditing profession has made David Eu, Partner in RSM Singapore, a well-renowned industry figure in the Food & Beverage, retail and consumer products sector.

Starting his career with Ernst & Young back in 1994, he was initially responsible for handling a diverse portfolio of public listed and privately owned clients in banking, shipping, services, manufacturing, agriculture, and construction industries. He also handles initial public offering assignments and was also the engagement manager for several initial public offerings and due diligence assignments.

Prior to joining RSM Singapore as the director of audit services back in 2007, David was the general manager of an Indonesian Palm oil group, managing the group’s corporate finance, especially loan arrangements.

As an upcoming judge for the Retail Asia Awards 2022, Retail Asia sat down with David Eu, a practising member of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, to trade insights on what food and beverage retailers have to do to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can you tell us about your experiences as an audit leader for food & beverage and retail & consumer products? What are the most important experiences that have shaped your career?

Food & beverage entrepreneurs are passionate about their businesses, often too focused on improving food quality and increasing sales.  They tend to overlook the importance of timely financial information.  Without timely and accurate financials, business owners and operators will face challenges in managing their working capital and cash flows.  

I have seen companies struggle to produce updated financial information and management accounts for annual audits.  This struggle is often compounded by the high staff turnover in the finance/accounts department.  Through my experience, timely financials will enable owners and operators to adjust their business strategies quickly and effectively.

What advice can you give food and beverage firms that are looking to improve their product range and quality?

F&B firms can improve their product range and quality by using more fresh ingredients, versus frozen or processed foods.  To maintain the freshness of ingredients delivered, proper handling and storage are critical.  This can be achieved by adequate staff training and quality control procedures.  

What trends, products, or technologies do you see as making a big impact on the food and beverage retail industry today? How will they fare in the future?

Plant-based milk and meats, sustainable foods, and health products are trends we are seeing in recent years.  Food trends cover everything from eating right to maintaining mental health and immunity, and minimising food wastage, to technology and food delivery.  At the same time, there is an increase in demand for food transparency and sustainability.

How has the pandemic changed consumer behaviour?

Over the past 2 years, more consumers have gone digital or online for their purchases.  You can buy almost everything with just a few clicks.  Consumers are overloaded with data from social media to advertisements.  Consumers are looking for the best deals with the least hassle.  Hence, to keep customers coming back, vendors need to ensure that the delivery of goods or services creates a memorable experience.    

As a judge in the Retail Asia Awards, what projects or innovations are you expecting to find amongst the entries? What are your criteria for judging?

Covid has changed the landscape for several organisations. What had worked pre-Covid may not hold water now. The efforts put in by the applicants to increase and expand their social commerce space will be a significant factor in judging. 

Moreover, in the current climate, retailers need to attract and retain the attention of well-versed consumers who are not just looking for the best prices and products but also the efforts put in by these retailers in giving back to society and their efforts in sustainability. Applicants who demonstrated this definitely took an edge over the others.

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