ISCA Member Mr Tan Chee Wee, Senior Environmental and Social Specialist (Private Sector), Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
1. Why did you choose to become a Chartered Accountant?
It was a natural career path. I graduated with a bachelor’s in accountancy from Singapore Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the next step was for me to gain industry experience and be professionally accredited.
2. Can you share briefly about the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and how it creates a positive impact on businesses/ economies/ the community?
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a multilateral development bank whose mission is financing the Infrastructure for Tomorrow (i4t)—infrastructure with sustainability at its core. We focus on developing Asia, and with members from all over the world, our investments in infrastructure and other productive sectors seek to foster sustainable economic development, create wealth and improve infrastructure connectivity. As of early August 2021, we have approved 134 projects amounting to USD 26.5 billion in the sectors of energy, financial institutions, transport, economic resilience and others.
i4t reflects AIIB's firm commitment to sustainability and creating positive impact. It includes (i) Environmentally: Addressing ecological impacts such as water and air quality, biodiversity, pollution and climate change, (ii) Financially and economically: Projects with sound returns on investment that raise economic growth and increase productivity and (iii) Socially: Provide inclusive access, particularly to citizens excluded from access to infrastructure services.
During these challenging times, AIIB has also created a Recovery Facility, offering up to USD 13 billion of financing, to support AIIB’s members and clients in alleviating and mitigating economic, financial and public health pressures arising from COVID-19.
3. Can you elaborate on your role at AIIB? How does what you do enable you to make a difference to businesses/ the economy/ the community?
As Senior Environmental and Social Specialist (Private Sector), I implement Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) standards and other requirements on AIIB’s private sector investments, with a focus on private equity funds, financial institutions’ (FIs) on-lending portfolio facilities, and capital market initiatives such as green and social bonds.
Through the projects that AIIB finances, my colleagues and I adopt a “do no harm” approach by consistently evaluating related Environment & Social risks and impacts, and incorporate them into project design and implementation. Furthermore, we work with the client to determine project results monitoring indicators such as number of jobs created disaggregated by gender, amount of greenhouse gas reduced/ avoided, access to clean water and others.
I believe in making a positive difference to businesses/ economy/ the community, one project at a time.
4. How has being a Chartered Accountant and an ISCA member helped you in your career?
The training towards qualifying as a Chartered Accountant has shaped me to be meticulous, to challenge assumptions and to focus on solutions. The ISCA platform enables me to develop and maintain professional competence and at the same time, connect with other members who are professionals in their own fields. I enjoy reading the monthly ISCA Journal, with its updates on global and national developments, covering experts’ views and discussions.
The CA skill set is transferable and valued in many organisations. The grit, the way we analyse, the how in fostering stakeholders’ relationship have proven useful many times in my ESG career.
5. Chartered Accountants have the breadth of skills, global expertise and commitment to ethics to make a difference to businesses, the economy and the community. Can you share some anecdotes or highlights in your career that demonstrates this? You can elaborate on one aspect (e.g., breadth of skills), or more.
Very often, Chartered Accountants identify material risks and opportunities through analysis and industry trends. They are then brought to the attention of the management/ Board together with a proposed action plan.
Even as recent as five years ago, sustainability was seen merely as corporate charity, additional cost or a problem of the future. It was a classic tragedy of the commons and horizons. There was much awareness to be raised in the marketplace and to the man in the street. The daunting challenge was in convincing multiple layers of the organisation on ESG-related risks and opportunities, and to get them together towards a common direction. I recalled many visits: presenting detailed analysis, emerging trends and upcoming regulations change. It was hard fought and I am glad many have embarked on their first step and enhanced their preparedness.
Fast forward today, there is more collaboration but also increased urgency.
6. How do you think Chartered Accountants can make a difference to businesses and economies, especially in the area of sustainability?
For a start, Chartered Accountants can consider sustainability reporting, to provide the rigour and reliability on the disclosure. More technical fields such as greenhouse gas emissions and impact measurement are suitable extensions. Together, these would help to meet compliance requirements, reduce ‘greenwashing’ and build market confidence among investors.
Another meaningful role would be for Chartered Accountants to integrate sustainability into corporate strategy and budget planning, transforming the organisation into a resilient and responsible one of the future.
Chartered Accountants are well placed to go beyond their traditionally defined roles, and I welcome all to make a difference.
Chartered Accountants have the breadth of skills, commitment to ethics and global expertise to help your business thrive. Making a difference in diverse ways in various parts of the world, Chartered Accountants are uniquely experienced to help get businesses and economies moving again.