On the lighter side of things, we ask Michel Feijen, Managing Director – APAC, MetricStream, what makes him tick.
What would you describe as your most memorable achievement?
Just four years into my career, I was tasked with setting up a new business unit in Malaysia for a large industrial manufacturing organization. After working out of the company’s Singapore office for approximately 12 months, we realized the results were not as expected.
Hence, I was asked to set up a new division in Malaysia, where the focus was on developing the local market to a double-digit share of the overall SEA market within the first year of operation.
Despite being just 27-years-old at the time, living on a new continent, with limited work experience, I took up this challenge with plenty of enthusiasm. Ultimately, I set up a team of 30 people over 9 months and achieved the target ahead of the anticipated start date.
What first made you think of a career in technology?
After university – where I studied electrical engineering – I completed my Dutch national service. When my service time ended, I attended a career fair where many companies were looking for new hires.
I was an officer, and the aforementioned industrial manufacturing organization had an appetite for young people with leadership skills. Thankfully, my skillset and experiences made me the ideal candidate, and I was hired as a project manager. Interestingly enough, this role had very few touch points with my university studies in electrical engineering.
But I enjoyed my job a lot. Interacting with a diverse set of clients and colleagues was a great learning experience. I even liked the non-engineering part of it. I realized that finding ways to deliver value for clients was my strength and continues to be a motivating factor for me.
What style of management philosophy do you employ with your current position?
I like to give people the freedom to perform at their own accord. Although this is my overarching philosophy, I’ve found that guidance is instrumental, especially for those who are new to the organization.
My aim as a manager is to coach my employees to a point where they can embrace their own individual freedom and creativity to perform as they are meant to.
Through this all, I still like to be involved in my team’s day-to-day activities. When I think some guidance is needed, I will chime in and offer my feedback. This has not always been my management style, though.
When I was younger, I tended to be more of a micromanager, but I’ve since learnt that you bring out the best in people by giving them more leeway to be their best selves.
What do you think is the current hot technology talking point?
Not surprisingly, given the events of the past two years – namely the pandemic and intense cyber-risk climate – governance, risk and compliance (GRC) are becoming major talking points in boardrooms.
Unpredictable, world-changing events have had a huge impact on countries, economies and companies. Risk – including cyber, ESG and third-party risk – now comes from many angles. Because of that complexity, technologies that support risk management are of great importance.
How do you deal with stress and unwind outside the office?
I’m a firm believer in the old Latin phrase mens sana in corpore sano: healthy mind, healthy body. Physical fitness enables you to deal with workload and stress, especially as you age.
Being Dutch, it’s probably not surprising that I like to cycle. On weekdays, I wake up at 6am and spend two hours on the racing bike – sometimes riding solo and sometimes in a small group. On weekends, the routine is similar, but the Peloton rides tend to be more of a social event. But I make it a point to indulge in physical activities almost every day.
If you could go back and change one career decision, what would it be?
While I was at my first job following national service, my role suddenly ended, and I was called back to the company headquarters. Because there were not many open positions in Australia at the time I was there, I decided to take a sales director position in Asia.
Moving to a new environment was already challenging, and on top of that my feel for the company wasn’t strong. After six months, I felt it was in my best interest to look for other opportunities within the company.
While it wasn’t the best six months, the experience taught me a valuable lesson: if something doesn’t seem right, it’s better to be proactive and seek change rather than just waiting, hoping for things to get better naturally.
What do you currently identify as the major areas of investment in your industry?
Historically, GRC has been a very manual discipline. However, automation technology is now on the rise, and as the name implies, it leads to automatic completion of processes that once took a much longer time.
Integrated Risk Management and a single view of risks across the enterprise are the priorities for risk professionals today. Risk quantification, continuous control monitoring, powered by AI is leading the innovation in today’s GRC space.
What are the region-specific challenges when implementing new technologies in APAC?
Because APAC is a broad region, technological maturity levels vary greatly from place to place. In the GRC space, for example, Australia leads the way, but Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia have their own unique approaches to GRC.
Those differences make it nearly impossible to roll out packaged solutions on a general level; everything needs to be customized and tailored for the specific country. The good news is we offer a GRC solution that entails a robust platform with a federated data model. This allows flexibility across the enterprise and access to third-party intelligence.
What changes to your job role have you seen in the last year and how do you see these developing in the next 12 months?
When I started looking after MetricStream’s Southeast Asia division in April 2021, it was in its early stages. The company was already well known in Europe and the US, but in this part of the world, the MetricStream brand was new. Us being a new entrant, we had only a few local customers, so the first few months were all about getting new customers on board.
We soon got some big names added to our customer list that established brand credibility in the region. In February 2022, I took over the role as Managing Director of the APAC region.
Thanks to all the customer wins and support, we are now rapidly expanding our footprints and accelerating our growth in the region. This is what is going to keep me and my team busy over the next 12 months.
What advice would you offer to someone aspiring to obtain a C level position in your industry?
GRC executives need to acquire business risk experiences from various parts of the company, especially in current times where risk is increasing in velocity and complexity, and even beyond the boundaries of the company.
Therefore, attaining diverse experiences across roles, departments and even industries play an instrumental role in acquiring the GRC leadership skills. Additionally, the experience one gains by driving risk-based decision making at the executive level is a crucial learning curve in one’s career.Click below to share this article